Phebe Hospital Journal Reports #24-29
Reports #1 - 4
PHEBE HOSPITAL JOURNAL: Report #24
BYLINE: Kit Cone
DATE: Friday, February 27, 2004
SOURCE: Phriends of Phebe Distribution Service
It has been almost a week since we could do e-mail. Today Uncle Sam, the computer guru from the Phebe Hospital office in Monrovia, came (at my request) and laid his hand on the computer. The problem was that the computer was working, and the satellite telephone was working, but they couldn't talk to each other properly. I was relieved that his first attempt -- although it was successful -- could not be replicated, and it took him another 45 minutes of making adjustments before it would run. We still have a high failure rate, but it can work. Sam describes this computer as being like an old car, that runs slowly. In Liberia, we have lots of old cars!
These things are in chronological order, and so they may seen a bit detached sometimes. They are the little notes from my notebook.
To try to catch up with the news:
Saturday night Bill and Carl "deployed" the razor wire around the front of the house after the incident in which the truck people had broken down the front door to get in and make a ruckus. On Sunday morning we refined the deployment a bit, and then later we decided that although it made a good statement about our determination to stick it out here, it did look a bit unreceptive. (If it had been at Grace Church, we would have said something about "the welcoming arms of the Episcopal Church.")
There is a lot of yellow fever in the IDP camps.
On Sunday evening we had ice cream for dessert!! Bill had brought it in a picnic box as a surprise, and gave it to Butch to serve after he had left.
There was a big rainstorm on Sundaynight. We filled four buckets with water from the roof -- anything to reduce thenumber of trips to the well! Richard and Stephen, the houseboys, spend half their lives hauling water in wheelbarrows.
On Sunday night there was a lot of shooting, and the White Whale want out. The White Whale is a big armored personnel carrier that is stationed right across the road from our house at the Bangladesh army camp that is part of the United Nations peacekeeping force. The Bangladeshis do not do much for the Liberians, and they keep saying that they are not here to be police officers, but they do take very good care of us.
On Monday morning we got the "new" saw out of the Iowa container that we had unloaded on Saturday, with the idea that it would replace the one that we had burned up in an hour some weeks ago. We fired up the new saw, and fed it some Liberian hardwood, and burned it up in half an hour. A new record. So now we have a rusting yard for dead power saws in the corner of the porch.
Bishop Harris, the Lutheran bishop of Liberia, came for a visit on Monday. He was very well received. He has gained a lot of status in the country as a result of his efforts to resolve the war. The workers were very happy to see him, and to know that he had come all this way to see their work. He came while we were putting glass in the windows in a part of the outpatient department that is going to be used as the basis for the new start of the hospital.
After the big rain on Sunday night, the flying stage of the termites came out in huge numbers. They live in the ground, and when the rain comes they have to climb out to breathe. They come in such numbers that they make a cloud. Little children go crazy catching them and ripping off the wings; later they will be fried and eaten. The hotei, as they are known, were so dense that we shut down the generator early on Monday night because we couldn't manage the cloud of bugs that came to the lights.
There was heavy shooting on Tuesday morning. There is a pattern that is quite common in the shooting. First there are some shots with light arms from the area of the airfield. Then a little pause --maybe three seconds -- then BANG!! BANG!! from a much larger weapon at the Bangladesh post. I don't know about military weapons, but I'm guessing that the first shots are the LURD with AK-47 assault rifles, and the second are the Bangladeshis with something resembling a .50 caliber weapon. The Bangladeshis seem to have some night vision equipment, and thus they are able to settle the exchange on their own terms.
After that big exchange early in the morning, the Bangladeshis reinforced their compound on Tuesday. They ran barbed wire between our house and their post, and set up a new sandbag emplacement on our front yard, down by the "point" where the roads come together.
