After an exhausting day-long walk, carrying what possessions they could, IDPs reaching Salala were having to camp out in the open or find shelter in available buildings. It is the wet season in Liberia and heavy tropical rain is a daily occurrence. Prior to yesterday, Salala was already home to approximately 30,000 IDPs, so this small town is now extremely crowded.
Save the Children had been monitoring the steady flow of IDPs in the area, which yesterday became a flood. SC UK responded to the needs of IDP children 'on the move' by carrying out prevention of separation and rapid tracing activities along the Salala-Totota road. Using a megaphone from the window of a Land Rover SC UK's child protection staff were able to broadcast messages about the need for families to stay together and advice about how to contact Save the Children tracing staff posted at the entrance to Salala town. Four tracing requests by parents who had lost their children were received along the road and one of these children was able to be immediately traced at Salala.
In addition, SC UK supported local Ministry of Health staff to set up a medical screening centre on the northern edge of Salala where minor treatments were carried out and referrals made to MSF France's health centre in the town. Apart from SC UK and MSF France, other international NGOs working in the region include Concern, Oxfam, ICRC, ACF and LWF.
SC UK, Concern and Oxfam are members of the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) which recently launched a public appeal for Liberia. Today (4 Sept), SC UK will return to the area with a larger team. As well as continuing its prevention of separation and rapid tracing activities it intends to establish a 'waystation' north of Salala at which IDP children and pregnant and lactating women still on the move can receive water, high energy (BP5) biscuits and minor treatments. The BP5 has been donated by Unicef.
Ross Mountain, Senior Humanitarian Coordinator for UN-OCHA visited Salala with a high level assessment team yesterday. He chaired a meeting of NGOs and UN agencies in the evening in order to coordinate the immediate humanitarian response.
Oxfam will be assisting with water and sanitation. Concern will also be involved in emergency sanitation and in distributing BP5. LWF and UNHCR will deliver plastic sheeting today in an attempt to provide temporary shelter for the influx of new arrivals.