CAFOD emergency team focusses on Liberia

 A CAFOD emergency response team has arrived in Sierra Leone to hold talks with its partners from the Liberian capital Monrovia to discuss how they can help them carry on their work following the fierce fighting between government and rebel forces. Over the last few violent weeks, CAFOD's partners have been providing care in emergency shelters for hundreds of children, some of them wounded in the sporadic crossfire on the streets, who have been separated from their families by the fighting. Now they fear that more homeless children will seek help in the aftermath of the fighting many of them child soldiers abandoned by retreating rebel forces. CAFOD's West Africa programme leader, Antonio Cabral, said: "These children desperately need our help. Child soldiers as young as nine are a tragic feature of the Liberian conflict and who knows what will happen to them when the fighting stops. We are worried that they will be abandoned on the streets and left to fend for themselves and could face a very grim future." CAFOD has a long history of working with former child soldiers in West Africa and the Response Team will also meet partners in Sierra Leone, Caritas Makeni, who are experts in this field. The team will move in to Monrovia as soon as it is safe to do so. CAFOD's other partner in the Monrovian capital. The Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (CJPS) were forced to close their offices during the fighting and are waiting to re-enter the city to see how much damage has been done. But they are delighted that the Liberian President Charles Taylor has stepped down. Hillary Norris, the Director of the Centre, said: "The guns in Monrovia are silent today and there is a general feeling of happiness in the city and expectation that the entire crisis will soon be over now that President Taylor has passed over power. Ordinary people see Taylor as one of the causes of the problems. The ECOWAS peacekeeping mission has been deployed all over the city in key locations and the checkpoints maintained by the government and rebel militia have been dismantled but we don,t know whether this is temporary or a permanent move to peace. "No-one knows what will happen now that Taylor has stepped down. But while people are delighted that the president has ceded power, people are fearful that his departure will lead to LURD rebels overrunning the city unless peacekeepers are fully deployed in the port area, which is a rebel stronghold," he added.

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