Chaos in the Streets of Monrovia

Monrovia/New York: June 6, 2003 - The situation in Liberia's capital is increasingly chaotic, with thousands of displaced people arriving, the international medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported today. Since yesterday, tens of thousands of displaced people have been fleeing refugee camps outside the capital and moving into Monrovia.

"Last night we saw thousands of displaced people - mainly children under five, women and elderly - wandering around Monrovia, looking for a place to sleep," says Alain Kassa, MSF Head of Mission in Monrovia. "Some of them found shelter with relatives, but many spent the night in churches, empty buildings, the market, and on the streets. It is raining heavily, these people are already extremely vulnerable due to insecurity and lack of assistance, so we are looking at a humanitarian catastrophe in the making."

Today, more people continued to arrive in Monrovia. Simultaneously, many aid organizations have had to reduce their presence and activities over the past few weeks because of insecurity and the inaccessibility of many areas.

"We have to adapt our assistance day by day. We are now trying to identify where most of the displaced people are gathering to provide them with health care, shelter, food, and water and sanitation," Kassa continued.

Humanitarian access in Liberia has been decreasing for three years now. Due to insecurity, aid organisations have not had access to 80% of the country. MSF is very concerned about the situation and the conditions local people face, and urges the international community to ensure assistance is provided. MSF reiterates the responsibility that all parties in the conflict have to respect civilians and allow humanitarian assistance.

MSF has a team of 12 international volunteers in Monrovia, which continues work in the only public hospital and six clinics. The team also runs a Cholera Treatment Center. Outside Monrovia, MSF assists displaced people in Totota, Bong County.