Sierra Leone

IRC: Crisis in Sierra Leone

News and Press Release
Originally published
In an op-ed article in the Washington Post on January 12, IRC President Reynold Levy summarized the situation in war-torn Sierra Leone and said the U.S. should take four steps: First, give Sierra Leone high-level attention as a diplomatic and humanitarian crisis. Second, provide additional funding for the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. Third, provide support and resources for the peacekeeping effort undertaken by neighboring West African nations. And fourth, rally its international partners to address the situation. He noted that UN agencies in Sierra Leone, including UNHCR, the World Food Program and UNICEF, are already stretched thin. Richard Jacquot, the IRC's Regional Director for West Africa, took part January 18 in a panel discussion about Sierra Leone on National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation." In addition, the current (January 25) edition of Time magazine recounts an anecdote by Marie de la Soudiere, Director of the IRC's program "Children Affected by Armed Conflict." She told of a six-year-old girl whose hand was mutilated by rebel troops and who asked, "Will my fingers grow back?"
Because of recent heavy fighting in the capital city of Freetown between rebels and peacekeeping troops from nearby nations, most nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including the IRC, have evacuated their staffs. Extensive damage to NGO property has been sustained, and offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees were burned down amid large-scale looting. Hundreds of thousands of Freetown residents could face starvation unless the fighting soon ends. They've been confined to their homes with little or no food, water or electricity since rebels invaded the city January 6. The city depends on food supplies from the countryside, but has been cut off by the fighting, with all shops and markets shut down. As soon as peace is restored, IRC staff members will return to Sierra Leone.