Tens of thousands of people are starving to death on the front lines of Liberia's civil war.
Women and children are the main victims in this west African nation's 31/2-year conflict, U.N. and other aid workers said Wednesday."Between 75,000 and 100,000 displaced Liberians and Sierra Leonean refugees are hunger-stricken at Vahun" near the northwest border with Sierra Leone, said Denise Dauphinas of the Lutheran World Service.
Doctors from the U.N. World Health Organization who visited the area said 15 to 20 people are dying a day, and the number could rise.
"It's a silent tragedy. The food we carried there was extremely inadequate," said WHO Dr. Fatorma Bolay.
An offensive by rebels of the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia, who are pushing back guerrillas of chief rebel leader Charles Taylor, allowed humanitarian workers to go into the region for the first time in months.
Aid workers had been operating there from behind Taylor's lines, but were forced to stop earlier this year when the west African intervention force based in Monrovia began strafing their convoys from aircraft.
The five-nation west African army led by Nigeria accused aid workers of helping Taylor smuggle arms and break U.N.-backed sanctions. Humanitarian agencies accused the west Africans of being careless of civilian lives in bombing raids and ground attacks to crush Taylor.
In Abidjan, relief workers who crossed into Taylor's territory surreptitiously from Ivory Coast said at least 100,000 people on the other side of the battle front are in imminent danger of dying if emergency food is not delivered.
All three Liberian warring factions have sent envoys to U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Geneva this week aimed at persuading the forces to disarm.
High on the agenda is getting food and medicine to civilians suffering behind Taylor's lines.