Today, MSF is reopening the doors of Zwedru Public Hospital in Grand Gedeh County, in eastern Liberia. The hospital has been closed for nearly a year when clashes between government and rebel troops drove many civilians from their homes and prevented medical agencies from continuing their work. People in the region have had absolutely no access to hospital health care since last March.
Although the hospital was not vandalised during the fighting, it was completely empty when MSF first assessed it last September and needs to be re-supplied with equipment and medicines. The MSF team will first get the emergency room up and running and then will prioritize the opening of other wards according to the needs of the patients. The care provided will soon include emergency surgery and a paediatrics ward.
MSF also hopes to provide support to four clinics in the area in order to ensure better primary health care for the population of Grand Gedeh county, estimated at 120,000 people. Persistent health problems include malaria, respiratory tract infections, measles, anaemia, ulcers and complications during childbirth. The MSF team will comprise of Liberian health staff and technicians employed from the region , as well as five international staff members, including a mid-wife.
"One of our first priorities will be to give theoretical and on-the-job training to health staff in diagnosing and treating diseases, hygiene protocols and caring for patients before and after operations," explained Alain Kassa, MSF's Head of Mission in Liberia. "We will also focus on collecting and analysing epidemiological data: in an area susceptible to measles and cholera outbreaks, it is important that epidemics are detected and kept under control quickly."
The situation in Grand Gedeh is currently calm, but the county is bordered by Ivory Coast to the east and Nimba county to the north west. Nimba county continues to be troubled by violent clashes and Ivory Coast has been unstable since September 2002.
"By working in this region, we hope to be alert to any abuses of the civilian population by warring parties so that we can ensure that victims of violence are detected and given timely treatment," continued Kassa.
"Sexual violence has been a distressingly common characteristic of the conflicts that have devastated west Africa over the last 15 years and we particularly hope to encourage victims of rape or sexual abuse to come forward for medical care."
"By working in this region, we hope to be alert to any abuses of the civilian population by warring parties so that we can ensure that victims of violence are detected and given timely treatment," said an MSF staff member.