Liberia

Leading UK charities launch Liberia crisis appeal

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The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) is today launching a multi-media Liberia Crisis Appeal to support the work of 11 of the UK's best known charities. The Appeal will help fund the rapid expansion of aid work following the first signs of peace in the capital Monrovia.
An estimated one million people are either trapped in appalling conditions in Liberia's cities or cut off from help in the countryside. Charities which will be supported by funds from the appeal are already at work in Monrovia providing medical care, clean water, family survival kits and food.

The appeal will be launched at 11.00am in central London as two aid flights prepare to depart for Monrovia this evening from Manston Airport in Kent. Celebrities will staff some of the donation lines as the first television appeals - fronted by Ross Kemp - are screened on the BBC and ITV after 6.30pm. (See notes to editors for event details).

DEC Chief Executive Brendan Gormley said:

"The appalling conditions caused by the climax of the bloody civil war in Liberia will lead to widespread deaths without an urgent increase in the aid effort. Immediate financial help from the public can ensure that the DEC agencies will be able to step up their vital work quickly."

Three attacks on the capital by the LURD rebels since June 2003 have trapped 250,000 people who had sought shelter in the city. As West African peacekeeping troops continue to deploy in Monrovia DEC agencies are expanding their work in Liberia and flying in new stocks of aid.

Donations can be made online at www.dec.org.uk by call 0870 60 60 900 or at any high street bank or post office.

Media Enquiries: 020 7387 0200 or mobile 07940 824 444

Notes to editors:

  • For further information about the aid flights leaving Manston Airport in Kent at 20.00 and 20.30 hours please contact: Oxfam - 01865 312466, mob. 07833 191 347 or Save the Children 020 7716 2280, mob. 07831 650 409.

  • The official launch of the appeal at 11am at BT tower (Maple Street entrance, London W1) will be attended by the DEC Chief Executive Brendan Gormley and leading representatives of the aid community with experience in Liberia. Telephone Paul Collins on: 020 7387 0200 or 07940 824 449 for further details.

  • The celebrities answering the phones will be at BT Tower (Maple Street entrance, London W1) from 18.00-20.00. The Liberia Crisis Appeal will be fronted by Ross Kemp on both ITV and BBC - the first time both networks have used the same celebrity. For further details speak to Wendy Bailey 020 7387 0200 or 07770 665 512/07940 824 449.

  • The DEC charities benefiting from the Liberia Crisis Appeal are: Actionaid, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Concern, Merlin, Oxfam, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision.
The response of DEC agencies and their partners to the Liberia Crisis

Food

  • Small scale food aid distributions are increasing in camps for displaced people and accessible population centres across Monrovia.

  • Supplementary feeding projects help revive the malnourished, especially children.

  • Food aid distributions have included rice, oil, canned fish, salt, high-energy biscuits, seeds and groundnuts.
Water & Sanitation
  • Water provided by rebuilding and chlorinating wells.

  • Where there is no water supply, bladders and water trucking provided.

  • Latrines constructed in camps to help limit the spread of disease.

  • At least 12 water tanks, 4 pumps, 46 latrine blocks, 42 bathhouses and various plumbing works under construction.

  • Hygiene kits provided to allow communities to keep their settlement free from rotting rubbish, waste water, faeces and other hazardous waste.

  • Daily garbage disposal service in 15 temporary sites for displaced people, which aims to help reduce the threat of disease.
Healthcare & Medication
  • Curative and preventative health centres are operational.

  • Mother and child health centres, with delivery and consultation rooms are operational, along with an emergency vaccination programme. Measles vaccination has now reached 95% coverage amongst displaced families.

  • Emergency referral systems and mobile clinics are operating where possible. Running at least one diarrhoea and cholera control unit, with a 24-bed capacity.

  • JFK Hospital in Monrovia is the only major medical facility still functioning, and operates on between 25-30 patients per day. Three surgeons, an anaesthetist and two ward nurses work around the clock, supported by 120 local staff and volunteers.

  • Basic drugs are available in some emergency health clinics.

  • There are trauma and HIV counselling services to sexually abused young women and girls. Healthcare counselling is available from clinics.

  • There are plans for a demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration programme for 2,000 child soldiers.
Shelter, Displacement & Infrastructure
  • Registers of lost children are being compiled in over 80 places of refuge in Monrovia and the surrounding area. Radio stations inform people of the service. Over 200 children have registered, and at least half are under 12 years of age.

