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Liberia: Red Cross strives to meet humanitarian needs resulting from the past conflict

09-07-2010 Operational Update

Civil war left Liberia's economy and infrastructure a shambles. Despite the efforts of the government and the international community to jointly rebuild the country, the impact of war is still strongly felt, with the population lacking access to healthcare, safe drinking water, sanitary facilities, electricity and education.

During the armed conflict that lasted from 1990 to 2003, the ICRC's activities in Liberia focused on helping displaced people and residents, the wounded and sick, detainees, and children separated from their families. Since the signature of the 2004 Peace Agreement, the ICRC has gradually adapted its activities to the post-conflict situation. It now has offices in Monrovia, Voinjama and Zwedru, and over 100 staff in the country, including eight expatriates.

The ICRC's partnership with the Liberia National Red Cross Society is at the centre of its activities in the country, which include helping communities in Lofa and Grand Kru counties and in urban Monrovia, and inmates held in detention facilities, to obtain access to clean water and sanitary facilities. The ICRC also provides support for farming communities in Lofa County, and spreads knowledge of international humanitarian law.

 Cooperating with the Liberia National Red Cross Society  
©ICRC/ V. Bawn    
Monrovia, Liberia. These police officers attended a first-aid course conducted by the Liberian Red Cross, supported by the ICRC. 

With backing from the ICRC, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and other National Societies, the Liberian Red Cross continues to develop its emergency response capacity, provide community-based health care, promote humanitarian principles, and restore family links.

In 2009, in partnership with the ICRC, the Liberian Red Cross:

  • provided tools and rice seed for 2,000 farming families and set up over 70 local committees to oversee community projects;

  • supported the construction of 25 grain banks;

  • gave 2,000 war-afflicted women vegetable seed and garden tools;

  • repaired 29 damaged wells, chlorinated 72 opened wells, built 10 latrines and provided training for water committees;

  • provided first-aid training for around 1,000 staff members, volunteers, Red Cross school-club members, and humanitarian and private-sector personnel;

  • continued to provide tracing services and to collect and deliver Red Cross messages;

  • organized Red Cross activities and supplied materials with information on the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to 75 schools throughout the country.

 Promoting respect for international humanitarian law  

The ICRC promotes respect for international humanitarian law and for the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and other humanitarian principles.

The ICRC is discussing with the officials concerned the incorporation of international humanitarian law into domestic law. In 2009, the ICRC sponsored the participation of two Liberian government representatives in a seminar on this topic that it co-organized with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja, Nigeria.

The ICRC endeavours to raise awareness of international humanitarian law in civil society, and within the army, the national police and other agencies, such as the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization.

The ICRC promotes compliance with international humanitarian law among officers of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) as they arrive in the country and among the rank and file as they are deployed in the field.

The ICRC also continues to provide support for the law school at the University of Liberia. In 2010, it will sponsor the specialized training in international humanitarian law of a University of Liberia law school professor in South Africa.

 Improving water supply and sanitation services  

The ICRC's water and habitat programme aims to improve access to water and sanitary facilities for communities in Lofa and Grand Kru counties and in urban Monrovia, and for people held at the Monrovia Central Prison and Zwedru Correctional Palace. In 2009, the ICRC:

  • built or renovated 251 water facilities in Lofa, Montserrado, Grand Kru and Maryland counti es, in addition to septic tanks and wells at Voinjama Prison, Zwedru Correctional Palace and Monrovia Central Prison;

  • provided training for around 1,500 " hygiene promoters " teaching safe sanitation practices, pump mechanics and community water-committee members;

  • sponsored over 130 theatre performances promoting safe hygiene practices in Grand Kru, Lofa, Montserrado and Maryland counties;

  • held 35 training sessions for Liberian Red Cross staff and volunteers and for county health staff in Grand Kru, Lofa, Montserrado and Maryland counties.

 Pressing ahead with agriculture projects  

The ICRC's economic-security programme aims to help farmers, cooperatives and women's associations in Lofa County to sustain and enhance their tree-crop activities and to contribute to the revival of the local economy. In 2009, the ICRC:

  • distributed 1,000 kilograms of Nerica seed rice to 20 communities in the Voinjama and Kolahun districts for multiplication. A portion of the harvested rice was returned to the ICRC, which delivered it to the Ministry of Agriculture in Monrovia for further distribution to other communities in the country;

  • handed out some 10,000 coffee seedlings from the Seredou Research Institute in Guinea, nearly 25,000 palm seedlings and 44 kilogrammes of cabbage, pepper, onion, eggplant and bitter ball seeds to farmers'associations and women's groups in Lofa County and in the Voinjama and Kolahun districts;

  • provided training for more than 3,600 people in Lofa County in agriculture techniques and marketing.

 Rehabilitating health-care facilities  

Over the last five years, the ICRC has rebuilt or upgraded 14 government-owned health-care facilities. It has also supplied them with drugs and equipment, and provided salary incentives and supervision. The activities carried out in the facilities included ante- and post-natal consultations and other medical consultations, curative care, immunizations, referrals and health-education sessions. Five facilities were handed over to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in 2008, and a final batch of nine clinics was handed over in 2009.