Humanitarian trip to Liberia motivates U grad student

Nyeba Manston-Dunbar, a public health nurse and graduate student in public health and adolescent nursing, returned from a 12-day humanitarian mission to Liberia in September.

In Liberia, Manston-Dunbar worked with social workers from the Minnesota-based American Refugee Committee to assess Liberians’ humanitarian needs.

“The University provided me with the education and the skills to go back and contribute in assisting my people,” she said. “I am grateful for that.”

A Liberian refugee who moved to the United States in 1992, Manston-Dunbar said the situation in the West African country was heartbreaking to see.

“Despite some humanitarian agencies’ effort to assist the people, there are still gaps that need to be filled,” she said.

Manston-Dunbar, who works as a volunteer nurse in Minnesota, said she was filled with emotion when she saw hundreds of Liberians cramped in makeshift shelters without food or proper sanitation.

“There is a serious humanitarian crisis out there,” she said. “These people lack food and shelter, and the health-care system is in a deplorable condition.”

One in three women in the refugee camps has been raped, she said.

Manston-Dunbar lived as a refugee in Ivory Coast for two years before moving to the United States and moved to Minnesota to attend the University two years ago.

However, she said she is anxious to graduate in 2004 when she will return to Liberia.

Ravaged by civil war for more than a decade, Liberia established an interim government last week with 15,000 U.N. peacekeeping forces in the country to disarm Liberia’s more than 30,000 militiamen.

Manston-Dunbar said she looks forward to using her education to help her country but said she will continue working for the country while she completes her degree.

On Saturday, Manston-Dunbar will speak at a fund-raiser for Liberia in Brooklyn Park, Minn., co-sponsored by the American Refugee Committee and local Liberian community groups.

Her presentation will focus on her assessment of Liberian humanitarian needs, she said.