On Thesday, Mike worked with representatives of the Lutheran World Service. They are making a camp across the road which will be a detention area for "former" fighters during the disarmament process. This process is now scheduled to begin in mid-May, but don't bet the farm on it. Because they are making their camp at a location with no water (Duhh!) they have to make five trips every day with a truck to fill water drums to carry back to the camp for the workers. They were monopolizing the water well in front of the OPD where we get our water, and so there was a Water Riot when Richard went to get water and the LWS people told him that he would have to wait. Richard held his own against the 6 or 7 LWS boys, and then Mike came along as the peacemaker. He said that the LWS people, since they have a truck, could use the well in from of the Deanna K. Isaacson Center, farther out on the compound. That made the LWS people happy because they had "their own well," and it made Richard happy because he got our well back.
Mike and I have been working on fixing the mess in the eye center building where the circuit breaker box had been chopped out and stolen. We worked on it all day Tuesday, and since then have gone back to it most of every day. It's a terrible job, complicated by the fact that some of the facilities are 240 volts and some are 120.
Note for Dr. Bob: Yes, it was the Iowa container from Ruth Erhardt and company. People have been coming ever since to get their part. There was a whole lot of stuff for individuals in there, and Bette McCrandall -- even though she has been badly sick -- has notified the people and they are coming to get their share.
Dr. Sandoe was here on Tuesday and we had a staff meeting with him. He said that he will send the first contingent of the hospital staff to operate the OPD next week. At first they will commute from Salala a few days a week, and their lodgings here at Phebe will be prepared. Then as lodging is available, they will move in. (But then Dr. Sandoe left for a meeting in Denmark in an effort to get some funding, so not much has happened.)
Dr. Elaine left for the U.S. on Tuesday, going through Accra and then on Lufthansa -- a Real Airline!
Tuesday night we worked all evening on the e-mail business, but to no avail.
On Wednesday there was plenty of shooting around 5 p.m. This was unusual, because usually the shooting is before dawn. Maybe 12 rounds were fired, but they stopped without any response from the UNMIL troops.
Wednesday evening we had partial success with the e-mail, using the generally less reliable Iridium satellite telephone that we had previously used only for voice communication. Unfortunately, that rush of success was short-lived, and the thing didn't work again after that until today (Friday).
A good thing: It's really nice to open the lid of the plastic garbage can in ourliving room where we keep water for the bathroom, and to smell Mike's chlorine in the water!
On Thursday Carl went to Monrovia to buy things that we would need to set up the new generator. Bill made the arrangements for the generator in Monrovia before he departed. It's a 50-KVA Perkins machine. That's very small compared to the almost 300-KVA that we had before the looting, but we have to begin somewhere. The Perkins engines are made in Ireland, and the generator is a Stamford Newage from England. Perkins is a good name, but the machines are not as sturdy as the Cummins or Caterpillar. We bought it because we could afford it -- in the absence of any grant money -- and because it was available in Monrovia.
The cleaning crew, headed by Butch and Marlene, cleaned House #1 which will be used when the hospital staff starts coming back.
My efforts to do e-mail after lunch were no good, and that was when I called Carrie, who has been in Liberia ever since, to ask her to try to send Uncle Sam to help us. The Iridium telephone was almost impossible, even just to call Monrovia, but she got the message, and she came through!
Spoiling Bill's law about never driving after dark, Carl came back from Monrovia at 8 p.m. on Thursday night. He brought word that Gary was down with malaria -- the second of our crew to experience Lariam failure. Gary caught it before it got out of hand, and he went to the field hospital at Salala. They confirmed malaria, and sent him to St. Joseph's Hospital in Monrovia. He was treated as an outpatient, and went to the Lutheran Guest House, where he stayed in Bill's former room with an air conditioner.
OCHA, the United Nations umbrella organization that coordinates humanitarian work, is renting House #15 on our compound, which will be a very welcome addition. Workers have come to start fixing up the house -- which is just as badly destroyed as all the others. But the workers took over House #3, and we had to evict them.
We had been preparing for the Rainbow Coalition to make a visit, either on Wednesday or Thursday, but they never showed up. I'm glad we didn't make a nice banquet for them!
This morning, Friday, the generator came right on schedule at about 10 a.m.! It has been a big day here! The addition of the generator will mean electric light in several buildings, some street lights (which will be very good for security), and even the possibility of e-mail! In a few more days, we may be able to get this running -- perhaps by early in the week before we depart. After that, the next thing will be the water system. We have some salvaged well equipment, including a motor and two pumps. So if we can make them work in the best-producing well, we should be able to get started on reviving the water system.
