January 18, 2001

Humanitarian Aid Lacking for Refugees Fleeing Repeated Attacks on Camps

Kissidougou/Brussels, January 19, 2001 — The international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has witnessed a dangerous decrease in the stability and security of the region of Guekedou in Guinea, which currently hosts around 250,000 Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees. MSF urges the UNHCR and Guinean authorities to immediately relocate these refugees to safer areas.

Attacks by armed groups on camps in the region of Parrot's Beak in southwest Guekedou have placed approximately 180,000 refugees and 70,000 Guinean citizens at severe risk. Following an attack on January 12th, several thousand refugees fled their camps in an attempt to reach the MSF-supported Nyaedou camp north of Guekedou. However, the Nyaedou camp has also been threatened by armed groups and cannot be considered safe. Arriving refugees have told MSF volunteers of the harassment and killing of civilians. "We want to leave, we want to get out of here. We don't care about food, just take us away," one woman said.

A majority of the refugees in the Parrot's Beak region are now trapped in the fighting and have no access to safer areas. Due to the area's insecurity, humanitarian assistance has been severely restricted.

Dr. Morten Rostrup, President of MSF's International Council, has been in the region over the last three weeks and recently visited camps in Parrot's Beak and Nyeadou. "Urgent action is needed before it is too late. If relocation is not implemented immediately, MSF fears a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the region and we may soon face a major humanitarian crisis," says Rostrup.

An assessment in Parrot's Beak conducted by MSF just before renewed fighting found basic humanitarian assistance, including food and medical care, lacking in many campsites.

Plans exist to relocate refugees to sites near the towns of Albadaria and Dabola, located farther inland and judged safe by Guinean authorities and the UNHCR. To guarantee the security of the refugees, which should be the highest priority, these plans should be implemented immediately.

MSF therefore urges the Guinean government and UNHCR to immediately sign proper agreements to facilitate and accelerate transport of refugees to the new locations.

 

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