Save the Children Fund: Kosovo Emergency Bulletin Nineteen
7 safe areas for children are now open in Gjakova and Prizren.
family tracing teams take the satellite phone service into Serb and Roma enclaves.
plans are underway to reconstruct and renovate 20-30 schools in Decan municipality, to the benefit of 20,000 children.
Save the Children (UK) is working in Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro as part of a joint Save the Children Alliance operation with Redd Barna (Save the Children Norway) and Save the Children US. In Serbia, project work is managed by Save the Children (UK) and funded by Redd Barna. In this bulletin, 'SC' refers to the 'Save the Children' Alliance operation.
UNHCR estimates that there are now less than 95,000 Kosovar refugees across the region, including 27,000 in Albania, 21,000 in Macedonia, 30,400 in Montenegro and 15,000 in Bosnia. Most are living with host families, relatives or friends; many left Kosovo after the upsurge in conflict in March 1998, before the NATO air strikes began. Some 900 Kosovars are returning from third countries each day.
The security situation continues to deteriorate. There have been more than 200 murders since KFOR troops arrived on 12 June. Tension is particularly high in Mitrovica, where 14 Serb farmers were massacred on 23 July. A group of 1,500 Roma previously taking refuge in a school have been moved to a tented site at Oblic. KFOR will provide security.
A UNHCR assessment of needs in Kosovo found that 37 per cent of 456 villages surveyed were hosting displaced people. Only 13 per cent of villages expected a harvest this season, just 23 per cent had a functioning health facility and 40 per cent had an inadequate water supply. Half the people surveyed relied primarily on humanitarian aid. UNHCR also estimates that more than 500,000 Kosovars will need proper accommodation before the onset of winter.
Some 178,000 Serb and Roma refugees have now arrived in Serbia and Montenegro. These new arrivals add to the existing 500,000 refugees from Croatia and Bosnia. About half the newcomers are aged 16 years or younger. However, there are also reports of Serbs returning to Kosovo - 260 came back from Belgrade under KFOR escort, and 200 more returned from other parts of Serbia.
On 27 July the UN launched its revised appeal for Southeastern Europe. It requested $939 million for 1999, of which $505 million has already been recieved. In total, donors have now promised over $2 billion for the rebuilding of the province, though there are doubts about how much will actually be received. Around 90 different NGOs and bilateral agencies (such as DfID) are now registered in Kosovo.
Save the Children response
SC has opened a new office in Peje, a town where 80 per cent of buildings have been destroyed. The initial focus of work will be distribution of family kits; family tracing through satellite phones, and material assistance for schools.
Five safe areas for children have been opened by SC in Prizren and surrounding villages. Approximately 1,500 children now visit them on a daily basis to take part in nursery and pre-school activities. A further two safe areas have been opened in Gjakova. All safe areas have been checked for landmines and unexploded bombs. Experience has shown that education and play are a crucial part of 'normalising' children's lives. SC plans to open 15 safe areas by 30 September.
SC's education programme is now well underway. An assessment of 148 school buildings in Peja, Djakova, Prizren and Decan (SC area of operation) found that 17 had been totally destroyed, 51 were severely damaged or partially destroyed, 38 were lightly damaged and just 11 were in good condition. More than one third of the buildings, 55, have not yet been cleared of mines.
In the immediate term, SC will focus on the rehabilitation of schools in Decan municipality: 20-30 schools will be repaired, at a cost of $600,000. An estimated 20,000 children in Decan are expected to benefit. Education kits worth $135,000 will be distributed in the coming months. There are kits for individual children (containing pens, pencils, books etc) and 'school start up kits'. These contain blackboards, carpets, first aid kits, a clock, and many other items needed to re-establish a school.
The satellite telephone service continues to operate in Pristina, Prizren and Gjakova. There has been a slight decline in the number of calls made from Pristina, as the local phone network has now been re-established, but in Prizren and Gjakova an average of 300-400 calls are made each day.
At the request of UNHCR, the family tracing team visited a Serb enclave in Orahovac. An estimated 4,000 people, including 960 children younger than 10 years, live in the enclave; 155 calls were made in five hours. Satellite phones are also taken regularly to a seminary in Prizren where Serb and Roma people are protected by KFOR troops.
SC continues to care for 12 unaccompanied children in Pristina City Hospital. SC is currently searching for the relatives of these infants; 8 children have already been reunited with their families.
SC continues to donate material goods, including winter clothes for children, across Kosovo. Some 30,000 sets of winter clothes (a set includes a jacket, pants, thermal underwear, socks, boots, hats and gloves) and 8,000 Eskimo suits for 0-2 year olds, have been ordered. SC also distributes nappies, toys and hygiene kits (which include soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc.)
SC is working with local health staff in Gjakova and Decan to set up a vaccination programme. Plans to re-establish the maternity service and monitor child nutrition are also underway.
The emergency programme is winding down as remaining refugees continue to repatriate. Where possible, work is being handed over to local government and non-government organisations. SC work with hospitals in Gostivar (see Kosovo bulletin 18) will be handed to a partner.
There are now fewer than 30 unaccompanied children in SC care in camps in Macedonia. SC's services for mothers and children in Neprosteno camp have closed down. The focus is now turning to the increasing numbers of Serb refugees arriving in Macedonia.
Programmes in Albania are also contracting as refugees move back to Kosovo. SC is currently assessing needs in the aftermath of the refugee crisis, with a view to setting up a longer-term programme.
SC's relief operation for Kosovar refugees in Ulcinj is coming to an end as repatriation continues. However, SC is making plans to assist the new influx of Serb refugees from Kosovo. An estimated 11,000 have arrived in Bar, less than 20 km from the camps previously hosting Kosovar Albanian refugees. A further 8,000 Roma refugees have reached Podgorica, many in the last few weeks. The Yugoslav Child Rights Group, a SC partner which has previously worked with Kosovar Albanians, is now providing legal assistance to Serb and Roma refugees.
SCF(UK) is expanding its work in Serbia in response to the current influx of Serb refugees from Kosovo. Some 1,500 food and hygiene parcels have been given to Roma people fleeing Kosovo. These add to the 1,100 parcels given to orphans and foster children in Belgrade - including 650 children in children's homes and 450 children living with foster families. A further 600 parcels have been given to foster children living outside Belgrade and children with disabilities at the Sremcica Children's Home. The food parcels contain canned meat, soup powder, jam, and corn flour, and the hygiene parcels contain basic goods such as toothpaste and soap.
In Belgrade, SCF, in co-operation with Parents Associations, is supporting community activities for children with disabilities in 8 municipalities of Belgrade. Parents organise activities, such as music workshops and a counselling service, and SCF provides financial support.
SCF's partner Familia continues to provide a telephone support service for foster children and foster families in Belgrade. Increasing numbers of families are now contacting the service. SCF will also run training courses on weekend fostering for staff from Belgrade's children's home. Weekend fostering aims to give children living in institutions some experience of family life. SCF will work with the city authorities to develop and promote this form of foster care.
Save the Children UK in the Balkans
Save the Children Fund (UK) has worked in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia since 1993. There are offices in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Macedonia and a joint Alliance office in Tirana, Albania. The Central European Regional Office is located in Budapest, Hungary. Much of our work is supported financially by Redd Barna.
Sources: UNHCR, SCF regional office and field reports, Reuters.
For further information see Kosovo Emergency Bulletins 1-18 and SCF's Position on the Current Humanitarian Crisis in the Balkans.