Save the Children Fund: Kosovo Emergency Bulletin Nine
After a lull in the flow of refugees into Macedonia and Albania over the weekend, large numbers are again crossing the borders. Current estimated total numbers of refugees are 367,000 in Albania and 142,650 in Macedonia. Montenegro is hosting more than 63,000 displaced Kosovars. An increasing number of Kosovar refugees are leaving Montenegro for Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Alarmingly, there are reports that one-third of the refugees crossing from Montenegro into Albania are ethnic Albanians residents of Montenegro, fleeing harassment by Serb military forces. Satellite images of Kosovo suggest that there are up to 60,000 refugees on the Kosovan side of the Albanian border waiting to cross through to Kukes.
Newly arriving refugees continue to report systematic abuses of Kosovar girls and women. There are also reports that boys and men between the ages of 15 and 65 are being held back by Serbian forces and pressed into physical labour, used as blood donors or as "human shields".
Transit camps in Macedonia are severely overcrowded. Cases of measles have been reported and a vaccination campaign is underway. The new camp being built at Cegrane is due to open on Thursday and will have an initial capacity for up to 5,000 refugees. Evacuations to third countries now total over 20,000 with a total of 18 countries receiving refugees. Registration by UNHCR in the refugee camps has now been completed. Just over 55,000 refugees were registered in the camps as of 20 April. An estimated 78,000 refugees are staying with host families.
In Albania, the camps at Kukes remain overwhelmed with a total of 101,000 refugees. The World Health Organisation is concerned about the risk of epidemics. UNICEF is vaccinating children in Kukes against polio and measles. Thus far, more than 19,500 refugee children have been vaccinated and the programme is being extended to local Albanian children. NATO is providing logistical support in Kukes, building helicopter-landing sites, warehouse facilities and improving roads in the area.
UNHCR is planning to complete registration of Kosovar refugees in Albania by the end of May and has requested all agencies to prepare contingency plans in the event of another large influx of refugees. The Albanian Ministry of Education estimates that there are 120 to 130,000 refugee children between the ages of 7 and 18 in Albania. The Ministry has announced plans to organise summer school for refugee children and is working with international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) to respond to the schooling needs of refugee children. SCF is working with the Ministry of Education on this issue.
Heightened bombing throughout the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) has forced the closure of schools throughout the country.
The UN appeal for the region affected by the Kosovo crisis has been revised upward to US$ 625 million to respond to the needs of 950,000 for three months. This sum includes US$103.5 million for the World Food Programme (WFP).
The Czech Republic has sent two truckloads of food aid to Montenegro. This was distributed on Monday, 26 April.
Save the Children Fund's Response
In addition to the Alliance office in Tirana, three sub offices are being set up in Kukes, Korce and Fier to facilitate rapid response to the needs of refugees who are concentrated in these areas. Following assessments of possible interventions in health and food distribution in Albania, it was decided that there was sufficient coverage by other agencies. SCF will therefore concentrate its resources on children focused activities.
1,000 family kits delivered to Albania have now been distributed. Future deliveries of family kits will be purchased in the region and the contents will be adjusted to the changing needs of refugees.
SCF is starting up an education programme for children in camps and being hosted by Albanian families. The first teacher training will take place on Thursday, 29 April and education kits with culturally sensitive materials and teaching guidelines will be distributed. SCF will be working closely with UNICEF on teacher training and liaison with the Albanian Ministry of Education.
There is not a significant number of unaccompanied children in Albania at this time, given the more orderly transfer of refugees that occurred here as opposed to Macedonia. However, all SCF field workers will be trained in procedures to identify and record cases of unaccompanied children.
SCF is providing community services in three transit camps in Macedonia. In addition, aid is being provided to refugees staying with host families. The later category of refugee outnumbers those in the camps and has thus far received far less international attention and aid.
SCF has opened a play-school in the largest camp that served approximately 300 children in the first day of operation. Because the camps are overcrowded, it has been difficult to obtain enough space to open play-schools in other camps but efforts are being made to cover three more camps. These play-schools will incorporate activities intended to encourage child development in emergencies. SCF is assessing the potential for opening similar programmes in host communities.
SCF completed registration of separated family members in the two largest camps (Stankovac I and II) last week. The most recent records show that there are 250 unaccompanied children, 350 parents looking for children, and that there have been 30 reunions thus far.
SCF is involved in an inter-agency health assessment of refugees staying with host families. These families are dependent on the local Macedonian health care system, which is overwhelmed by the additional caseload. SCF is providing children's antibiotics and other drugs to an Albanian NGO, El Hilal, which is providing some community care. SCF is also providing drugs to government health centres in areas hosting large numbers of refugees.
SCF is assembling a medical team to staff a camp hospital with stand-by capacity for an influx of a further 10,000 refugees. SCF will also provide support to the Macedonian Ministry of Health what kind?
SCF will continue to procure and distribute mother and child goods to refugees and host families.
SC US will be doing family tracing work in the Plav area.
SCF will be distributing essential mother and child supplies
Kosovar Refugees in the UK
The United Kingdom has now received 120 newly arrived refugees and a further 300 are expected by 30 April. Any unaccompanied children arriving on these flights will be sent to London, where they will be put in contact with the local NGO, Albanian Youth Group. SCF has increased its funding to the Albanian Youth Group and a number of SCF employees are working with the organisation on a voluntary basis.
Save the Children Fund in the Balkans
Save the Children Fund has been operational in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia since 1993. We also have offices in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Macedonia and are creating an office in Albania. The Central European Regional Office is located in Budapest, Hungary.
Sources: UNHCR reports and SCF field reports. For further information see Kosovo Emergency Bulletins of 23/4/99, 14/4/99, 6/4/99, 29/3/99, 27/1/99, 18/8/98, 26/6/98 and 20/3/98.