Hundreds of thousands of desperate Freetown residents could face starvation unless the fighting in the city between pro-government forces and rebels ends soon, the agency said in a statement yesterday (Monday). Residents have been confined to their homes with little or no food, water or electricity since rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and their Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) allies invaded the city on Wednesday. “We are gravely concerned about the severe hardship imposed on the civilian population,” Paul Ares, WFP regional manager for coastal West Africa, said in the statement.
Residents trying to leave their homes to look for food have been turned back by soldiers of the West African Intervention force ECOMOG and all shops and markets have been shut since the fighting began. The city depends on food supplies from the countryside but the highway linking the capital to the rest of the country has been closed by fighting. Before the attack on Freetown, WFP was feeding some 63,000 people in the country, mainly war affected farmers, orphans, disabled persons and hospital patients.
Lansana Kouyate, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) told IRIN today rebels had been infiltrating areas cleared by ECOMOG, hiding in homes and ambushing troops later. To counter this, ECOMOG has been conducting house to house searches and troops continue to push rebels out of the city, he said. Kouyate, speaking from the Togolese capital Lome, said the rebels were now confined to the neighbourhoods of Kissy and Calaba Town. In geographical terms, he said, “ECOMOG is in control of the city.”
Kouyate said the humanitarian situation would worsen unless help reached Freetown residents soon.
30,000 more IDPs registered in Kenema
Humanitarian aid agencies have registered 30,000 newly displaced people who have arrived in Kenema, an official from the UN Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (UN-HACU) in Abidjan told IRIN today. There are now about 75,000 IDPs in the town.
The official, who is in regular contact with aid bodies still in the country, said food posed no problem but shelter, water, sanitation and other non-food needs could not be met. These materials are in Freetown and it is impossible to move them to the country.
In Kambia, 62 km north of Freetown, the 10,324 IDPs are being cared for by humanitarian workers who, for security reasons, commute from Pamalap, 20 km to the north in Guinea. Kambia is guarded by Guinean ECOMOG troops.
Over the weekend 600 IDPs were registered in Bo, Sierra Leone’s second largest city. There are fewer than 3,000 IDPs in the town and humanitarian assistance there is manageable, UN-HACU told IRIN. The official said military and local authorities were screening IDPs, mostly form the rebel controlled north, very closely.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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