The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has resumed full operations in Liberia after a two-week suspension of food distribution outside the capital, Monrovia, prompted by fears for the safety of its staff and equipment.
"We had put major operations on hold until after the inauguration of the new government although we kept a skeleton staff throughout. We have now resumed full operations," Taal Housainou, WFP deputy Country Director in Liberia told IRIN on Monday.
Taal said food distribution to nearly 100,000 displaced people living in camps at Totota, Salala and Kakata on the road north from Monrovia to Gbarnga had resumed at the end of last week.
A WFP team would go to Buchanan, 120 km southeast Monrovia on Tuesday, to further assess the situation in the rebel-held city before food could be taken to thousands of needy people there, he added.
"Our other concerns now are to take food to Nimba county, Voinjama in Lofa and Harper [a port town near the border with Cote d'Ivoire] and once UNMIL deploys in Gbarnga, we will follow," Taal said.
Gbarnga, 150 km north of Monrovia, is the headquarters town of Bong County.
The United Nations has announced plans to send aid overland from there to Lofa county, further to the northwest. But Taal said: "We are concerned about the road between Gbarnga and Voinjama. We are now trying to see whether it is possible to move big trucks all the way."
UNMIL, the UN peacekeeping force, recently began to patrol some key highways like the Monrovia-Gbarnga road, but it will only station men in the interior once it receives more troops. The force currently has 4,500 men who are mostly deployed in and around Monrovia, but hopes to reach full strength of 15,000 early next year.
In the absence of peacekeepers, skirmishes between government and rebel forces in the interior have continued despite an 18 August Peace Agreement.
"After the new government was sworn in, we decided that we would quickly follow into the areas that UNMIL goes," Taal said.
Gyude Bryant took power at the head of a broad-based transitional government on 14 October to rebuild Liberia's shattered infrastructure after 14 years of civil war and lead the country to fresh elections in 2005.
On October 18, a UN assessment team flew by helicopter to Voinjama, close to the Guinean border. WFP said the town, which had not been visited by relief workers for four years, had a residual population of 5,000, most of whom were women, children and the elderly. That compared with a pre-war population of 25,000.
"The local clinic reported some 40 malnutrition cases a week and the town mayor identified food as one of the first priorities among local needs. However, most households had some food stocks and were eating two to three regular meals a day. A major problem was safe drinking water, with all the town's pumps looted, leaving swamps as the only remaining source of water," WFP said in a statement.
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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