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Distribution of hygiene kits in Soul Clinic IDP center

13 January 2004

With the funds raised through the EmK-Weltmission Christmas 2003 appeal (www.emkweltmission.de), more than 1000 hygiene kits containing vital hygiene and toiletry items will be distributed to internally displaced persons in Liberia, currently seeking refuge from the conflict in camps such as Soul Clinic camp (see photo right and below left) in Paynesville on the outskirts of the capital, Monrovia.

There are eight centers for the internally displaced in this area, with a combined population of more than 19,422 people. The majority of them originate from Lofa County where rebel militias have been operating in recent years, often with devastating consequences.

Christiana Hills (see photo below left) is an IDP currently living in Kama Town's Displaced Center, Soul Clinic. Stories such hers highlight the plight of thousands of people in Liberia who have been victimised as a consequence of 14 years of brutal war. Many have been abused by fighting forces, many children have been orphaned and forced to fend for themselves. They often lack any means of generating income, so many rely on external assistance such as these health kits so generously funded by United Methodists in Germany.

"I always wanted to become a banker when I grew up. Now my whole life has changed, everything is just so bad; will I ever realise my dreams?

I am 17 years old with two children and no husband to help me care for them. I am the fourth of nine children. Since our father abandoned us when I was about five years old, our mother struggled to raise us alone. Throughout the war we stayed in our town in Lofa County, moving to a neighbor's house for two to three days when the need arose, but never going far away from our home. My mother said we were too many to run away, that we might get lost from each other during mass exodus.

However, in 1999, when a new rebel group started, we were more afraid, not knowing what this group would be like. We were always telling our mother that this time we had to flee as most of our neighbors had fled. Nevertheless, she still maintained that running was not the best thing to do. When the war became tense, she finally decided that we had to leave if we were to stay alive. By then bullets were flying everywhere, dead bodies were everywhere. Two days after leaving our house, while still on the run, our mother screamed and fell. We were helpless as we sat around her watching blood gushing out of her left shoulder. As the gun shots kept sounding louder with each passing minute, my eldest sister stood up in an attempt to drag our mother along until we got to a safer place, but then almost immediately she too fell. The rest of us just had to continue running. We were lost in the heart of the forest not knowing how far we had to go before getting to the next town or village.

We walked for about a week and found ourselves in Gbangar. We stayed until it became unsafe there too a year and seven months later. By then I was pregnant by one of the fighters. He said the fighting would be very serious as the opposing side was also bent on maintaining their position. Knowing that he could not guarantee my safety, I fled to Monrovia; he promised to follow me as soon as possible. Since then I have not heard of him. I give birth to the baby. She is about two years old now. Some of his friends say he is missing in action.

This other child is five months old; his father has disowned him, so I am taking care of them all by myself. I do not have any means of income therefore it is difficult for me. I depend only on donations from people who are good enough to help. This health kit means so much to me. At least we will have towels, tooth brush and even toothpaste to use. I cannot remember when last I used these things. If I cannot afford food how can I buy a towel or these other things in the kit? I am very grateful and want to thank those who God touches to send these things for us. May The Lord bless them and provide for them always."

With grateful thanks to the EmK Weltmission and to United Methodists across Germany. We greatly appreciate the generous support for the people of Liberia and the work of UMCOR Liberia.

Text by Naomi Crusoe, UMCOR Liberia and Joanna Kinberger, UMCOR Europe