April 02 Press Briefing

8 Dec 2011

April 02 Press Briefing

Mr. George Somerwill (Chief of UNMIL Public Information Section) | Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to this special UNMIL press briefing.  Welcome to our colleagues in the national and international media who are here with us at this time. And welcome later this evening to UNMIL radio listeners. This evening we are joined by a very special guest.

We have the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ms. Valerie Amos.

The USG is paying a short visit to Liberia to see for herself the effects of the refugee crisis on Liberia, and she and the UNMIL SRSG, Ellen Margrethe Løj, were today in Grand Gedeh.

We welcome you to this press briefing….. 

Ms. Valerie Amos (USG) for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator)

Liberia has made great strides in achieving peace and security over the past few years.  It is unfortunate that my first trip here comes amidst the crisis that is unfolding in neighboring Côte d’Ivoire, with tens of thousands of people seeking refuge here.  I just returned from the east, where I met men, women and children who were glad to be alive but sad and fearful about what is happening in their country.

Many of the refugees in the east walked for days, fleeing their homes in Côte d’Ivoire with almost nothing, so they need everything. I am especially concerned about women and children, who are the most affected.  The refugee children have lost their homes, their friends, their schooling.  Many have seen sights children should never have to witness.  We need not only to help them survive, but also to recover.   

I would like to give heartfelt thanks to the Government of Liberia and the Liberian people for the welcome they have given the refugees. Over 110,000 Ivoirians are living in the east, an overwhelming majority of them with or among host communities. Not that long ago, many of the host families were probably themselves refugees on the other side of the border.  Liberian families are rebuilding their lives, and have responded with great generosity.   Now, aid agencies need to ensure that host communities also benefit from humanitarian relief.

Liberian authorities, UN agencies and NGOs are doing their utmost to ensure that the response is adequate. But we still have a long way to go.  With more money, we can deliver more food, provide shelter, offer better medical treatment to those who are sick, and much more.

When the rainy season starts, getting the aid in is going to be even more difficult than it is now. We need our donors to dig deeper.  We have only 23 % o of the money we need. We must not let Liberia down.

Investing in humanitarian aid is also an investment in Liberia’s peace and security. A stable Liberia is first and foremost good for Liberia, but it is also good for West Africa.


Questions and Answers

Q: Front Page Africa
With less than nine months in charge and you current visit to the borders where you saw over hundred thousand refugees; would you rate that as the biggest refugees crisis you have seen?

Secondly, so many calls have come in from UNDP and other agencies; how many more calls can be added to already existing ones to bring about a change relative to the slow response coming from the humanitarian world?

A: Ms. Valerie Amos (USG) for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator)
Last we saw the major crisis in Hattie and Pakistan, the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and Sudan. This year we have been seeing what is happening in Africa; particular in Libya and then in Japan. We are seeing in Cote d’Ivoire is a major crisis. With refugees coming across the border have the potential to destabilize Liberia; so this is serious crisis for Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia and West Africa as a whole.

On your second question, part of the reason for my visit is to make sure that the International Community remembers that there is a major humanitarian crisis in this part of the world; to persuade our donors that they need to dig deeper and support the action being taken by UN and partners organization so that we can support the refugees and the Liberian community the support they require.

Q: Samokai Konneh (Public Agenda Newspaper)
Is there a clear cut policy for women and children in refugee crisis? My second question is if the refugees refuse to go to the camps, how long will the UN not consider them as refugees? And lastly, in Ban refugee camp, there are reports of diarrhea as a result of the drinking water.  How much control does the UN has on its implementing and collaborating partners in this refugee crisis?

A: Ms. Valerie Amos (USG) for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator)
We consider everyone who has crossed the borders and registered; where they are in a camp or in the host communities as refugees. The services we are providing will be provided to those in the camp but increasing to those in the host communities.

On the issue of implementing partners, UN agencies will have agreements with a range of National and International Organizations who are their implementing partners. The agreement will spell out what is required of the implementing partners.

