Liberia: ICRC delivers aid outside Monrovia
18-08-2003 News Release 03/97
Geneva/Monrovia (ICRC) - On 18 August, a cargo aircraft chartered by the British Red Cross to bring supplies to the ICRC landed at Monrovia’s Robertsfield airport. It was carrying 30 tonnes of basic necessities, including blankets and kitchen utensils. This latest consignment follows three cargo flights which since mid-June have delivered some 80 tonnes of supplies. A fifth flight, funded by the Norwegian Red Cross, will arrive in the next few days.
On 8 and 9 August, the ICRC delivered supplies to two medical facilities and two makeshift clinics on Bushrod Island after carrying out assessments in Monrovia’s port area, then in the hands of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). Since then, it has focused on extending its activities further beyond the capital, including areas soon to be made secure by ECOMIL peacekeepers from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the rest of Liberia.
On 15 August, ICRC delegates entered Buchanan, Liberia’s second largest city, located some 150 km south of Monrovia. After assessing the most urgent needs of the 30,000 displaced people and residents, the delegates delivered emergency medical supplies to four places sheltering wounded and sick people. On the same day, another ICRC team took similar action in the city of Tubmanburg and in camps for displaced people in Montserrado county. Yet another ICRC team, in the Ivorian city of Man, is planning to investigate the situation in an eastern Liberian area under the control of the Movement for Democracy and Elections in Liberia (MODEL).
Because of the sudden upsurge in ICRC activities in Liberia, about a dozen delegates on standby in neighbouring Sierra Leone have arrived to reinforce staff already on the spot. The ICRC now has some 20 expatriates working in the country, including six medical delegates assigned to Monrovia’s John F. Kennedy Hospital, in addition to more than 400 local staff and volunteers from the Liberia National Red Cross Society. With their support, the ICRC is distributing 100,000 litres of drinking water every day i n a dozen places where displaced people are staying, and has begun to remove refuse that is accumulating dangerously in the centre of Monrovia. In addition, in just one month, the ICRC has reunited some 50 children with their parents, after they became separated from them while fleeing the fighting.
In Monrovia, there has been practically no fighting since the arrival of ECOMIL peacekeepers on 4 August, a few days before ex-President Charles Taylor went into exile in Nigeria. The situation has nevertheless been worsening in humanitarian terms because of the complete breakdown of supply networks, in particular for basic foodstuffs, medicines and fuel. Humanitarian organizations are quickly setting up new logistics bases and organizing transport to cope with the urgent situation. There has been cautious optimism since several dozen U.S. Marines arrived on the scene to secure air and sea supply lines.
The ICRC’s surgery unit, which opened just one year ago in the former maternity ward of JFK Hospital, has already carried out nearly 3,000 operations on war-wounded civilians and combatants. Although the military situation has been calmer for over a week now, looting and the settling of scores continue, necessitating some 100 operations. The number of patients hospitalized has nevertheless fallen to approximately 200, from a peak of 500 – the unit’s full capacity – at the height of the fighting.
Virginia de la Guardia, ICRC Monrovia, tel. ++377 47 528 089
Juan Martinez, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 22 730 22 81 or ++41 79 217 32 17