Exposed and malnourished, refugees perish in Sierra Leone

Disease and hunger have killed at least 200 refugees trapped in eastern Sierra Leone, where fighters loyal to the West African nation’s ousted miltary junta remain active, a government spokesman said Thursday.
Most of the deaths were caused by pneumonia and other illnesses brought on by exhaustion and malnutrition, said the spokesman, Sahr Gango.
A Nigerian-led West African force invaded last year to drive out a military junta that seized power in May. The intervention cleared the way for President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah’s return last month.
However, parts of Kono are still controlled by renegade junta soldiers and their allied rebel factions, and some routes into the region are subject to rebel ambushes.
The conflict has cut off aid shipments to Kono, about 120 miles east of the capital, Freetown. International aid organizations have repeatedly warned of food shortages in areas where the junta forces are still active.