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17.10.2002 General News

Refugee Money From US

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In the face of an onslaught of refugees from Cote d'Ivoire to Ghana, the US says it has given 945,000 dollars in support of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) budget for Ghana.

A statement issued by the UN Information Service in Accra yesterday, said the amount was mainly in support of Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees. Ghana therefore would need more assistance to handle the more than one million refugees that would pour across her borders from Cote d'Ivoire if no immediate solution is found to the armed conflict there.

The statement said the US, through its Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), works with UNHCR and other governments in West Africa to respond to emergency needs of refugees and conflict victims region-wide to improve standards of protection and care in the ongoing refugee situations to meet internationally accepted minimum standards.

It said the US government also supports the voluntary repatriation and reintegration of the Sierra Leonean refugees who have been returning since the war ended in that country.

The statement said the US is a leading contributor of humanitarian assistance to refugees and persons of concern worldwide. "In fiscal year 2002, the State Department through PRM gave more than 200 million dollars toward the protection, life-sustaining assistance, resettlement and repatriation of refugees and conflict victims in Africa," the statement said.

PRM has primary responsibility for formulating US policy on refugees, funding and evaluating refugee assistance programs and overseeing refugee resettlement in the United States. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provides food to refugees through the World Food Program and humanitarian assistance to other victims in areas of conflict.

This coincides with Ghana's decision to get ready to evacuate its citizens from Cote d'Ivoire and to receive Ivorian and other nationals running away from the conflict.

Ghana would no doubt require massive donor assistance to be able to do all that satisfactorily without putting undue pressure on its own economy.

Meanwhile it has been reported that UN agencies in West Africa yesterday said the conflict in Cote d'Ivoire has affected thousands of other nationals in the region and called for swift action to prevent further degeneration of the crisis.

They said a spill over was threatening a humanitarian crisis, which if neglected, would take a much longer time to address.

"Indeed the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire calls for swift and innovative approaches to crisis prevention, management and response as the implication of a further deterioration of the situation could spell disaster for the country itself and the sub region," said Ms Besida Tonwe of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Ms Tonwe was addressing the opening of an emergency inter-UN agencies meeting on the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire in Accra to develop a common action plan to ameliorate the humanitarian crisis emanating from the armed conflict.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), UN Development Programme and the World Food Programme made presentations at the meeting, organised by the OCHA.

At least 2,000 Ghanaians, 700,000 from Niger, two million Malians, 250,000 Burkinabes, 200,000 Beninois and 70,000 Togolese have been displaced by the fighting, which broke out on September 19 between government troops and mutinous soldiers.

The immediate concern for these people, OCHA said, was adequate food and shelter in addition to finding means of transporting them out of the conflict zone.

Ms Tonwe said the Accra meeting would take a common position on the repatriation of West African nationals, immigrants and refugees and the protection of civilians in government and rebel controlled areas.

Mr Alfred Salia Fawundu, UN Resident Representative in Ghana, said all countries are vulnerable to conflict saying: "it is important for the sub-region to face things squarely".

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