UNICEF immunizes displaced children and mothers in Monrovia

The UN agency for children (UNICEF) and the Liberian government have started a 10-day campaign to immunize women and children in the capital, Monrovia, against measles and tetanus. It is aimed at those who have been displaced from their homes by recent fighting in the city.

MacArthur Hill of UNICEF-Liberia said on Monday: "The exercise targets 127,000 children and 208,000 mothers of child bearing age,"

He told IRIN that a UNICEF chartered flight was expected to arrive from Denmark this week, bringing more syringes, water purification materials and water storage balloons worth a total of US $572,000 to support the exercise.

On Friday, the agency distributed high protein biscuits, blankets, tarpaulins and lanterns to displaced children sheltering in schools in Monrovia. "UNICEF bought two containers of biscuits, specially designed to contain malnutrition in children at $50,000 US dollars," Hill said.

Recent fighting between Liberian government troops and rebels caused at least 100,000 people to flee camps for the displaced near Monrovia and seek refuge in the city centre. Thousands of them have been living in precarious health conditions in schools, the national sports stadium and abandoned buildings.

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported on Saturday that some of the displaced who tried to return to their camps after the rebels withdrew from Monrovia, had been robbed and raped by armed men, especially in the western outskirts of the city.

"The number of armed gangs raiding homes and looting has increased over the last two days in Duala and New Kru town suburbs of Monrovia," OCHA said. "[The displaced] in camps of Seighbeh, VOA and Plumkor have reported armed robberies and many incidents of rape committed at night by armed men," it added.