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Sierra Leone: condition of Liberia arrivals worsening

Briefing notes

Sierra Leone: condition of Liberia arrivals worsening

2 July 2002

More than 8,500 people have fled from Liberia to Sierra Leone since a rebel attack on the Sinje refugee camp on June 20th. Most of those who have crossed into Sierra Leone over the past 12 days are Liberians but there are also Sierra Leoneans among them who had lived in exile in Liberia but now decided to go back because of the fighting. Those fleeing have been arriving in Sierra Leone via a bridge spanning the Mano River which forms the border between the two countries. Over the past few days, the daily number of those arriving in Sierra Leone has fallen to between 500 and 700 per day, down from a daily average of 1,300 last week.

But while the numbers have gone down, aid workers report an increase in vulnerable cases. Elderly, ill and handicapped people, as well as pregnant women, new-born babies and unaccompanied children account for about one tenth of those arriving.

Since June 20, MSF-Belgium, which has a clinic at the border, has transported about 40 to 50 emergency cases by ambulance to the Kenema Hospital. These included several child malnutrition cases, gynaecological emergencies, anaemia and serious infections. The MSF clinic at the border treats between 90 and 130 individuals a day, half of them ill with malaria. There are also cases of diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections, scabies and sexually transmitted diseases.

UNHCR nurses and protection assistants are present at the border, identifying vulnerable people and referring them to the MSF clinic.

To date, UNHCR has moved 4,000 people from the border area to the Zimmi waystation, further inland. They are then transported on to established sites in the Bo and Kenema areas.

Sierra Leone has received nearly 40,000 Liberian refugees since the beginning of this year. About 22,000 of them are living in camps.