Andrew Schechtman of charity Medecins Sans Frontieres has been witnessing the tragedy unfold in the Liberian capital, Monrovia. He has sent parts of his diary to BBC News Online.
Helping Liberians is 'worth the risk'
Staffing the hospital has been a challenge. We have a regular
schedule but, with the fighting, we never know when people will be
able to come to work.
One of our midwives came to work this morning
and I asked her about the trip. She had walked two hours. It was all
quiet until the last half hour.
For the last part of her journey,
she had run most of the way crouched over as she heard bullets whizzing
by overhead. She said she would stop at a corner and peer down the
empty side street before rushing across the intersection, not wanting
to be hit by a stray bullet.
At one checkpoint, one of the armed
militia called her over. "You - come!" he ordered. She said she was
shaking as she approached. It wouldn't have been unusual if she had
been robbed, beaten or harassed at the checkpoint.
Luckily he'd seen
her scrubs and had only wanted her to remove some stitches from some
of his men. It isn't surprising that many of our staff have chosen to
stay in the hospital full time over the past week, just as our team
Doctors are discharging people who have nowhere to go
Most of the time we have too many staff here but I'm never sure
if we'll have enough people when things are busy. I don't know if
there is any way to properly manage a schedule in the current
situation. So far, people have been flexible and it has all worked out
At least four stray bullets have landed in the hospital grounds today.
One fell on the roof and broke an asbestos roof tile. Another passed
through the joint of our metal front gate and then bounced off the
tire of one of the cars.
A third fell in our backyard, puncturing the
plastic sheeting roof of the kitchen and landing on the ping-pong
table that we were using as table. It missed the cooks by a few feet.
Today, for the first time, I also heard bullets whizzing past twice.
I don't know how close they passed but the sound is not a comforting
one. It's not one of those sounds that leaves you feeling that
everything is going to be OK.
'She will live'
Amuchee was a 10-year-old girl who'd been hit by a stray bullet. It
had lodged in the upper part of her arm but hadn't done any serious
damage. I was able to remove it and clean up her wound without too
One of the nurses told me that, in the local Bassa language, her name means "she will live." Why
would someone name their child this?
Perhaps it makes sense
considering that the child was born in Liberia, a country with one of
the highest mortality rates for children under five years of age.
Children here die from malaria, respiratory infections, and diarrhoea... or war wounds. But Amuchee would live. "She will live," we said.
One would think eating the same food day after day would quickly grow
tedious especially for a food snob like me who was until recently
living in New Orleans, a Mecca of good eating.
Every day we eat
boiled rice with a bean sauce which tastes like a thick yellow split
I like it. I still like it and haven't yet grown tired of
it over the past week. For dinners, the cook makes something other
than rice and beans.
Unfortunately, all of these new dishes feature canned luncheon meat, a generic version of spam that is made from an
assortment of ground-up animal by-products.
There is no way I would
eat this back home. I wouldn't even eat this on a camping trip. But
for here, it seems to meet the need.
I'm still looking forward to
some good eating when I get back home though.