We unloaded the generator from the Lebanese contractor's truck in a perilous operation that involved about a dozen hollering Liberians, each with a better idea of how to get the thing on the ground safely. In the end it did wind up on the floor in one piece. It is clean and bright and blue, and looks strangely out of place in the filthy wreckage of the generator building. It's a real symbol of persistence, and of determination to get back to providing medical care in the jungle.
It will take some days to make it work properly, but we did get it installed, and welded down so it won't be easily stolen. We gave it a test run of perhaps half an hour -- with no load. Carl brought three drums of fuel when he came from Monrovia last night. That will be enough for about 50 hours of operation, and by then we hope that we will have been able to patch the bullet holes in the big fuel tank so that we can have a tank-truck delivery of 4,000 gallons.
I spent much of the day setting up the connecting wires in the powerhouse. The line goes from the new generator through a master switch (which was one of those scrounged by Elven Riley!) and then out to the pole line. Another branch will go to the OPD and eyes clinic, which will become the focus of the restarted Phebe Hospital.
For the moment, we're still on Bessie, the dependable little
Later this afternoon Carrie, Gary and Dr. John arrived from Monrovia in a Phebe truck. So we had a full table for dinner again.
We heard from Carrie that Sabine, one of two Lutheran pastors from Germany, has been quick sick. She lives in Monrovia, not far from the Lutheran compound.
So now we are gathered here -- all except Ruth Koble, who has been in Monrovia the whole time. If this e-mail machine works, I'll try to send things each day and to keep up with the passing history.
Nothing else strange. Kit
PHEBE HOSPITAL JOURNAL: Report #25
BYLINE: Kit Cone
DATE: Saturday, February 28, 2004
SOURCE: Phriends of Phebe Distribution Service
It's just like the Old Days, writing one day's notes on the same day!
We had some discussion today of what will happen when the missionaries leave. Will any of the things that we have done/fixed still be here an hour later? We agreed that much depends on when the disarmament will will actually start. Right now the earliest is May 15, but that's not guaranteed. Until then, the fighters control the area and we are here at their pleasure.
Today the Bangladesh troops expanded their base substantially. They ran more barbed wire around their three buildings, and brought in a U.N. bulldozer to clear away the sight lines. The bulldozer flattened the whole Phebe Market - - it's totally gone. All the brush around the market, and everything between the military camp and the airstrip was cleaned out. The goal is so that the sentries can see who is shooting at them. The area around the market at the end of the airstrip had been the source of most of the shooting in recent weeks, so it seems that the Bangladeshis got fed up with it and just knocked everything down to the bare earth.
Kollie Massaquoi, the chief electrician of the hospital, returned to stay here today! This is good news. He worked with us this afternoon on running wires from the generator house to the few buildings in the OPD that will have electricity at the initial stage of operations. Kollie is an educated and sensible man with a lot of experience. The fact that he is coming back to live is
JIM AND LYNN GRAY STOPPED IN TODAY! They had been here with the Peace Corps on the Old Days, then Jim became a big deal at Friends of Liberia in Washington. He used to run the FOL Liberian news service on the internet -- a service which is now handled at Indiana University. More recently they spent a year in Freetown working for a refugee agency. They were on their way to Gbarnga, Ganta, Saniquellie and maybe Yekepa when they stopped here today. They will pass this way on the return trip so we can get a report on conditions down the road.
One of the big assignments of the day was to clean the fuel tanks for the generator. These huge tanks had a lot of scum and crud in them. A Liberian volunteer went in there with a fan to supply him with fresh air, a lot of detergent, some brushes, and a light. He spent the time singing loudly inside the drum - - which is about the size of a short bus. One of the tanks also had a bullet hole in it, and Carl and Jim fixed it by drilling out the hole to half an inch, then putting a bolt in there with neoprene washers on each side. It looks good, and it should hold.
Today was payday for the Liberian workers. Carrie also gave "her" people a large ration of rice; these are the people who are cleaning up the warehouses with Carrie and Carol. Unfortunately there was a big stink over the wage to be paid to the people who cleaned the tank; no contract or price had been negotiated in advance, which was a serTuesday, June 1, 2004 16:24llars, or about $4 in U.S. money, for the day's work.
