CAFOD's partners in Libera are calling for an immediate ceasefire to end the violence in the capital, Monrovia. Aid workers in Liberia say that more than one million people have been affected by the recent escalation of violence between rebels and government forces in the West African country, which has been torn apart by civil war for over a decade. Tens of thousands of people are fleeing to Monrovia to escape the fighting in the outlying villages and are seeking refuge in football stadiums and schools. Fighting has also been reported in the capital. More than 5,600 unaccompanied children, some as young as five, have been pouring into shelters run by CAFOD's partners over the past week. Thousands more children are expected to arrive over the coming days. The recent fighting - which coincides with peace talks in Ghana - has plunged 65 percent of the country into a state of high insecurity and economic hardship, with the result that thousands of children have been separated from their parents and face constant harassment and possible recruitment as child soldiers. Reception centres and night shelters in Monrovia have become so overcrowded in the past week that six new shelters have been opened to provide temporary shelter for homeless children. CAFOD's partners provide urgently-needed food, medicines, safe drinking water, shelter and counselling for children who have been traumatised by years of violence. They are calling for an immediate ceasefire and for an international peace-keeping force to be deployed immediately with a clear mandate to monitor and enforce the ceasefire. David Baines, CAFOD's programme accompanier for Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana, said: "Fighting has been ongoing and this latest crisis in Liberia has the potential to destabilise the whole region. The stakes are so high and there are horrendous human rights abuses going on. Children as young as five and six are being rounded up and recruited as soldiers. The cycle of violence has been ongoing on for years and at the end of the day, it is the citizens who get caught in the middle." "This latest emergency shows the need for the international community to support a coherent peace strategy for the whole region. Unless this violence is contained, there is a very real threat that this entire region will become embroiled in conflict with all the economic and humanitarian consequences that we have seen in Sierra Leone."
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