If there is a clear cut policy to the issue of women and children, yes there are a number of polices. The different agencies, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNFAO, will have their own particular policy about the ways in which they seek to address the particular needs of women and children. In addition to that, the UN Secretary-General has appointed a Special Representative on the issue of Sexual Violence in conflict. This is an issue that the UN and our partner organizations take extremely seriously and making sure that we protect civilians, women and children and try to ensure that there is adequate lighting to make sure women are secure; that facilities for women are different from the men. All of these are the way we deliver our services.

Q: Inquirer Newspaper
There were reports by the Red Cross that 800 persons were killed in one of the incidence in Duekoue what information do you have on that? Secondly, you talked about 23% funding; could you mind telling us the figure? How much will you need to take care of the emerging situation of the refugee crisis along the border area? And lastly, there is this issue of children who came into Liberia without parents; can you put a figure to that?

A: Ms. Valerie Amos (USG) for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator)
I do not have the figure for the number of children who have arrived in Liberia without parents. In terms for appeal for Liberia, we appealed for 147 million dollars. So far, we have received 35 million dollars.

I have read a press report from ICRC where they saw a situation of more than 800 people have killed. I have not yet had a confirmation to that. If that is an accurate report; it is important that all parties to the conflict in Cote d’Ivoire recognize that they have responsibilities to the International law that they have the right to protect civilians; civilians should not be used in any conflict in this way and the victim for this kind of violence.

Q: Malcolm Scott (Sarafina Ventures. Inc)
You met with the Vice President of Liberia; could you mind telling us what was discussed? Can you confirm if you got any information from the Grand Gedeh borders as it relates to Liberians been recruited to fight in the Ivory Coast?

A: Ms. Valerie Amos (USG) for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator)
I have seen reports in the media about Liberians being recruited to fight in the Ivory Coast. I have no confirmation about that.

I met the Minister for Presidential Affairs, the Minister of Internal Affairs, and I also met with representative from the LRRRC. We talked about the ongoing humanitarian situation and the need to support the host communities.

Q: Jasper Carr
At the border point at Lugatuo, I saw lot of trucks brining in cocoa from Ivory Coast into Liberia. What is the UN doing about the cocoa being brought into Liberia?

A: Ms. Valerie Amos (USG) for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator)
I was not aware of the inflow of cocoa coming into Liberia from Cote d’Ivoire.

Q: Dio Appleton (New Republic)
Raining season is near ,are the refugees still in tents?

A: Ms. Valerie Amos (USG) for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator)
Some refugees are in camps set up by UNHCR; but most are with the host communities.

Q: Wellington Railey (New Democrat Newspaper)
From the UN side, to what extend is this crisis in the Ivory Coast alarming?

A: Ms. Valerie Amos (USG) for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator)
The UN has taken a lot of action in relation to Cote d’Ivoire. Part of the mandate of the UN in Cote d’Ivoire was an unusual one. The UN was asked by the African Union and by the Government of the Ivory Coast to certify the results of the election which the UN did; that Gbagbo has lost the election and Watarra won. The fact that Gbagbo had lost is what spark the current crisis. The AU, ECOWAS and the International Community had endorsed the findings and the certification of the UN Mission in Cote d’ Ivoire to protect Watarra and civilians who come under attacked. So the Mission in Cote d’Ivoire had been at the forefront and they have been stretch because of the intensity of the crisis. Here in Liberia the UN agencies have come together to support the Government in tackling the large number of refugees in the east of the Country.

Q: T. T. Boley (New Narratives and Liberia Women Democracy Radio)
You reported that 120,000 refugees in the eastern part of Liberia. What is the UN doing in setting up a camp for the 120,000 refugees in Grand Gedeh?

A: Ms. Valerie Amos (USG) for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator)
Majority of the people who have crossed the border are with host communities and they want to stay in the communities instead of the camps.