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|Church World Service Petitions U.S., U.N. on West
Asks Meetings on Peace in Liberia, Refugee Protection, Economic Assistance
August 13, 2002, NEW YORK CITY - International humanitarian aid agency Church World Service is pressing the U.S. government and the United Nations to help "a troubled sub-region of West Africa that has known too much suffering."
CWS Executive Director John L. McCullough recently returned from leading an eight-member delegation to Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and The Gambia - four neighboring countries along the West African coast. Now he has written U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan about the urgent need for peace in Liberia, where civil war has never quite let go since 1989 and has displaced a million of Liberia's three million citizens.
Mr. McCullough also cites the desperate situation of the refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have been scattered all across the region, and the under-funding of United Nations refugee protection work.
"We also visited an IDP camp near Monrovia where at least six thousand people have not been able to receive food from the WFP (World Food Programme)," he wrote Mr. Annan and Mr. Powell. "We also heard an urgent plea for UNHCR (the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) to return to The Gambia as a result of the influx of refugees" from Liberia and southern Senegal.
Church World Service also is calling for multifaceted assistance to the region, especially to Sierra Leone, which is struggling to recover from its own brutal, 11-year civil war that ended only in January.
For example, economic inputs are needed to restart Sierra Leone's devastated economy, Mr. McCullough said. U.N. peacekeepers should stay until the government is confident it can ensure security nationwide, and Sierra Leone's Truth and Reconciliation Commission deserves international financial support so that it can carry out its important task of balancing justice with forgiveness.
Church World Service is the ecumenical humanitarian agency of 36 Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox denominations, members of the National Council of Churches in the United States. CWS works with partners in more than 80 countries in programs of emergency response, development, refugee assistance, education and advocacy for public policies that meet human need.
On the heels of its recent tour of West Africa, CWS is helping the some 25,000 Liberians who have sought refuge in Sierra Leone with more than $100,000 in CWS blankets, health and baby kits and other supplies donated by Lutheran World Relief and is seeking to raise $100,000 more for refugee assistance by the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone and other CWS partners. Funds raised also will help war-affected Sierra Leoneans rebuild their lives.
Church World Service also has helped the Liberian Council of Churches and other faith-based bodies to provide shelter materials, food, income-generating projects and trauma counseling for internally displaced Liberians, and has conducted special trainings for church leaders in emergency management and mitigation.
Church World Service is planning additional assistance for the region, including training in trauma counseling for church leaders in Sierra Leone.
The West Africa work takes place in the context of CWS' growing work to address problems of health, hunger and malnutrition, poverty and self-sufficiency across Africa.
Before embarking on its intensive 16-day (July 2-18) visit to West Africa, Church World Service wrote to Mr. Annan and Mr. Powell to inform them of the visit and to seek their support. Their representatives wrote back welcoming the CWS delegation effort. CWS also met with U.S. State Department staff to discuss the upcoming trip.
In West Africa, Church World Service met with the U.S. ambassadors to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia; with a wide range of church leaders, government officials and United Nations workers, and with many ordinary citizens, including refugees and internally displaced persons.
Now Church World Service is seeking meetings with Mr. Powell and Mr. Annan to discuss West Africa's urgent needs. CWS also is seeking to meet with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, with members of the U.S. Congress, and with Ambassadors to the United States from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
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