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Update No. 97/03 on ICRC activities in Sierra Leone

19-06-1997 Operational Update

The situation in Freetown remains fairly calm, although still uncertain, as negotiations continue between the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), various governments and members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The ICRC has been attempting to gain access to 14 people arrested and accused by the AFRC of planning a counter-coup. It has also maintained its contacts with all parties to ensure security guarantees.

Population movements continue out of Freetown towards Kambia, Makeni and Bo, and from Kenema towards Segbwema and Zimmi. Many people have allegedly crossed the border to Liberia, and more are making their way towards Guinea. The Sierra Leone Red Cross Society (SLRCS) has made assessments of the newly displaced in Port Loko and Kambia, and has reported no humanitarian emergency for the time being. However, there is concern about people's access to food and medical care for economic reasons in the towns and the " hungry season " upcountry. In addition, many institutions and internally displaced people have been left without assistance since the departure of the humanitarian community.

The ICRC has been able to resume some activities in the east of the country, in addition to its medical and relief work as described below.

 Surgical activities and public health care  

The ICRC surgical team based at Netland hospital carried out 28 operations between 9 and 16 June. They transferred seven patients to and from Wilberforce hospital for X-rays.

Upcountry, the hospitals in Bo, Kambia a nd Segbwema were still working with minimal staff. In Kenema, the government hospital was still paralysed. The SLRCS/ICRC dispensary, which was opened a week ago at the Nongowa clinic there, has been carrying out about 150 consultations a day.

SLRCS first-aiders from Lungi evacuated four wounded people and five bodies following clashes there on 10 June between ECOMOG forces and Sierra Leonean combatants. The wounded were taken to the Garrison clinic in Lungi and later to Wilberforce hospital.

Discussions were held with the medical authorities and other organizations on the public health situation. An ICRC sanitation engineer arrived in Freetown and, together with a locally hired engineer, was assessing the capital's water supply.

 Food and seed distributions  

The ICRC team in Zimmi has resumed seed distributions in south Pujehun, under the 1997 rehabilitation plan for this area. Distributions took place in Makpele and Sorogbema chiefdoms. Some 30,000 beneficiaries received seeds (90 tonnes of upland rice and 60 tonnes of groundnut seed) and 6,000 hoes. The next step in this rehabilitation programme is to distribute swamp seed in July in the Kailahun and Pujehun districts for some 180,000 beneficiaries, along with some food for work. Difficulties have been encountered in obtaining sufficient fuel, and some roads have been made inaccessible by rain. At the beginning of the week, clashes around Zimmi between the army and the Kamajors prevented the ICRC from sending a food convoy from Kenema to Zimmi.

In Freetown, the ICRC, along with the SLRCS, has distributed food to around 4,000 Liberian refugees in Jui camp, the Council of Churches of Sierra Leone camp and the Lagoonda hotel. It has provided food to nearly 600 beneficiaries at the Connaught hospital, Netland hospital, Kissy psychiatric hospital, the Four ah Bay children's hospital, the Children Affected by War centre, the SOS Swedish children's village and the Wilberforce orphanage. The distributions, which consist of bulgur, lentils and vegetable oil, along with plastic sheeting and blankets, have so far been carried out using rented logistics: a truck has been hired on a monthly basis. The ICRC plans to extend this assistance in the coming days and weeks to other places and groups of beneficiaries, according to needs. The SLRCS team has also distributed relief items to 700 people in Matotoka in northern province. The World Food Programme has given the ICRC the green light to use its stocks in Kenema, in accordance with the collaborative agreement between the two institutions which had been in place before the coup.

 Personnel  

The ICRC team in Sierra Leone consists of nine expatriates in Freetown, three each in Kenema and Segbwema, and two in Zimmi. The National Societies of France, Iceland, the Netherlands and Norway have between them seconded five of these expatriates.