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Extremely Grave Situation for Civilians Trapped in Liberian War

MSF demands immediate assistance for tens of thousands of civilians

Paris/New York May 26, 2003 - Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is alarmed at the conditions of aid and protection for the civilian population facing an intensification of fighting in Liberia, and demands that humanitarian issues be given absolute priority in discussions in June in Ghana.

Only two of fifteen counties remain unaffected by the fighting in Liberia, and the war front is only a few miles from the capital Monrovia, where thousands of displaced people have fled. In the eastern part of the country, fighting has spread to Harper, inciting more than 10,000 people to flee to Ivory Coast, where their protection remain precarious. The MSF team working in the town's hospital was forced to evacuate on foot, and reached Tabou, in Ivory Coast. The expatriate and Liberian team have been working in Harper since 1998 and carried out close to 200 admissions and 2,000 external consultations each month. MSF activities included surgery, obstetrics, and a specialised tuberculosis treatment program. Thirty children were also receiving care in the therapeutic feeding centre.

Now only two counties, Margibi and Grand Bassa, have been spared from the fighting. Even in zones that remain accessible, aid and the protection of civilians are largely insufficient. The Montserrado camps, a few miles from Monrovia, have been attacked and looted twice. 50,000 people find themselves trapped between the war front, the sea and Saint Paul River. Food distributions have been suspended since the end of March, and the number of malnourished children has increased. Lofa County, in northwest Liberia, has remained inaccessible to any humanitarian aid for more than two years. Accounts from Liberian refugees and displaced people from this region collected by our teams attest to the violence directed at civilians from both parties in the conflict.

MSF insists that the parties in the conflict assure the security of humanitarian workers, so assistance can get to people throughout Liberia.

MSF demands that humanitarian issues like aid and the protection of civilians are given priority in discussions scheduled for June in Ghana.

Despite the high state of insecurity and a drastic limitation of intervention possibilities, MSF continues to work in the IDP camp in Bong, where there are close to 50,000 IDPS, and in the Montserrado camps. Medical and surgical teams are also present in Redemption Hospital in Monrovia, and in several clinics within the capital.