Thirty tons of British aid and medical supplies were due to be flown out to Liberia last night as aid agencies stepped up efforts to help more than 200,000 people left homeless and hungry by the civil war.
The flight, privately chartered by Save the Children, was due to depart from Manston airport in Kent, to arrive in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, this morning.
The £90,000 aid package includes 8.5 tons of cholera and rehydration kits, 150 bales of baby clothes and heavy plastic sheeting used for building shelters. A spokesman for the charity said he hoped the arrival of 300 Nigerian troops today would facilitate the distribution of the aid, but called on the US to take the leading role in the peacekeeping mission.
David Throp, from Save the Children, said: "This is the only practical way to ensure the success of the peace enforcement resolution the US administration itself has placed before the UN Security Council." The charity has 60 Liberian staff in the country, who are being supported by a small team of emergency experts.
The United Nations food agency, the World Food Programme (WFP), began airlifting food into Liberia's besieged capital over the weekend for the first time since fighting broke out last month. The first load, a 12-ton consignment of food, arrived in Monrovia on Saturday from neighbouring Sierra Leone.
Aid efforts have been hampered since the middle of July when rebel forces took control of Liberia's main port, leaving the agency with no access to more than 10,000 tons of food it had stored in warehouses around the capital. Aranda da Silva, WFP's regional director for West Africa, said: "It's an expensive operation but we have no choice. People are crying out for food and this is the only we can get aid into the city at the moment."
A spokesman for Oxfam UK said the charity would transport £200,000 of water purification and sanitation equipment to Liberia next week.