IRC Clinics Aid Liberians Amid Deteriorating Food and Health Crisis
The IRC's Anita Varney examines a patient at a camp for internally displaced Liberians. (Photo: Gerald Martone/IRC).
Liberians are streaming into IRC clinics at two sites in Monrovia where thousands of people are seeking shelter from the chaos that surrounds them. With little access to food and clean water, most of them are hungry and sick.
"The situation is desperate," says IRC's Liberia country director, Wubeshet Woldemariam. "More than 40 percent of the Liberians seeking IRC health services have malaria, and our clinics are seeing a sharp increase of cases of diarrhea and cholera.
The IRC is preparing to open five additional clinics at sites where the displaced have settled. In the meantime, staff members have converted a truck into an ambulance to ferry seriously ill or wounded Liberians to hospitals, and have launched a measles vaccination campaign targeting children between six months and 15 years.
Preparations are also underway to begin constructing latrines, trucking in water, rehabilitating water sources and distributing emergency supplies, including blankets, soap, tarpaulin and insecticide-treated bed nets at settlements for the displaced.
IRC staff members in Monrovia are expressing concern that the food situation is getting worse in this hunger-stricken city, as the port area, the gateway to humanitarian supplies, remains under the control of rebels. "We're unable to reach supplies from the port, shops are closed, people can't afford the little food that is available and there's no access in and out of the city," says Gillian Dunn, IRC emergency response coordinator. She said fuel shortages and steep fuel prices are also hampering the ability of aid groups to provide critical care for people in need.
With today's departure of Liberian leader Charles Taylor and the continued reluctance of the rebels to lay down their arms, the IRC continues to advocate for a strong international force to help bring stability to Liberia and ensure that humanitarian aid deliveries resume.
"Taylor's departure could easily trigger more unrest and create a political and security vacuum leading to more chaos and suffering," says Woldemariam. "There needs to be a force strong and large enough to restore calm-not just in Monrovia, but throughout Liberia-to pave the way for hundreds of thousands of uprooted Liberians to return home."
On July 9, IRC's West Africa Regional Director Robert Warwick told the US Congressional Human Rights Caucus that an international stabilization force was urgently needed in Liberia to ensure civilian protection and access to aid. Click here to read more about Robert Warwick's testimony.