29 September 2003
Liberia: helping, evaluating and stabilising
29/09/2003 - The political situation in Liberia is returning step by step to normality, there is still fighting in some regions. SOS Children's Village Juah Town has been completely looted, ECOMOG soldiers are to guard the facilities until calm has returned to Buchanan. Around 1,200 refugees are still being looked after in SOS Children's Village Monrovia, the SOS Emergency Aid Clinic has been fully operational for a month and has treated more than 1,500 patients.
With the deployment of West African peace-keeping troops and after the election of an interim president, political peace is returning slowly to Liberia, even if fighting is still breaking out in remote regions and there are reports of attacks on the civilian population. As before, marauding and hungry militiamen, who are a law unto themselves, plunder indiscriminately the desperate population in rural regions. However, great hope is been pinned on the 15,000 strong UN peace-keeping force announced for 1 October, which should reach full strength during the course of the next months.
SOS Children's Village Juah Town - evacuated in mid May - has been comprehensively looted by MODEL rebels, the houses themselves, however, have remained relatively intact. To avoid further destruction of the buildings, three ECOMOG units are, for the time being, to be sent to guard the facility. In the mean-time, children, mothers and co-workers from Juah Town are staying in SOS Children's Village Monrovia.
According to the latest reports from SOS Children's Village co-workers, the dramatic situation with thousands of refugees in the capital Monrovia has relaxed somewhat. In the past weeks some of those who had sought refuge and protection on SOS Children's Village land have found accommodation in UNHCR camps. The 1,200 who are left, some of whom had fled from the country's interior to Monrovia, are looking for missing family members and somewhere to live near the capital. Most of the refugees are inhabiting the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School, which has now been shut for nearly four months. We have to wait and see if the school can get on with its normal work in the coming weeks.
SOS Children's Villages has been able to carry out an initial food distribution initiative for the hungry refugees and hardened population in the village's area. Attempts are now being made to find out how many more families have to be provided with essential food supplies.
Due to the catastrophic medical supply situation, an SOS Emergency Clinic was established in an former SOS Transit home - cleaned up as quickly as possible for the purpose - going into operation at the beginning of September. Within the first three weeks the hard-working staff (a doctor, three nurses, a midwife, two auxiliary nurses, a lab assistant and four former SOS youths to look after security) had already been able to carry out vaccinations and helped more than 1,500 people with simple outpatient treatment.