  • Tarpaulins are being provided to cover windows, fix roofs, and provide shelter from the rain. Buckets, jerry cans, mats and soap, kitchen sets, water containers, mosquito nets, cleaning equipment and supplies are supplied in some areas.
BACKGROUND TO THE CRISIS

Liberia is Africa's oldest republic, gaining its independence in 1847. Although founded by freed American slaves, the majority of this small, coastal West African country's population are indigenous Africans, with the slaves' descendants comprising 5% of the 3.3 million population.

The relative calm of the country was shattered in 1980 following a coup led by Segeant Samuel Doe after food price riots. Liberia has since suffered economic collapse, instability and intermittent civil war. President Charles Taylor led the first National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebellion against Doe in 1989. Over 200,000 people were killed in the ongoing conflict as rebels split into factions and turned on each other. After 3 years of tentative ceasefires and a disarmament programme initiated by West African peacekeepers, elections were able to take place.

Taylor was elected President in 1997 and the country experienced 2 years of relative peace. However, civil war broke out again in 1999 as two rebel groups -- Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and - the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) - fought against government troops with the sole intention of ousting Taylor from power. Taylor has recently been accused by the UN of war crimes. He is also accused of creating instability in the whole West African region by supporting rebel groups in neighbouring countries. An unknown number of Liberians have been killed and around one third of the population have been forced from their homes.

In recent months the conflict intensified, reaching Monrovia in early June, since when there have been three major battles for control of the capital. People in Monrovia have been forced to live in a state of siege with little access to basic necessities, such as food, water and medical care. The level of insecurity made providing humanitarian aid extremely difficult.

Nigerian peacekeepers entered the capital on 4 August and fighting has since abated. However, extreme lawlessness and insecurity still plagues the Monrovia area with rape and looting commonplace. The humanitarian crisis in Monrovia is described by the United Nations as acute. More than one million people in Monrovia are affected with an estimated 250,000 displaced people crammed into schools, public buildings, churches and Monrovia's main sports stadium.

Displaced families are living in appalling conditions next to rivers of sewage and infestations of maggots. Supplies of potable water have been exhausted in most parts of the capital. Diseases such as Cholera, Diarrhea and Malaria and respiratory infections have claimed many lives. There are chronic food shortages and a survey by French aid agency Action Contre le Faim (Action Against Hunger) revealed that about 30 percent of children under 5 are suffering from global acute malnutrition. (Any reading over 15 per cent is regarded as an emergency). Prices have also risen dramatically with a cup of rice, Liberians staple food, up by 700 per cent since June.

BACKGROUND TO DEC

The Disasters Emergency Committee unites the leading independent humanitarian agencies in the United Kingdom to maximise effective humanitarian response during times of major disasters overseas.

The Liberia Appeal is the latest in many joint appeals since the DEC was formed 40 years ago. The initiative to set up such a committee came from a group of five aid agencies who believed that at times of major humanitarian crisis they could achieve more by working together than working separately. Their first joint appeal was in 1966 for the Turkish earthquake of that year. Since then the DEC has launched, on average, an appeal every nine months.

The key tenet of working together has proved to be a successful formula and over the last 40 years membership of the DEC has grown to 12 agencies1, the funds raised and spent for humanitarian relief have grown massively. Creating such an efficient appeal mechanism through the media for national fundraising and public response maximises donations from the British public as well as ensuring that funds raised are used in an effective, timely and accountable way.

The agencies last joint appeal was held in July 2003 to help the millions of people across Southern Africa facing acute food shortages triggered by a complex series of causes ranging from chronic drought, occasional floods, war and poor governance.

The Southern Africa appeal raised a total amount of =A316.1 million from July 2002 to April 2003. The massive relief effort of the international community and the Governments of the region mobilised 600,000 MT of maize for 10 million people. DEC members were also active in targeting and delivering food aid as well as getting farmers back into production by providing seeds and tools and working with HIV/AIDS communities.

Other appeals in recent years include the Goma Crisis, launched in January 2002 following the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano. The Mozambique Floods Appeal in March 2000, which raised =A332 million, and the 1994 Rwanda Emergency Appeal, which raised =A337 million.

Participating agencies are: ActionAid, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Concern, Help the Aged, Merlin, Oxfam, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision.

Note: 1 Help the Aged are not involved in the Liberia Crisis Appeal