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Outbreaks Of Cholera, Malaria & Pneumonia In Liberia - 2003-07-07


The humanitarian group, Doctors Without Borders, says relief workers are now able to move a bit more freely around the capital, Monrovia. But warns many people are in poor condition because of the war. VOA’s Joe De Capua reports.

Alain Kassa is head of mission in Liberia for Doctors Without Borders. He spoke to VOA by satellite phone and audio quality is not the best. He says in the past week, at least 200 cholera cases have been reported. But he says cholera is not the only problem - and many children are now at risk.

He says, "We are facing a lot of malaria cases and a lot of pneumonia for children because they are very weak and vulnerable. So they get a lot of pneumonia and malaria. And also, we have no food so that’s why they’re dying with the cholera because they are very sick."

He says a nutrition program for 500 children is being set up. Supplies of both water and electricity have been sporadic because of damage caused by the war. But he says clean water is very important now that cholera has broken out.

Mr. Kassa says humanitarian workers have had an easier time since the recent ceasefire. But says their operations have been hampered by theft and looting.

He says, "Yeah now it’s a little bit more easy to move around. But most of the humanitarian organizations, they lost their cars and many warehouses have been looted by militias."

Doctors Without Borders is assisting at six clinics and a hospital in Monrovia – as well as a camp for 10-thousand displaced people outside the capital. Sometimes workers heading for the camp are reported to have been harassed by militias.

The group’s head of mission says an international peacekeeping force will be welcome. "Ah, for sure. Because with very few people we can make the difference here."

Current plans call for an international force of 5-thousand troops.