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Guinea: UN agencies help wounded in hospital cut off by general strike

Guinea: UN agencies help wounded in hospital cut off by general strike

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) will assist victims of recent violence in Guinea at the main public hospital in Conakry, the capital, in the wake of a general strike in which security forces are reported to have killed dozens of unarmed protestors in the past two weeks.

Through an operation coordinated by the non-governmental organization (NGO) Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), seven-day rations will be provided to 125 people who were wounded but whose relatives cannot access the hospital to bring food due to the strike, WFP reported today in its latest update on the situation.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Health Organization (WHO), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the NGO Terre des Hommes are also involved in the operation. These organizations have also provided medical supplies to the hospital.

Although strike-related insecurity in Guinea’s forest region has led to delayed monthly distributions in Lainé refugee camp, WFP is now giving out food to some 5,000 people there. A three-month supply of food has already been pre-positioned in the refugee camps in the forest region, where WFP is helping to support at least 15,000 refugees.

WFP’s Humanitarian Air Service is fielding a great demand for airlifts of medical supplies and essential humanitarian personnel. The service is used by both UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations to transport personnel and supplies, as well as to carry out medical evacuations, in a region where poor infrastructure makes land transport extremely difficult.

Although most of the food has already been dispatched to school canteens in Upper and Middle Guinea, the 115,000 students who would normally benefit from such aid are absent due to the strike. In the Forest Region, another 74,000 students supported by WFP’s emergency school feeding programme are currently not receiving their meals.

Because Conakry port is closed, customs clearance has been impossible and shipping documents have been blocked. WFP’s main warehouse is also closed, leaving two containers stranded, but small quantities of food can still be accessed from the warehouse if needed.

Although the strike has limited access to camps hosting Liberian refugees, the UN plans to go ahead with a voluntary repatriation convoy of some 460 people tomorrow. This will bring to 46,000 the number of those helped by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to return to Liberia from Guinea since the repatriation programme started in October 2004.

Despite the strike, essential services have been maintained with a food distribution for some 4,300 refugees in Kounkan-1 camp going ahead last week, and another distribution for 11,400 refugees at Lainé camp yesterday. Guinea hosts more than 31,000 refugees, including nearly 22,000 Liberians, with the rest from Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire.

On Wednesday, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour called for an independent investigation into the reported killings by the security forces.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also voiced concern about the situation in Guinea, urging the Government to investigate the killings and prosecute those responsible, including security forces.