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MSF treats 300 a week for cholera in Monrovia

Liberia's war-torn capital Monrovia is in the grip of serious cholera epidemic as a result of tens of thousands of people being displaced from their homes and living in conditions of extremely poor sanitation, the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said on Thursday.

MSF said it had set up three specialist treatment centres for cholera in the city of one million people and these were now treating more than 300 cases per week.

The number of cholera cases had soared by mid-July, prompting the Liberian Ministry of Health to officially declare an epidemic, it added.

Relief agencies estimate that about a quarter of Monrovia's population has been made homeless by three rebel attacks on the city over the past two months.

MSF said treating cholera was simple, but controlling its spread in the prevailing conditions in Monrovia, where there is little food and almost no clean drinking water, was very difficult.

"The hardest thing about treating cholera is seeing the small children who are so ill and must be isolated from their parents so that they don't give them the disease," Matthia Formelius, a German nurse helping MSF combat the disease in Monrovia was quoted as saying.

"They cry for their mothers non-stop but luckily the treatment is short and in only a few days the kids feel better and can go home," he added.

The agency had set up three cholera treatment units with a total capacity of 400 beds and was also working in six clinics and two hospitals in Monrovia.

Cholera is a deadly and highly contagious form of diarrhoea that dehydrates the body rapidly and spreads quickly when people are living in cramped conditions without clean water or proper sanitation.

Action Contre Faim (ACF) and OXFAM have joined other relief agencies, including Merlin and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in providing water to thousands of displaced people living in accessible areas of Monrovia, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported in its situation update on Thursday.

The ICRC said it had flown in another water truck into Monrovia aboard a chartered cargo plane on Thursday, along with a fresh consignment of emergency medical supplies.

OCHA quoted Merlin as saying that given the current fuel shortage in the city, it may have to begin flying in fuel to keep its own water trucks going.

World Vision said it would fly in a planeload of relief supplies from the United States on Friday, but continued fighting could hamper their distribution.

"The city has been without water for more than a week. No one can buy food," Eleanor Monbiot, World Vision's Africa relief coordinator, said in a statement.

"Our staff are scared and are praying for survival and protection just like everyone else in Monrovia. At this point, they’re a little better off than the people they’ve been serving," she added.

Lutheran World Relief (LWF) said it had seven containers full of health kits, clothing, bedding and medicines safely stored in Monrovia and ready for use as soon as conditions permitted.

Meanwhile, Save the Children and Caritas both protested at the widespread use of child soldiers in the current fighting.

Save the Children said all the warring parties in Liberia were continuing to recruit child soldiers and estimated that these accounted for up to 70 percent of their fighting forces.

Duncan Maclean, secretary general of the Roman Catholic church charity, Caritas Internationalis, said, "The current situation of inactivity by the world's superpowers, while children as young as nine shoot innocent people indiscriminately is a blot on humanity....We have a moral obligation to use all resources available to put an end to this horror.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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