Mike and I finished connecting the new little generator today. We ran heavy wiring from the generator to a big cutoff switch on the wall, then to the line going out of the building to the power lines. There is another line going out the other side of the building to the OPD, and that will have a separate switch to control it. The wires are all tidy and neat, with many of the lines in plastic conduit fastened to the walls. It was really filthy work, and we came out of the engine house looking terribly dirt and grime covered.
Carl, Jim and Paul reconnected some electric wires so that we will be able to supply power to either the "new mini-hospital" buildings or to some of the staff houses. The generator isn't big enough to do all of them at once. So the hospital will run by day, and the staff houses at night. There will also be some street lights, which will be a great addition to the security picture here.
Unfortunately, in the afternoon a tree that had been set afire this morning by brush burning around the staff houses finally burned through and fell down -- on the power line leading to House #1. So we have to jump up the pole and tape off the fallen wires as a field expedient. But it seems that we will be able to try out the generator on Monday. :-)
Butch and Marlene and their cleaning crew are pretty much done in House #3, and started work today at House #7. Those are the three houses that we are fixing up for returning hospital staff members. The other staff houses (including "my" #9) are not to be fixed yet. The priority is to get the hospital running, even at a low level.
OCHA is at work in House #15. They are bringing their own generator, which we think is a 30 KVA unit. This compares to our 50 KVA for the whole hospital. So the U.N. will be well electrified! They also have two foundations constructed on their parcel, which will apparently be some kind of outbuildings.
Gary is doing OK. He worked part of the day, and had a good nap after lunch. It's hard to slow him down, but we try hard. Paul is back to full throttle, and we've pretty much given up trying to slow him down.
For dessert this evening, Butch and Marlene made baked apples! Dr. John brought some rather sad looking apples from Monrovia, and B&M decided that they would be OK served baked so that we couldn't see them very clearly. They filled them with raisins and nuts and sugar and good things, and baked them in the propane- fired oven, and the result was wonderful! Butch is a really fine
Tomorrow I will be the preacher at St. Luke's Church, and the other missionaries spent a few minutes this evening practicing some hymns, as they will be the choir.
Nothing else strange. Kit
PHEBE HOSPITAL JOURNAL: Report #26
BYLINE: Kit Cone
DATE: Sunday, February 29, 2004
SOURCE: Phriends of Phebe Distribution Service
I just finished conducting a group class on the operation of this
e- mail system. It's a whole lot more complicated than doing it in the U.S. because of the satellite telephone. The wonder is that it works! As part of the demonstration we downloaded three letters from my daughter, and several for Paul, Dr. John, and others. So we know the system is working.
We also got a nice letter from Bill Martin, who is in the middle of a big snowstorm in Brussels and loving every minute of it.
Apparently the UNMIL scheme of clearing everything between them and the road with the bulldozer was at least partially successful: There was no shooting last night.
After some discussion this morning, we have determined that our group of USSELCA missionaries will leave from Phebe on Tuesday morning in the Phebe bus. We will stay on Tuesday night at the Lutheran Guest House in Monrovia, and then on Wednesday we will go to the airport for the start of the long ride home. Originally most of us were going to travel from Phebe straight to the airport, which cuts about an hour off the driving time, but when we got down to the real thing there were only two of us left (me and Marlene) who did not need/want to go into Monrovia. So rather than burn the Diesel fuel to carry two people to Monrovia separately, we agreed to all go on Tuesday on the bus. So tomorrow
My sermon this morning was very well received. In fact it is the only time I can remember that the congregation applauded one of my sermons! Then several of the people from the congregation came up to shake my hand. I preached on the reading from Deuteronomy in which Moses is telling the Israelites what they are to do when they get to the Promised Land, and I compared this with the return of the Phebe people to their hospital after 14 long years of war and terror.
In the congregation were Jenneh Yeuvo Sele and her husband, Anthony! They came from Salala in a Phebe truck to get supplies for the Salala Field Hospital. Jenneh is the head med-surg nurse there. Not too shabby! So we invited them to come to lunch, and we all had a nice time in House 6 with a good lunch and good conversation.
