Liberia: UNMIL Humanitarian Situation Report No. 104

14 - 20 May 2007


- FAO distributes 61% of CERF-funded seed rice to farmers

- Health authorities prepare for outbreak of water-borne diseases

- UNMIL human rights report highlights challenges in the Liberian prison system


Update on UN Central Emergency Relief Fund projects

FAO and its partners have so far distributed 61% of 2,500 MT of seed rice earmarked for 100,000 farmers in Liberia. The project is funded through the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) Rapid Response window. It is intended to address the long-term issue of food insecurity in Liberia, and specifically the low production of seeds to grow rice, the nation's staple food. The project is being implemented as a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Agriculture, FAO, WFP and NGOs. The UN Mission in Liberia assists in the transportation of the seed rice to various locations.

Farmers' groups will be supported directly by the initiative, and they will benefit from the provision of certified seeds, technical training, fertiliser and pest management inputs. Field technicians and lead farmers will be trained on seed multiplication techniques in two planned Training of Trainers workshops scheduled for the end of this month. NGOs who are already involved in seed multiplication programmes will also be invited to attend the training workshop. Reports from extensive field monitoring conducted by FAO throughout the country show that farmers are very appreciative of the delivery of the seeds. The seed rice distribution is expected to end in first week of June in time for farmers to start planting upland farms by mid-June.


UNHCR repatriates 813 Liberian refugees from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Cote d'Ivoire

During the week, UNHCR facilitated the return of 813 Liberian refugees from neighbouring Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone. Out of this number, 199 returned from Guinea and 585 returned from Sierra Leone via Lofa County in the north of the country. In addition, on 16 May, 29 Liberian refugees arrived in Grand Gedeh County from Tabou in Cote d'Ivoire.

The UNHCR refugee voluntary repatriation programme has so far assisted the return of 98,647 Liberian refugees from various countries, since it started in October 2004.


Preparation for outbreak of diarrhoea/cholera in River Gee and Maryland Counties

The latest stage of preparations for a possible outbreak of water-borne diseases during the rainy season in River Gee and Maryland Counties included the setting up of Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) 'corners', chlorination of water sources, needs assessment and public awareness campaigns. Health authorities have set up ORT 'corners' in 30 communities in Maryland County to treat cases of diarrhoea-related dehydration. They are conducting a hygiene promotion campaign to sensitize people on the ORT 'corners' in six districts in the county.

In River Gee County, the World Health Organization in collaboration with health authorities conducted a two-day emergency preparedness assessment in the county. The findings of the assessment will aid the preparation of a response plan.

The rainy season witnesses a rise in water-borne illnesses like diarrhoea and cholera. In communities with poor and inadequate water and sanitation facilities, the increase in diarrhoea and cholera cases usually put a strain on the limited health facilities and sometimes leads to fatalities. During the rainy season, 65% of residents in Maryland County and 16% in River Gee County have access to safe drinking water, respectively.

UNICEF provided a consignment of chlorine to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare for the chlorination of wells in all 15 counties of Liberia. Each county will receive approximately 400 kg of chlorine. In addition, UNICEF has delivered 285 culverts for well protection to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare is currently working on updating the National Cholera Contingency Plan.

River Blindness workshop held in Maryland County

In Maryland County, health authorities trained 22 health workers from various health facilities on the prevention of Onchocerciasis (River Blindness). The training took place in Harper City on Friday, 18 May, and was a follow-up to a regional River Blindness workshop held in Grand Gedeh County on 7-8 May for County Health Teams in southeast Liberia. County Health Teams who attended the Grand Gedeh workshop were required to conduct training for health workers in their counties.


Red Cross seeds-for-rice exchange project reaches 21 communities in Gbarpolu County

The Liberian National Red Cross Society is implementing a seeds-for-rice exchange project in Gbarpolu County. The project, funded by ICRC, helps to reduce the burden on local farmers in processing rice seeds into edible rice by exchanging unprocessed harvested rice with finished, de-husked rice. Rice seeds received in the exchange process are then provided to other vulnerable farmers, along with finished rice to prevent them from consuming the seeds.

So far, the project has assisted farmers in 21 communities in Bopolu and Bokomu Districts in Gbarpolu County. The Red Cross plans to reach 1,085 farm families in 31 communities during the course of the project.

Human Security Project launched in Bong County

On 16 May, representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, UNDP, FAO and WFP unveiled the Rebuilding Communities in Post Conflict Liberia project in Bong County. The project seeks to create employment opportunities, enhance community access to basic social services, and to boost community participation in local decision-making processes. It is funded by the Government of Japan with a US$ 3.8 million grant, through the UN Human Security Trust Fund, administered by UNDP. Implementation of the project will cover nine counties in Liberia over two years.

Vulnerable girls benefit from SC-UK business skills training in Bong County

During the week, Save the Children UK conducted small business management training for 25 people, many of whom are girls at risk of sexual exploitation and abuse in Zoweinta, Bong County in central Liberia. The training provided participants with management skills and knowledge that will assist them to manage small businesses. Each participant received business starter kits at the end of the training.

WFP distributes food to schoolchildren and others in Liberia

During the week, the World Food Programme distributed 1,544 metric tons of food to some 125,000 students, refugees, and vulnerable people in Liberia. The distribution is part of WFP regular targeted food assistance programme.

The agency also warned that early donor contributions are required to avoid a shortfall in its new single country Protracted Relief and Recovery project. A resource shortfall would lead to the suspension of daily school feeding, which currently targets an estimated 450,000 primary schoolchildren.


Hospital in Grand Gedeh County to get improved water and sanitation facilities

Following consultations between the Humanitarian Coordination Section and UNICEF, the latter will within the next ten days deploy a mobile water treatment plant and install bladder tanks for treatment and storage of water at the major referral hospital (Martha Tubman Memorial) in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County. Following this, UNICEF plans to install the hospital's water tower and rainwater collector system, and to rehabilitate productive wells.

Earlier, MERLIN, an international medical NGO, had alerted organizations to the urgent needs for water and sanitation at the hospital. The rapid response of UNICEF to the needs at the hospital is a good example of collaboration between the UN and international NGOs.


UNMIL human rights report highlights challenges in the Liberian prison system

During the week, the UN Mission in Liberia launched its latest report on human rights developments in Liberia. The report says that the Government of Liberia had taken several positive steps between November 2006 and January 2007 to strengthen the rule of law. It also highlighted the challenges of upholding minimum detention conditions in prisons and other detention facilities around the country. Specifically, the report says that prisoner's access to basic health and sanitation is limited; there is inadequate food and nutrition for prisoners; that victims and suspects were denied access to justice because of the poor operation of the court system, and that all prisons are overcrowded.

The Government of Liberia has responded to the report by saying that it is doing all that it could to improve the overall justice system, especially the situation in the prisons. A prolonged period of war adversely affected court and prison facilities. UNMIL and the Government of Liberia have been working together to improve prison facilities and the judicial system in Liberia.