19 December 2012

ECOWAS Supports Ivorian Refugees in Liberia with Humanitarian Assistance

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Monrovia - Liberia — The ECOWAS Commission on Tuesday 18th December 2012 in Monrovia, handed over 300 metric tons of rice to the Liberian Government for distribution to more than 66,800 Ivorian refugees in Liberia, who were displaced by the post-2012 electoral crisis to flee their country.

Making the presentation at the Free Port of Monrovia to Liberia's Minister of Finance, Honourable Amara Konneh, who also is in charge of ECOWAS affairs in the country, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, said the provision of humanitarian assistance to citizens in distress "is a core task of our institution and by extension, the implementation of one of the assignments passed on to us by the Community.". The Protocol on the Mechanism relating to Conflict Prevention, management, Peacekeeping and Security, the President said, also provides that the ECOWAS Commission should develop appropriate mechanisms and tools to enable it undertake humanitarian assistance to alleviate the sufferings of the population in the event of man-made or natural disasters. "As part of the implementation of the humanitarian mandate, the ECOWAS Commission has within its limited resources been responding to the needs to our brothers and sisters inflicted with the pains of conflict, natural disasters and other humanitarian challenges through the provision of emergency relief material to Member States," he added.

President Ouédraogo put ECOWAS' overall humanitarian assistance to Ivorian refugees in Liberia at more than US$800,000, in addition to substantial financial support also provided to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Cote d'Ivoire. He expressed the Commission's sincere gratitude to the Government and people of Liberia for their "kindness, generosity and hospitality" extended to the Ivorian refugees. The president also thanked the regional office of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), for its collaboration, support and willingness to distribute the food items to the refugees. Receiving the donation on behalf of the Liberian Government and the refugees, Minister Konneh, recalled ECOWAS' contribution to the restoration of peace in Liberia and continued support for the country's post-war reconstruction, ranging from security sector reforms to energy and infrastructure development, as well as political, economic and humanitarian assistance. He said the country was encouraged by the spirit of regional integration and African unity, to shelter and assist displaced Ivorians, particularly because Liberians during their civil war years had benefitted from similar generosity from Cote d'Ivoire. Speaking in the same vein, the Liberian Foreign Minister Honourable Blamoh Nelson, described ECOWAS as "the most effective regional organization in Africa," adding that the humanitarian gesture was a demonstration of responsible and responsive leadership.

He appealed for concerted action at all levels to rid the region of recurrent conflicts. In his remarks, the Ivorian Ambassador to Liberia Mr. Kapieletien Soro, thanked ECOWAS for the humanitarian gesture, and expressed his gratitude to the Liberian government and people for their generosity. He made a special appeal to the media to exercise restraint in their reporting, and to contribute to peace building, reconstruction and economic development in the region. The Executive Director of the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), Counsellor Wheatonia Dixon-Barnes, said the challenges of logistics for the storage, transportation and repackaging of the donated items prompted Liberia to approach the WFP for assistance. She assured that the rice would be delivered to the targeted population. The WFP Country Director, Dr. Getachew Diriba, provide details of the organization's humanitarian work in Liberia and gave and assurance that the food donated by ECOWAS would be judiciously distributed.

Earlier, while welcoming President Ouédraogo and his delegation, the Managing Director, Liberia's National Ports Authority, Mrs. Matilda Parker expressed the country's happiness to "host this important handover ceremony." "ECOWAS countries have and important bond and we must extend the unity to the various seaports in the region to improve commerce, trade and most especially, security coverage," she urged. The ECOWAS chief and his delegation, which included the Commissioner for Human Development and Gender Dr. Adrienne Diop and Director of Humanitarian Affairs, Dr. Daniel Eklu, visited Zewdru, capital of Liberia's South-eastern Grand Gedeh County, some 450-km from Monrovia, where one of the five camps for the Ivorian refugees is located.

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