There were shots at 2:30 this afternoon, while Paul, Carl, Mike and I were looking at the house where OCHA will be setting up camp. They are doing a lot of work there. They are installing their own big Diesel generator, which will be on a concrete pad in the back yard of the house, and also their own water tank which will be upon posts so there will be gravity flow into the house. There is some negotiating to be done about their use of the nearby hand-pumped water well for this domestic water system: we want to make sure that they don't disable the well for all the people who depend on it to pump water into buckets to carry to their houses.
Again at about 3:40 there were shots, this time from the area by the beer garden or perhaps at the parking place across the road from the entrance to the hospital. About 12 or 15 of the Bangladeshi troops trotted at double-time, rifles in hand, in the direction of the beer garden. We never did see them come back, but apparently they did whatever needed to be done. Although the Liberians don't like them because they refuse to be police officers for civil or criminal offenses, they have taken very good care of us!
This afternoon we went through a laborious exercise sorting T- shirts which will be distributed to the workers tomorrow as a goodbye present. We made 40 piles of 6 T-shirts each, secured with rubber bands. There was some discussion as to security, and whether giving out the shirts will make the workers targets of violence. There has been a resurgence of violence recently, with LURD thugs taking things away from people and upsetting their villages. We have similar problems on payday; last week one Aaron was robbed of his pay on payday. That's the hazard of working in a war zone, but we agreed that not every worker would be robbed of every shirt, so we are going to go ahead with the distribution.
The line for the e-mail machine is long, and there isn't really any more news. The weather is almost cool -- perhaps down to 75 at
PHEBE HOSPITAL JOURNAL: Report #27
BYLINE: Kit Cone
DATE: Monday, March 1, 2004
SOURCE: Phriends of Phebe Distribution Service
This e-mail thing works, but it sure can be frustrating. Last night, I wrote in my book, it took me 23 tries to send our messages out. Often "it" would send part of the stuff and then shut down. So it went out in little bits and pieces. Very aggravating. I wrote a note in my notebook that I should not return here without my own e-mail machine!
Bob: I got the note for Mike and gave it to him. That is his next hope for a job. He quit his former job in order to come here, and used his severance pay to buy all his water treatment equipment.
There was plenty of shooting and yelling last night around 2 a.m., apparently near the bus stop or the beer garden. The Bangladeshis have set up a new check point on the road near where they cleared everything away with the bulldozer. This morning the White Whale, their armored personnel carrier, came across the newly cleared area, making its own road from the check point to the UNMIL compound.
We connected houses 1 and 3 this morning. House 1 is where the tree burned and fell on the wires yesterday. The tree is still lying in the front yard, and it's much too big to move. Carl and Paul also connected the current to the house where the Bangladeshi officers live -- good politics!
Part of this morning I spent packing for our departure early tomorrow morning. This evening Mobile 2, a battered Ford Ranger Diesel pickup, came to relieve the bus as the lifeboat for those who will remain behind us. Leaving in the morning are Paul, Marlene, Butch, Jim and me, and Gary will be going to Monrovia to buy supplies. Staying here will be Carrie, Carol, Carl, Mike and Dr. John. Richard, the boss houseboy, will be jubilant when the laundry load and water comsumption fall by half! He spends a large part of every day hauling water from the well in a wheelbarrow.
The Phebe school is supposed to start registration next week, and start classes around the 21st. The principal was suspended on charges of eating all the money, so the school needs a new principal. One of the buildings has no roof, but the others are structurally all right. The buildings need a lot of work, and of course there is no money. The initial plan is to have three classes in each classroom. That should be interesting, as classes are routinely 75 students. There are no families living here, but the hope is that if the school is open, some families will come back to take advantage of the classes.
The United Nations has set the new pay scale with $5 a day for construction laborers, with the result that there is unrest in Totota where we are paying half that amount.
This afternoon we set a utility pole to carry the new wire from the generator station across the entrance road to the hospital into the OPD building. We mustered a crew of about ten men and muscled the pole over to the four-foot hole that had been dug in the appropriate place. Then somehow, with a lot of hollering and pushing and instructions, the pole rose up and plopped into the hole! We got the wires in place from the building across the pole to the generator house, so that part of the job is done. Probably tomorrow, when I'm gone, the engine should be ready for its first real test.
