Political agenda should not cloud humanitarian needs, MSF says

International aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has told the UN Security Council that the humanitarian needs of citizens in the Mano River Union should prevail over the political ambitions of the international community in the region.

MSF official Martha Carey told the Council on Tuesday, that her agency was concerned about people living in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone because "the political agenda of the international community was significantly undermining the humanitarian needs of the people".

Current sanctions against the government of Liberia had distracted the international community from paying close attention to the needs of civilians caught in the line of fire in the ongoing armed conflict, MSF said. Recent events in Liberia, which had led to more population displacement, had not awakened the international community.

"There is no strong international commitment to meet the growing humanitarian needs in Liberia. This is clearly reflected in a lack of initiatives to increase funding for UN agencies and non-governmental organizations. As a result the humanitarian response is weak and inadequate, and the basic needs of the civilians caught in this conflict are not being met," Carey said, adding that humanitarian efforts, spearheaded by OCHA, UNHCR and government agencies, were "manipulated by political objectives".

In neighbouring Sierra Leone, the dilemma resides in the "rushed and improvised resettlement process" which has been "poorly planned, badly organized and ineffectively implemented", Carey told the Council in New York. The UN and partners, Carey said, had been resettling people in their home areas without the existence of appropriate shelter, sanitation, water, medical care, food, and other basic needs.

During the briefing, MSF accused the humanitarian community of using "various tactics to pressure people to leave the camps", including withholding relief assistance, closing down camps and provision of incomplete and inaccurate information to returnees and displaced.

MSF also condemned the international community for not condemning Guinea which had officially closed its borders to displaced people in a violation of international law.

"MSF urges the Security Council to take steps to ensure that urgent humanitarian needs are not held hostage to political agendas in the Mano River Region" Carey said. To do so, she added, answers must be found to questions such as "in Liberia, what is the international community waiting for in order to consider Liberia a humanitarian emergency?", and "how long will political issues continue to overshadow the humanitarian needs of the people?".

[Click here for Carey's full text]