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Liberia : emergency work continues despite fighting

23-07-2003 Operational Update

An ICRC surgical team continues to treat wounded at Monrovia's main hospital, as terrorized civilians seek refuge in abandoned buildings, football stadiums, churches and schools. Hunger and the lack of medical care are beginning to create severe problems for the most vulnerable.

For the third time in as many weeks Monrovia has been the scene of fierce clashes, which resumed at the start of last weekend. Mortar shells fell in the centre of the Liberian capital, particularly in densely populated areas. The death toll over the past few days is said to be in the hundreds with an unknown number of wounded.

Terrorized civilians have sought refuge in abandoned public buildings, football stadiums, churches and schools. Hunger and the lack of medical care are beginning to create severe problems for the most vulnerable people among the civilian population, in particular children, pregnant women and the elderly.

Today (23 July), 15 ICRC expatriates are still present in Liberia. Seven of them are part of a medical team operating at the John F. Kennedy surgical unit that ICRC set up at the hospital a year ago. Five delegates are present at the ICRC's temporary delegation at Mamba Point; the former delegation at Bushrod Island cannot be reached because of fighting nearby.

The medical team at the JFK hospital has been operating around the clock since the fighting started on Saturday 19 July. Currently over 250 inpatients are under treatment. Many more wounded are expected in the coming days following the renewed outbreak of violence. During fighting in June the hospital took in over 500 patients.

 Replenishing stocks  

Taking advantag e of a break in the fighting last week, the ICRC was able to fly in medical and other emergency supplies to Monrovia from neighbouring Sierra Leone to replenish its stocks. This should be sufficient to meet the needs of tens of thousands of displaced people and hundreds of wounded for three to four weeks if the military situation allows the ICRC to get to the victims in the places where they have taken refuge

Immediately prior to the fighting, some 45,000 displaced people who had gathered at the Samuel K. Doe football stadium and six other locations in town were provided with emergency food aid (maize flour, peas, oil, salt) and basic necessities (plastic sheeting, mats, buckets, soap, kitchen sets). The ICRC also provided drinking water for them.

For the moment the ICRC intends to maintain a core team of 11 international staff in Monrovia. It will try to continue surgical activities at JFK hospital and provide assistance to people affected by the conflict, working with around 100 Liberian staff as well as volunteers from the Liberian Red Cross Society.