Humanitarian Situation in Liberia Dire, IRC Distributes Emergency Supplies
IRC is distributing emergency items, including blankets, cooking supplies, soap and other cleaning materials in five locations where newly displaced have gathered. (Photo: Kate Holt for IRC)
The humanitarian situation in Liberia is now among the world' worst, says IRC emergency response director Gerald Martone, who spent the past three weeks in West Africa, assessing humanitarian needs. "I was shocked by what I saw. Liberians are bracing for the worst, and so are we."
Intensified fighting in Liberia's long-running civil war has uprooted an estimated 300,000 people this year, adding to hundreds of thousands who were already displaced.
In early June, fighting between government and rebel forces moved into parts of the capital, Monrovia. Thousands of displaced Liberians who had been sheltering in camps in and around Monrovia camps were forced to flee to other settlements, collective centers and a stadium, where they have little access to water, health care and basic services. "We are extremely concerned about their welfare," IRC country director Wubeshet Woldemariam said. "It is a very alarming and chaotic situation."
IRC staff members surveyed needs at five locations where the newly uprooted have gathered and are distributing emergency items, including blankets, cooking supplies, soap and other cleaning materials. Staff members also geared up to provide emergency health, water supply and sanitation services, as well as non-formal education activities for displaced children.
Woldermariam estimates that the violence has rendered 75 percent of the country inaccessible to humanitarian aid. Nevertheless, the IRC has periodically been able to transport supplies to three health clinics along the Ivory Coast border that continue to provide health services, health education and immunizations to local citizens, displaced Liberians, and refugees fleeing conflict in neighboring Ivory Coast. Seeing some 250 to 300 persons per day, the clinics are the area's only operating health facilities.
Currently the UN World Human Development Index, which measures health and living conditions, ranks Liberia 174 out of 175 countries.
The IRC has been working in West Africa for 10 years, providing a range of emergency and rehabilitation programs in Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
IRC president George Rupp visited the region in May. He said optimism and hope seem widespread in Sierra Leone, which is emerging from a decade of brutal war. But he said the mood in Liberia is bleak. "The answer will require a regional solution that ends the fighting in both Liberia and Ivory Coast. But the international community must become more involved and provide more resources."
Click here to read the full text of the InterAction sign-on letter that IRC and other NGOs working in Liberia sent to President Bush.