Splicing wires for the power line, the cloud of gnats was so thick that we could clap our hands in front of our faces and kill three gnats at a time, but it didn't diminish their number in the least!
Jim and Lynn Gray returned today from their trip to Ganta, Saniquellie and Yekepa. Jim said that the Ganta Methodist Hospital is destroyed. Not just damaged, but really destroyed. But the good news is that the Yekepa hospital, which was part of the big Swedish iron mining enterprise, is in pretty good shape.
Dr. Sibley and about 15 others came for inspection this afternoon, riding in one of the little Ford pickups from Salala. He would like to start some preliminary outpatient work as early as Friday or Monday. Dr. Sandoe is to return Wednesday on the same plane that we go out on, and he will have to sign off on any plans to return. Dr. Gwenigale is due here tomorrow with a physician who has agreed to return to the Phebe staff. He will start at Salala, and the idea is for him to move to Phebe later.
This afternoon Gary sent a dozen of his best men to fix some of the holes in the tops of the storage containers. All the cardboard boxes of medical supplies and household possessions were getting soaked in the occasional evening rains that are starting now. We have only one empty container, and there is another coming later this month. We have no idea what to do with all the stuff! When we start doing some medical work here maybe the backlog will run down a bit.
After work today we handed out T-shirts to all the workers. They were very appreciative. Most of them have only one set of clothes, and have to wash them at night and put them on still damp in the morning. Some of the workers who live in a nearby village were very glad to hear that the Phebe bus was going there to take some of the missionaries to look at water wells that Mike was to treat. By riding in the bus, the workers hoped to be able to get their shirts home safely without being accosted by LURD.
While the bus was parked in the village, three LURD fighters confronted the driver and asked him if he could identify the person in a photograph they held. They said they didn't want to harm the person, but only to pay him for the photograph. (Whatever that means?!?) The bus driver kept his cool and said that he didn't know the person and couldn't leave the bus. But it was a scary moment.
Mike went to the village to treat one well, and wound up treating six as more and more people came to him begging him to put chlorine in their wells.
Tomorrow morning we move off at 7:30 for Monrovia. It may be possible to send e-mail from Uncle Sam's office, but if not, the next transmission will be from Grace Church on Friday! It's a VERY long ride: we start Tuesday morning and arrive late Thursday.
Nothing else strange. Kit
PHEBE HOSPITAL JOURNAL: Report #28
BYLINE: Kit Cone
DATE: Wednesday, March 3, 2004
SOURCE: Phriends of Phebe Distribution Service
We are at the Lutheran Guest House, home to the world's largest roaches and the world's smallest towels. We had a magnificent Last Supper last night at a restaurant in Sinkor. We are to depart this afternoon.
I heard from Bill last night by telephone. He will meet me in Brussels at the airport.
Everyone is in good health and good spirits. Gary is going back to Phebe today in the bus, in the absence of any other vehicle, carrying building materials for the project at Totota.
And so to America. I look forward to seeing Eliot at Newark
PHEBE HOSPITAL JOURNAL: Report #29
BYLINE: Kit Cone
DATE: Tuesday, March 9, 2004
SOURCE: Phriends of Phebe Distribution Service
Below is an excellent summary from the United Nations. The agency which prepares these summaries, OCHA, is setting up a base facility on the Phebe Hospital grounds. Note that Phebe Hospital was represented at the Gbarnga conference mentioned in Item 2. The site at Cari II which is mentioned in Item 3 is across the road from Phebe, and the Lutheran World Service people who are constructing this site work closely with Phebe on such concerns as water supply.
