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Update N° 14 - Liberia

31-07-2001 Operational Update

 Executive summary  

    

  •  The number of displaced people from Lofa County who have arrived in Bong and Grand Cape Mount Counties has increased from 3,000 at the beginning of May to around 35,000. They are currently staying in camps and are in need of clean water, sanitation, shelter and medical care. There is also a major need to help separated families re-establish contact;  

  •  As lead agency for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the ICRC has been coordinating the Movement response for the victims of the fighting, focusing on some 35,000 people who have fled to zones bordering the conflict areas. Existing ICRC operational objectives have been significantly stepped up and the total budget has been extended to cover new protection and assistance activities. As a result, the total 2001 budget has been extended by SFr 2,750,969 from the initial budget of SFr 2,027,121 up to SFr 4,778,088;  

  •  To meet the needs of the displaced, the ICRC urgently requires substantial additional financial contributions for its operation in Liberia, which so far faces a considerable funding shortfall.

       

    

 General situation  

Fighting continues to be reported in Lofa County between rebels and Liberian government forces. Meanwhile other parts of Liberia, including the capital Monrovia, remain quiet. The number of displaced people who have fled Lofa County and arrived in Bong and Grand Cape Mount Counties has increased from 3,000 at the beginning of May to around 35,000 (approximately half the population of Lofa County). They are currently staying in camps in the Gbarnga region: at TV Tower camp (6,200 people), Gbalatuah (1,100 people), Belafanai (5,800 people), and Cari camps 1 & 2 (14,000 people) and in the Gbarpolu region: at Bopolu (2,400 people) and Jene Mannah (5,000 people). These camps have been established by the authorities, who prefer, for screening purposes, to have the displaced gathered there rather than living among host families.

Population movements from Lofa County have temporarily stabilised, however, an estimated 10,000 people are thought to be on the road or gathered in inaccessible areas. Most of those who have managed to flee the violence and cross the St. Paul River bridge at Gbalatuah, which separates Lofa and Bong counties, are women and children, and many are separated from other family members. Others, rather than crossing the bridge, have reached the camps by trekking through deep forest.

    

 
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 The Movement response for the displaced from Lofa County  

As lead agency for the Movement, the ICRC has been coordinating the joint response for the victims of the fighting, working with the different components of the Red Cross Movement, and in full agreement with other humanitarian organisations present in Liberia, to assist some 35,000 people who have fled to zones bordering the conflict areas. Existing operational objectives have been significantly stepped up over the last few months and the total budget has been extended (see finance section pp 4-5) to cover new protection and assistance activities for the new IDPs described below.

    

Although the general situation has not changed dramatically since the issuing of the last ICRC update on activities in Liberia on 27 June 2001 (OP/REX/OPS 01/28 Update no10/2001), the Red Cross Movement has been particularly active over the last month, responding to the urgent needs of the displaced people from Lofa County.

    

 
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 ASSISTANCE (since beginning of June 2001)  

    

 Relief  

  • Out of the 35,000 IDPs whom the Red Cross Movement intends to help, so far approximately 20,500 have been assisted with essential non-food items and shelter material. These include some 6,000 people who are staying at TV Tower camp (run by the ICRC/Liberia National Red Cross Society (LNRCS)); 32 large tents have been erected by the International Federation and roofs built by ICRC teams and American Refugee Council for 13 semi-complete concrete buildings for approx. 6,000 persons. Tents shall gradually be replaced with semi-permanent structures;

  • non-food items and shelter material have also been provided for approximately 14,500 IDPs in other camps (Belafanai, Cari 1 & 2 and Bopulu); Jene Mannah camp (approximately 5,000 people) is soon to be assisted;

  • the volatility of the sub-region has proved once again the necessity to preposition stocks to quickly respond in the event of new population displacements. As in Sierra L eone and Guinea, the ICRC has set up a permanent non-food contingency stock for 17,000 persons (5,000 families) in Monrovia; an emergency stock for 100 war-wounded is also planned to be kept at Monrovia for reference hospitals;

  • agricultural assistance will be provided to support the creation of vegetable gardens for 4,000 families staying in the camps in Bopolu, Jene Mannah and TV Tower to complement the food rations provided by WFP or to serve as cash crops.

