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Demobilisation of ex-combatants at UMCOR-managed camp in Liberia

07 June 2004

Ex-combatants, including women and children, are being demobilized as part of a UN-run program at the Voice of America (VOA) Cantonment Camp in Liberia. According to UN sources, an estimated 35,000 soldiers have been demobilized at four cantonment camps throughout the country since the program started in April of this year. UMCOR is responsible for Camp Management at the VOA.

Situated on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia's capital city, the VOA was set up as part of the United Nations program to DDRR (demobilize, disarm, rehabilitate and reintegrate) ex-combatants in Liberia. The VOA is designed to accommodate 1,260 people for the demobilisation stage of the process. UMCOR is responsible for all aspects of camp management including:

Under the DDRR program, ex-combatants receive medical treatment and therapy while they stay at the camp for a period of at least 7 days. They receive US$ 150 dollars on discharge and later receive academic or vocational training after they return to their home communities. After the initial demobilisation process, child soldiers go to Interim Care Centers where there receive counselling to help them deal with the trauma of their experiences and basic schooling. At the centers, staff endeavour to reunite the children with their families. It is estimated that there are between 40,000 and 50,000 former combatants in Liberia.

The DDRR process is being supervised by UNMIL, the United Nations Mission in Liberia peacekeeping force. Successful disarmament is vital for the future stability of Liberia as well as for the return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their home communities. UMCOR Liberia staff have also been carrying out the distribution of hygiene kits to IDPs at several camps near the VOA. Having been displaced from home communities for months and even years, many of these people lack basic necessities and are in urgent need of assistance. Many suffer from serious and life-threatening illnesses, including HIV and AIDs. UMCOR is providing IDPs who have returned to homes in the suburbs of Monrovia with agricultural tools, seeds and also training.

UMCOR Liberia plans to participate fully in the relocation, reintegration and rehabilitation process in Liberia. With over 30,000 IDPs currently in camps managed by UMCOR, it is our hope that with continuing donor support, all these people can be resettled to their communities. Many of them come from the rural parts of Liberia including Lofa, Bong, Grand Gedeh, Maryland, Cape Mount, Nimba and Grand Bassa counties.

By Naomi Crusoe, UMCOR Liberia and Joanna Kinberger, UMCOR Europe