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Update No. 96/3 on ICRC activities in Liberia

20-09-1996 Operational Update

 The ICRC maintains a limited presence  

The ICRC continues to work in the city of Monrovia through its locally hired employees. The head of delegation, based in Freetown, Sierra Leone, carries out frequent missions into Monrovia to maintain contacts and to monitor the situation on a regular basis. He will be joined by a second delegate in the coming weeks. The health coordinator for Sierra Leone, based in Freetown, is also responsible for overseeing the ICRC's work in Monrovia.

 Continuing support for the health infrastructure  

As most of the basic health care facilities in Liberia have closed, the ICRC is providing medical supplies to four clinics in Buchanan, Dolo's Town, Gbarnga and Gbatala, which are run by the Liberia National Red Cross Society (LNRCS). It also supports a National Society mobile clinic which provides treatment for the internally displaced in Greater Monrovia, including the Po River area. This team is currently caring for over 2,000 patients per week. 

ICRC local staff are seconded to the " Skeleton team " , which works in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and the National Society to exhume the bodies of those who were killed in the April-May fighting. They work mostly in the hospital compound, the Barclay Training Centre and surrounding areas and ensure the proper burial of the bodies. The ICRC also runs an ambulance to transfer those needing medical attention to the city's hospitals.

With the breakdown of the water trucking sy stem the population of Monrovia has once again become dependent on water from the various wells and boreholes in the city, many of which have been neglected for several years. The ICRC has therefore increased its supply of raw materials for the urgently needed maintenance and chlorination of more than 1,000 wells. Staff are in the process of rehabilitating hand pumps and installing them where necessary. All this work is carried out under the technical supervision of the ICRC.

 Tracing activities  

In addition, the ICRC has stepped up its programme for the exchange of Red Cross messages that it had previously established with the LNRCS. This offers the people of Monrovia the chance to make contact with their relatives who have fled to refugee camps in neighbouring countries or elsewhere outside Liberia.

 The latest position  

After having been forced to withdraw from Liberia on 12 April this year, the ICRC issued a statement condemning " the serious and systematic violations of the elementary rules of international humanitarian law and of the minimum principles of humanity " that have been committed in the conflict in Liberia. In the intervening months, the ICRC has kept an extremely close watch on developments but sadly conditions have not changed and there are still flagrant breaches of the minimum standards of behaviour.

While the ICRC is aware that there are serious humanitarian needs in pockets of the country, the institution believes that these needs are due, in part, to restraints imposed on the movement of the population. The extreme levels of malnutrition witnessed in Tubmanburg in recent days cruelly highlight this situation. However, the serious difficulties that humanitarian organizations have experienced in their attempts to respond to these needs have only served to confirm the ICRC's position, that is, that within this context, the conditions have not yet been met to resume a full-scale humanitarian operation. The ICRC considers that the situation has not improved markedly in terms of access to the population and respect for international humanitarian law.