July 24 2003
"No words to describe what's happening in Monrovia"
24/07/2003 - According to the latest reports from George Kordahi, director of SOS Children's Villages Liberia, the situation in Monrovia is getting worse by the day. Hundreds of civilian victims are being mourned, the number of refugees on the SOS Children's Village site is permanently on the increase, at the moment there are more than 8,000.
The situation for those caught between the two fronts of the civil war in Monrovia is constantly getting more desperate and worsening by the day. George Kordahi, director of SOS Children's Villages Liberia and based in Monrovia, describes in vivid terms the desperate situation for the civilian population in Liberia's capital. Here is his report from the evening of 22 July:
"There are no words to describe what's happening here in Monrovia. In the space of a week, the fighting between LURD rebels and government soldiers has claimed a large number of victims, dead or injured. The random grenade attacks carried out by the rebels, who want to bring the city under their control, have claimed so many victims that the authorities are no longer able to count. The resources of the few aid organisations which are still here are greatly stretched, but they are still doing their very best. The fighting is so fierce, that no-one can go onto the street to find food. This morning we were woken up by the sound of artillery close by; the rebels have opened up a new front in east Monrovia so as to surround the city.
More than 8,000 people are staying in the SOS Children's Village in Monrovia at the moment. Nevertheless, we are in a fortunate situation, we have eight wells on our land with which we can supply the refugees with enough clean water. It obviously helps as well, that hygiene is still relatively good here. The "SOS Cleaning Team" goes round every morning and cleans the toilets and the latrine and clears away rubbish to remove any potential breeding ground for disease. The clinic is running at full capacity: six nurses, a doctor and nine additional helpers are doing all they can to keep the situation under control."
The SOS Children's Village buildings, designed for caring for about 150 orphans and abandoned children, and the SOS Kindergarten and SOS Herman Gmeiner School, with a capacity for a total of around 400 children, are at the edge of their capacity with the thousands of refugees. Every corner of the site is being used, improvisation is in demand. Ten years of civil war has, however, forced the SOS Children's Village co-workers to learn to deal with extreme situations, the solidarity among the co-workers and SOS youths gives moral strength under these immense psychological burdens.
For safety reasons, Kordahi and his staff, whose office is in the centre of Monrovia, have moved into the basement. Under these extreme conditions, Kordahi tries nearly every day to reach the regional office of SOS Children's Villages for North West Africa in the Gambia by satellite telephone and keep them up to date with the latest developments. And he calls upon the international community: "We hope and pray that troops will at last come to the country to bring this chaos to an end, before it's too late."
For further information, see news from 17 and 22 July.