Five UN experts have been in Liberia to review adherence to UN sanctions on timber, diamonds and arms. The rationale for the sanctions is to avoid resources from the sale of the strategic commodities further increasing the conflict in the sub region and to ensure that there are mechanisms in place to properly manage and account for income from diamonds and timbers. In briefing the humanitarian community in Monrovia, one of the expert stated that the lifting of sanctions on diamonds is contingent upon progress NTGL makes in ensuring that it complies with the Kimberly Process, i.e., proper certification of origin, transparency and mechanisms to account for revenue. Sanctions on timber will be determined by a factor of assurances of peace and stability in Liberia. This has to do with deployment of UNMIL, disarmament of combatants and the resettlement of communities and transparent mechanisms to manage resources coming out of the sale of timber. The team has set up an email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) to receive comments and inputs on their work from members of the public. So far there are very limited evidences of violations of the UN sanctions particularly on diamonds and timber. The report from the panel to the UNSC is due on 30th May 2004
On 4 March, OCHA held its first coordination meeting with humanitarian actors in Gbarnga. Up to a dozen LNGOs and INGOs including Medicin du Monde, ACF, SCUK, LWF/WS, UNMIL and members of Phebe Hospital attended. The objective of the initial meeting was to find out which agencies were doing humanitarian work in Central Liberia and to bring actors together in order to avoid duplication of efforts. A key concern was security in light of not being able to move in the interior into the region as there were reports of harassment of civilians by armed combatants who are said to be imposing taxes on the population. Reference is made to the setting up of checkpoints in Weinzu and Ziensu in Bong, where marketers had to pay a fee along the route in order to have access to the market. Another issue discussed at the meeting was accessibility to the farms and the market roads due to lack of use over a long period of time are now hampering market activities.
The issue of civil authority in Bong and the implications this could have for coordination in the county was raised in view of the present local authorities being appointed by LURD to hold ground pending the arrival of those to be appointed eventually by the NTGL.
During an inter-agency coordination meeting in Gbarnga, LWF/WS, supervisor of the project, reported that the construction of cantonment site at CARI II was on going with the involvement of the local community and the combatants. In Monrovia, a taskforce on the reintegration made up of UNMIL, UN Agencies and NGOs is being setup to brainstorm on a conceptual framework that will be used as the basis for moving the process forward.
Humanitarian activities by sector
4. Agricultural sector
FAO has completed the distribution of vegetable seeds and tools in Montserrado, Margibi and Bong counties in conjunction with implementing partners. 2000 farm families have been targeted with vegetables and hand tools. In the coming months 800 farmers will receive seed rice while others will receive cassava and sweet potato cuttings depending on their preference and local planting ecologies. This distribution is under FAO Emergency Assistance in the Production of Improved Planting Materials and Distribution to Refugees, Host Communities and Crisis-Affected Farmers in Bong, Margibi and Montserrado Counties. In close collaboration with WFP, FAO has identified Bong and Nimba as the counties where host communities, returning IDPs and refugees will benefit greatly from the distribution of rice seeds and tools. The Swedish Government has agreed to fund a project of this kind with a target beneficiary of about 6475 farm families.
5. Health and Nutrition
52% of the targeted population of 72, 000 have been vaccinated against Yellow Fever in Totota Town and the Miamu IDP camps in Bong. The campaign in the two locations ended on 6 March at which time it is anticipated that up to 70% and more of the targeted population would have been vaccinated. The campaign will then move to Salala, also in Bong County by 7th March. Some 495,000 doses of vaccines against Yellow Fever are expected in the country by the week of 12th March ahead of the start of the campaign in Nimba that will take place after Bong is completed. On Thursday, 26 February, UNICEF, the Ministry of Health, WHO and MSF launched a Yellow fever immunization campaign in response to the recent outbreak.
WHO, MOH and NGO partners are planning a Baseline Survey for Malaria proposed by the Ministry of Health. Discussions are ongoing as part of preparation for the implementation of the Global Fund Project for Malaria which is expected to start in April 2004.
On Friday, 27 February the Nimba County Health Team, working under the coordination of the NGO Equip Liberia completed the vaccination of more than 81,000 children in northern Nimba County. Since the exercise began in June 2003, a total of 910,072 children between the ages of 6 months and less than 15 years have received the measles vaccination.
On Thursday, 26 February, UNICEF and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare chaired a meeting of the Nutrition Working Group, drawing on government, NGO and UN participation. The Working Group is finalizing guidelines on Supplementary Feeding and Therapeutic Feeding. The group is also supporting a radio drama series for nutrition education.
