Doctors Without Borders Concerned for Fate of Tens of Thousands of Refugees and Displaced Persons Trapped in Liberia

Monrovia/New York, April 1, 2003 – Following violent combat in Liberia, some tens of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons are now cut off from desperately needed aid and assistance. Last week's fighting led to significant population displacement in eastern Liberia (near the border with Ivory Coast), central Liberia and in Monrovia's outskirts.

Thursday morning's attack on Zwedru (Grand Gedeh county) has left the entire eastern region, bordering Ivory Coast, cut off from aid. Two international Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) volunteers working in the Zwedru transit camp did manage, with difficulty, to leave the combat zone, but the organization does not have any news from 28 members of the Liberian staff there. This attack follows the attack a few weeks ago on Toe Town, around 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Zwedru, which had already led to suspension of aid in the Grand Gedeh region.

In Nimba county, further north, an offensive on Ganta town launched Saturday morning has forced several thousand persons to flee, especially towards Guinea-Conakry. MSF has been forced to reduce our presence in the Saclepea refugee camp. The protection of and assistance to these populations can no longer be guaranteed.

Nearly 75,000 refugees are living in the region bordering Ivory Coast. Today, both these refugees and the local population are cut off from necessary assistance and protection.

In central Liberia's Bong county, new offensives forced some 30,000 people to flee as fighting approached the outskirts of Monrovia, the capital city. Last Friday, in the wake of the fighting, MSF decided to reduce its teams in the field, while continuing its activities in the Bong county displaced persons camp. MSF is preparing to receive new arrivals there and in the Montserrado camps, where nearly 50,000 displaced persons are today caught between the front line and the capital. The surgical team working in Redemption Hospital is also continuing its activities.

MSF is concerned about the fate of these tens of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons in Liberia, as well as that of the populations affected by the renewed fighting. MSF calls for everything possible to be done to protect humanitarian aid workers, international volunteers, and members of national teams, so that aid operations may resume as quickly as possible.