Growing concern on fate of Mile 91 IDP's

In a press release and report released July 14, MSF has demanded attention for the desperate plight of IDP's in Sierra Leone - and concluding that most of the tens of thousands of people displaced by recent fighting fled from attacks carried out by government helicopter gunships. It is estimated that in excess of 200,000 people have fled their homes from fear, violence and hunger. Some 45,000 of these displaced people have gathered around Mile 91, and another 60,000 around Port Loko. The displaced often emerge from the bush scared, tired, hungry and often sick. They seek sanctuary, security, shelter and assistance. Humanitarian assistance is badly needed in order to meet the needs of the displaced and populations pouring into displaced camps or caught in the lawless chaos in rebel controlled areas. The report indicates that, contrary to popular perceptions, the main cause for people to flee their homes has been the fear of attack from government helicopter gunships. Sierra Leone Army bombings began in late May against a number of towns in the Northern Province and reportedly did not discriminate between civil and military targets. The displaced people also reported that the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) continue to be widely implicated in serious abuses of the displaced persons -- including extra-judicial killings, rape, amputations, forced labour, flogging and looting - which was also a factor in people fleeing. Other ill-disciplined militia groups, allegedly fighting on the side of the government, have created insecurity in areas of displaced populations, further creating fear, disorganisation and denying the possibility of providing shelter, food and medical assistance. With the press release and report MSF hopes that the international community take a new, more comprehensive approach to the conflict.