 Water and sanitation  

  • to improve access to clean water and proper sanitation, at TV Tower camp, five wells have been completed, one more is under construction and two 5,000 litre bladder tanks have been installed. There are also 11 existing private/communal wells in the close vicinity that the ICRC will maintain if necessary. A total of 70 latrines and 50 bath houses have been built ; at Belefanai 8 latrines have been constructed and one well rehabilitated; at Bopolu 20 latrines have been built and two wells are under construction.

    

 Health  

  • An efficient health clinic structure has been set up at TV T ower camp, relying on a joint medical team (Hospital/LNRCS) and supplied with drugs and medical items. Red Cross hygiene teams (total: 20 people) are monitoring the situation in the camp, and refer cases to the camp clinic; The clinic officially opened on 5 June and has since treated a total of 2,276 people. In addition, 690 people have been vaccinated (yellow fever, polio, measles etc.) and health education sessions has been held for 3,600 people in the camp;

  • The transfer and treatment of sick displaced people by Red Cross ambulance from the camps in the Gbargna area to Phebe Hospital or to an MSF isolation ward at Cari camp has been set up;

  • Phebe Hospital has admitted 21 war-wounded who were treated free of charge and the ICRC has provided the hospital with drugs and medical supplies. The ICRC has also offered its services for further treatment of the war-wounded nation wide; As most of the wounded are combatants, the ICRC is waiting for the go-ahead from the relevant authorities before launching any assistance programmes for the war-wounded;

  • increased support is being given to three health clinics run by the LNRCS and to government health structures so that IDPs have access to health care of a similar standard to local resident communities.

    

 
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 PROTECTION  

    

 Re-establishing family links  

  • the tracing network is being strengthened to respond to increased needs; so far the ICRC has set up tracing antennae in all the camps to enable separated families to make use of the Red Cross message network to re-establish contact with their family members; the family reunification of unaccompanied children (UACs) will be extended to include Liberian refugees children and displaced UACs.

 Protection of the civilian population  

  • lobbying the authorities to ensure that the displaced are treated correctly and receive appropriate timely humanitarian assistance.

    

 
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 COOPERATION WITH NATIONAL SOCIETIES  

  • the Federation closed its operation in Liberia in early July, as a result of which the ICRC has taken on additional cooperation activi ties. The National Society will be given additional financial support for its three assistance departments (relief, health and water and sanitation); conflict preparedness training is being organised for 25 volunteers from 6 chapters and 12 " action teams " will be provided with standard emergency kits (first-aid kits, stretchers, etc.).

The emergency response has been shared among the few NGOs present in Liberia. However, funds are low, forcing many actors to abandon activities. The International Federation ended its activities in Liberia in early July. Currently no aid organisations are authorised to travel and work in Lofa County and little news is available on the extent of the humanitarian situation there. The local Red Cross chapters have all pulled out of the region, and earlier this year MSF-France and the Lutheran World Federation were both forced to pull out. While awaiting the renewal of security guarantees in the area close to the border with Bong County, the ICRC is currently not operating in the sector between Gbarnga and the St Paul River.

    

 Other ongoing activities of the ICRC Monrovia delegation  

In addition to activities to reunite UACs with their families, and the services of the Red Cross tracing service, the ICRC also carries out regular visits to security detainees in all places of detention in Liberia (prisons, police stations, etc.) to monitor conditions. A number of the detainees who have been arrested in relation with the conflict are also visited. Where necessary medical items and non-food assistance is provided and minor repairs carried out to cooking facilities and water-supply and sanitation systems and roofs; regular medical care is given through an ICRC nurse.

The ICRC also carries out construction work, repairs and maintenance to bore holes, pumps and latrines in Lofa, Bong, Grand Geddeh, Montserrado, River Cess and Sinoe counties. National Society water and sanitation teams are also trained to carry out long-term maintenance.

Information sessions are regularly organised to raise awareness of the ICRC's mandate and activities for national and local authorities, the faculty of law at Monrovia University, local authorities, and members of civil society (the media, the general public, local and international NGOs, university students, secondary school teachers and students); international humanitarian law training for armed forces and security forces. Through training, financial and technical assistance, the ICRC aims to strengthen the National Society's tracing capacity and efforts to raise public awareness of Red Cross principles.

    

 For further information, please contact the External Resources Division.