UNICEF visit to Buchanan on Thursday, 26 February assessed the situation of children associated with the fighting forces in the area.
On Saturday, 28 February, UNICEF hosted a consultative meeting for 37 members of the Liberian Children's Parliament. The focus of the consultative meeting was to identify activities for the Children's Parliament for 2004. The children developed a draft strategy for expanding their membership beyond Monrovia and identified priority activities to be undertaken.
UNICEF Education and Protection units are working closely with the Ministry of Education and NGO partners to establish the necessary mechanisms to coordinate the reintegration of children associated with fighting forces.
UNICEF distributed clothing donated by the NGO ADRA to IDP camps in Montserrado County, benefiting up to 5,000 children. Additionally, 150 cartons of exercise books, 14,400 pens, 15,000 pencils and other supplies were distributed in all Bong county IDP camps through the NGO Jesuit Refugee Service.
8. Shelter & Non Food Items (NFIs)
LUSH, a local NGO implementing for UNHCR stated in an inter- agency coordination meeting in Gbarnga that it had completed roofing of shelters in TV Tower, a way station for Liberian returnees and IDPs in that region.
Since October 2003 the humanitarian community has been working with LRRRC, the Government humanitarian counterpart, to relocate IDPs from unsuitable shelters around Monrovia into more formal camp settings where assistance and protection agencies can provide services in a structured manner. The current focus is on some 3,000 IDPs at West Point, a shanty area not far from the center of Monrovia; the IDPs are under pressure from the local community to evacuate a school they have been occupying. As these IDPs are from the South-East of Liberia, and most IDP camps in the greater Monrovia area are full to capacity, the IDP Committee decided to assess potential relocation to Buchanan where security has greatly improved following the deployment of UNMIL. After an inter-agency assessment of facilities and potential services, and a review of protection concerns, a plan, and related budget, is now been developed to facilitate the relocation of these IDPs to Buchanan which will take them a step nearer home.
Conditions in the IDP camps in Montserrado, Bong and Margibi counties are still difficult given over-crowding, inadequate resources, and the need to strengthen camp management. Various efforts are underway to address immediate problems as well as longer-term needs including a revitalized approach to improved management of camps. Specific steps have been initiated to build a picture of available resources, including funding, and to streamline measures needed to access non-food items and shelter materials. Meanwhile, in several camps, transit shelters are full to capacity and need tailored interventions to quickly ameliorate the situation and to pre-empt protection problems. OCHA was able to organise a coordinated effort to improve the situation in one camp after a heavy downpour had left a whole series of transit tents flooded due to poor construction and broken roofing.
Returning Liberian Refugees
As UNMIL deployment gathers pace news of the improving situation spreads across the region like bush-fire. In many cases the information passed is incorrect, as witnessed by thousands of Liberian refugees that have left camps in Sierra Leone have found out. UNHCR has recorded over 10,000 voluntary returnees from Sierra Leone to date. Of these, approximately 3,400 have ended up in IDP camps that are already overcrowded and lacking in resources to deal with the current IDP caseload. UNHCR is undertaking an assessment of the situation and developing contingency plans while simultaneously supporting agencies to meet the needs of those repatriated.
In line with the need to facilitate return and reintegration planning, and to address ongoing protection and assistance requirements, the IDP Committee identified the need for a survey of some 300,000 IDPs in camps in Montserrado, Margibi and Bong counties. The Humanitarian Information Centre (HIC) has offered to fund a project manager position while UNHCR has indicated its willingness to support around half the costs of the survey budget. The survey questionnaire will cover issues concerning the county of origin, planned destination of return, demographics, vulnerability and skills/professions. It is anticipated that the survey will result in maps, reports and data that will help all concerned actors to better address ongoing camp management issues as well as facilitate return and reintegration planning in a more organised and well-informed manner.
OCHA staff met with the team from "Talking Drum" an independent radio broadcasting production house in Monrovia. Discussions surrounding potential collaboration were held, in particular regarding information relating to the IDP survey, return and reintegration and possible messages and information that is being requested by Liberian refugees living in Guinea and Sierra Leone.
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Last Modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2004 16:24