Desperate situation in Liberian capital, Monrovia

MSF calls on the warring parties to safeguard the security of civilians, allow aid workers safe access to those who need assistance and allow for urgent supplies, particularly water and fuel, to reach the hospitals and clinics.
Monrovia/Brussels - As virtually all international staff of embassies, companies and humanitarian agencies are evacuating from Monrovia, Liberians find themselves in an increasingly desperate situation in their capital. Fighting continues for the fourth consecutive day. There is no functioning water supply, hospitals have no electricity or other source of energy, and Monrovians themselves are now fleeing their houses to find safety elsewhere. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is evacuating some staff but will stay in the city with a medical emergency team of three for as long as security allows. Together with MSF's Liberian staff, the head of mission, doctor and nurse will continue yesterday's efforts to bring urgently needed supplies to the MSF clinics and to the hospitals that the organisation supports. They will also try to locate major concentrations of displaced people and see what assistance they need. "Over the past months, we performed an average of 2,500 consultations weekly in the hospitals and clinics," says Christopher Stokes, MSF's operational director responsible for West Africa. "We now hear from our Liberian staff that only a fraction of that number reaches the health facilities. The extreme insecurity in the city apparently makes it impossible for many civilians to seek the medical attention they need." Supplying the hospitals is the number one priority for the MSF team, particularly because we expect people to arrive in need of treatment as soon as security gets better. But efforts yesterday were only partly successful - the MSF team managed to get some supplies to a number of its clinics -; the hospitals remained off-limits as a result of the chaos and violence in the streets of Monrovia. Over the past days, Redemption Hospital has received casualties of the fighting and staff have been able to treat them. Redemption, where MSF has been working for many years, is the only major public hospital in Monrovia. But medical stocks will be running low and there is no water or electricity. Island Hospital, which is also supported by MSF, was looted on Saturday. Tonight a cargo plane with MSF supplies leaves Ostende in Belgium to arrive in Freetown, Sierra Leone tomorrow. The 70 cubic meters of cargo - 18 tons - contains food, a range of medical supplies, and materials for providing safe water and sanitation. "We also need to know more about the many displaced in the city," adds Christopher Stokes. "Tens of thousands who have been streaming into the city since Thursday had already been on the run for a long time and staying in often makeshift camps outside Monrovia. They may have hoped to find better conditions in the city, but they won't. We need to find them, see how they are doing, help them find shelter against the incessant rains, get them food, clean water, medical care. This is going to be an uphill struggle, particularly as hardly any aid organisations remain on the spot." MSF calls on the warring parties to safeguard the security of civilians, allow aid workers safe access to those who need assistance and allow for urgent supplies, particularly water and fuel, to reach the hospitals and clinics.