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MSF in Liberia, 2011
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More than 150,000 people fled Ivory Coast and sought shelter in Liberia, where Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provided emergency assistance throughout the year. The vast majority of Ivorian refugees were hosted in local people’s homes, mainly in the counties of Grand Gedeh and Nimba. Others found shelter in refugee camps.
In January, MSF launched an emergency program in Nimba, delivering free healthcare to both refugees and local residents. The teams primarily treated respiratory and skin infections, watery diarrhea and malaria in mobile clinics and in a health post at the Bahn refugee camp. MSF also vaccinated children under 15 years old against measles and provided local health centres with free drugs and technical support. Staff conducted more than 45,800 consultations; over 2,700 of these were antenatal, and some 14,500 were for malaria.
In March, MSF started operating mobile clinics in villages hosting refugees in Grand Gedeh, to the south of Nimba. The team conducted more than 38,300 consultations, admitted 226 children to a nutrition program, and carried out more than 1,900 mental health sessions. Water and sanitation staff constructed wells and latrines and ensured the supply of safe water. Later, MSF extended its services to camps in the area, where some refugees had settled.
Despite the political resolution of the conflict in Ivory Coast in April, the situation initially remained insecure. Many refugees did not return home, afraid of rape, torture and intimidation. Many had no source of income as they had lost the land they had been working on, or had missed the planting season. Nonetheless, the situation had stabilized sufficiently by the end of the year for MSF to hand over activities in Grand Gedeh to the Liberian Ministry of Health and non-governmental organizations. Teams continued to work in Nimba into early 2012.
Sexual violence in Monrovia
In Liberia’s capital Monrovia, MSF offers comprehensive medical and psychosocial care to victims of sexual violence. Teams work with specialist Ministry of Health staff in two hospitals to provide a walk-in service seven days a week, with medical staff or a social worker on call 24 hours a day.
The teams conduct medical examinations and treat patients for injury and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Patients arriving within 72 hours of an assault receive post-exposure prophylaxis to reduce the risk of HIV and STIs. Trained mental health workers offer counseling and emotional support to victims and their families.
Staff can provide medico-legal certificates and put patients who fear for their safety in touch with a network of safe houses. MSF also works with a local non-governmental organization, Mer-League, which is raising awareness in the community about sexual violence and the medical care that is available. In 2011, 993 new patients received care after a sexual assault, 92 percent of whom were under 18 years old, and 1,115 follow-up consultations were also arranged for patients requiring further support.
At the end of 2011, MSF had 101 staff in Liberia. MSF has been working in the country since 1990.