Liberia: UNMIL Humanitarian Situation Report No. 117

27 August to 2 September 2007


- Hundreds affected by floods in Liberia

- Several remote communities in Grand Kru County to soon benefit from improved roads and safe drinking water

Floods affect several communities and displace hundreds

Heavy rains during the weekend of 25 and 26 August led to the overflowing of the St. Paul River and its main tributary - the Stockton Creek. This resulted in the flooding of six communities (comprising ten towns and villages) in and around Monrovia. According to an initial assessment conducted by the Liberia National Red Cross Society, the floodwater destroyed 30 homes and displaced 275 persons in the Township of Caldwell, St. Paul Bridge, Battery Factory, Red Hill, Wesseh Town (Cow Factory), and Doe Community. Over 1,000 homes of an estimated 17,000 people were flooded, and one elderly woman reportedly died of exposure during the floods.

Water supply to an estimated 250,000 residents of Monrovia was temporarily cut off for a day on 27 August due to the flooding of the water treatment plant in Mount Coffee, outside of Monrovia. Heavy downpour of rains also led to the undermining of a bridge on the Monrovia-Bomi Highway, which connects Monrovia with western Liberia. Engineers of the UN Mission in Liberia have since repaired the bridge. There were also reports of flooding in Margibi County (central Liberia).

The Humanitarian Coordinator's Support Office (HCSO) on 28 August led a team of representatives from the Government of Liberia, the Liberia National Red Cross Society and the UN on a rapid needs assessment to two of the communities most affected by the floods. The team visited Red Hill and Caldwell, both of which lie outside Monrovia. It identified needs for urgent humanitarian assistance in the areas of water, sanitation, health and food. The assessment found that although the floodwaters were receding in some parts, pending rains and stagnant waters have increased the risks from malaria and water-borne diseases. In addition, all the open wells in the affected communities are at risk of having been contaminated by the floodwaters. People whose homes were destroyed by the floods, lost most of their possessions, and they are more at risk of hunger.

The initial humanitarian response to the needs of the most affected communities is rapidly gaining momentum, and it is characterized by effective collaboration between the Government, UN and the NGOs. A needs and planning matrix is being used to highlight the immediate needs and gaps in the affected communities and gaps, and how they are being addressed.

On 3 September, the Liberia National Red Cross Society will distribute non-food items to people whose homes were destroyed by the floods. MSF-Belgium is trucking water to one of the communities. The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in collaboration with the WATSAN Cluster is coordinating the health, water and sanitation response. Other organizations involved in the response include Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, African Development Network (ADEN), Mentor Initiative, UNICEF and WHO. The HCSO in collaboration with the National Disaster and Relief Commission is coordinating the overall response. More assistance to the communities is expected next week.

One hundred, forty people affected by sea erosion relocated to temporary safe area

It can be recalled that between 14 and 16 August 2007, an apparent surge in the Atlantic Ocean destroyed several homes and displaced hundreds in the Sinkor suburbs of Monrovia. On 30 August, the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), with logistical support from UNHCR, relocated 140 of the 296 most affected people to a temporary site outside Monrovia. The move was the latest in the process of providing immediate assistance to the affected communities. WFP provided one-month food rations to the relocated people, who are expected to be at the site for no more than one month.

The process was a coordinated effort by the Government of Liberia, the Liberia National Red Cross Society (LNRCS) and the UN. UNHCR provided eight trucks and the Government provided a bus to transport the people and their belongings. LRRRC coordinated the transportation. LNRCS distributed cooking utensils, blankets, soap, water containers and other non-food items to 296 persons in the affected communities on 20 August. The Government of Liberia is expected to address the long-term need for permanent relocation of the affected people by the end of September.

Underserved communities in southeast Liberia to get major road boost

The international NGO, German Agro Action, will in October 2007 begin implementing a project to rehabilitate the major road that connects River Gee County with Grand Kru County in the southeast of Liberia. When completed, the road - which runs from Kanweaken Junction (River Gee County) to Barclayville (headquarter city of Grand Kru County) - will improve access by the local population to markets, health and educational facilities and other amenities. The project also has a substantial water and sanitation component, which will construct/rehabilitate 40 wells to provide safe drinking water for the local population in Buah and Barclayville Districts in Grand Kru County.

River Gee and Grand Kru Counties are some of the most neglected parts of southeast Liberia in terms of access to basic social services. Difficult road access and sparsely populated communities have made it hard for relief and development agencies to provide adequate assistance to the local population. Recent estimates put the number of people with access to safe drinking at seven percent and 15 percent, respectively, for Grand Kru and River Gee Counties.

Lutheran World Federation provides micro credit to women

As part of its support to empowering women and vulnerable people, the Lutheran World Federation/ Department for World Service (LWF) has provided US$ 40,000 worth of credit to 343 women and 57 men in Bong and Lofa Counties in central and northern Liberia. The beneficiaries will use the money to start and manage small businesses and generate income. Prior to receiving the loans, the loan recipients were trained in small business development, record keeping and business management.

During the week, the people of the coastal town of Garraway in Grand Kru County received a new school, constructed by LWF, for their estimated 800 school age children. The nine-classroom school will provide a suitable learning space for the children, who previously were learning under a makeshift shelter in the town.