Save the Children Fund: Kosovo Emergency Bulletin Seven
The number of refugees fleeing Kosovo continues to rise daily. The UNHCR estimates that over 50% of the former population of 2 million have now fled across borders. A further 20% are now displaced within Kosovo. There is no longer any international humanitarian presence inside of Kosovo and it is therefore impossible to assess humanitarian needs within the province. There are reports that food is running low and refugees are reporting the destruction of their homes and forced displacement from their villages. First hand accounts from refugees in all the neighbouring countries describe a systematic expulsion of ethnic Albanians from all areas of Kosovo. Human rights abuses appear rampant: reports have surfaced of systematic rape of Kosovar Albanian women; Kosovar Albanian men of fighting age are apparently being prevented by Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) authorities from crossing borders.
Albania has received the highest number of refugees, currently at 314,000. While the greater part of these people have been moved away from the border to areas surrounding the capital, Tirana, some 80,000 remain at the border crossing of Kukes. Many of these new arrivals are sleeping in the open.
The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) is reportedly using Albania as a base for incursions into Kosovo against FRY forces. The increased insecurity on the border caused by this activity is reportedly causing Albanians to leave their homes and seek shelter with relatives elsewhere in the country.
Macedonia now has approximately 116,500 Kosovar refugees. Both Macedonian and FRY authorities have periodically closed the Macedonian border during the past week. This has caused extreme difficulty in reaching the refugee population. There have been reports that Serbian authorities are sending Kosovar Albanians back into Kosovo.
Due to political and economic concerns about their capacity to absorb further refugees, Macedonia has requested other countries to accept Kosovar refugees. Airlifts have taken refugees to Germany (6,690), Norway (725), Israel (106), Poland (30), Iceland (23) and Switzerland (13). Turkey has thus far received approximately 9,000 Kosovar refugees, of who over 3,000 have been evacuated by air from Macedonia. SCF calls upon UNHCR and governments involved to ensure that these movements are voluntary and do not separate families.
Montenegro has received 62,600 refugees. Montenegro is a part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and is being bombed in the NATO campaign. While the government of Montenegro does not support FRY policies currently being pursued in Kosovo, the acceptance and protection of Kosovar refugees into Montenegro is obviously extremely sensitive.
Sites in FRY are now being bombed during the day as well as night. This is complicating the provision of humanitarian relief to children in Serbia. There are a reported 4,200 Kosovan Roma refugees who are now seeking refuge in Serbia. There are no confirmed numbers of Kosovan Serbian refugees.
There are an estimated 27,000 Kosovan refugees now seeking shelter in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bosnia-Herzegovina already has a large IDP population from the Bosnian war and may soon experience difficulty in absorbing further refugees.
NATO forces are setting up tent camps for refugees in Albania and Macedonia. SCF is concerned that the humanitarian effort be kept neutral and that control and running of these camps be co-ordinated by UNHCR and carried out by non-governmental organisations in support of local authorities.
Proactive advocacy regarding the conflict and the plight of refugees.
Family tracing in both Macedonia and Albania. The importance of reuniting families is heightened by the relocation of refugees to third countries.
Completing assessments for interventions in education and health.
Many national governments are providing aid to governments in the region and humanitarian agencies assisting the refugees. Russia and Ukraine are providing humanitarian aid to the Republic of Serbia. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is the lead agency co-ordinating the response. NATO forces in Albania and Macedonia have set up tented refugee camps and have assisted in the logistical aspects of relief distribution.
A DEC appeal was launched 6 April. As of 14 April, the Appeal has raised £12 million. Save the Children Fund is participating in the Appeal.
Save the Children Fund's Response
SCF is responding to the Kosovo crisis in co-ordination with our Alliance partners. A meeting of the Alliance Emergency Liaison Team took place at the SCF Regional Office in Budapest on 13 April. The meeting identified lead members for each country: SCF for Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo and Bulgaria; Red Barnet for Albania; and SC US for Montenegro and Bosnia. While all members of the Alliance may be operational in any of the above countries/provinces, the "lead member" will be responsible for organising Alliance-wide communication.
SCF is working to uphold the rights of children by responding to both immediate and longer-term needs. In terms of immediate needs, efforts are being concentrated on refugees in large tented sites as they are in greater need than those being hosted by families. The psychosocial needs of children are equally important and longer-term programmes in education and recreation will be put in place to restore normalcy and allow children to express the trauma of what they have been through.
A team of experts in family tracing and reunification, logistics, health and education has now been sent to the field and are assessing the situation in both Macedonia and Albania. They will be identifying and training local staff, including refugees with experience working with children. Field offices are being set up in Skopje and Tirana. Many members of national staff from the office in Pristina have been located in the refugee camps in Macedonia and will be joining the team in Skopje. SCF staff working in the refugee camps will engage with the community to discuss and determine the needs of children.
SCF is concentrating its programmes in Albania on two refugee camps near Tirana. We are in the process of establishing capacity to introduce a stable environment and meet the basic material needs of up to 50,000 children in these camps. As soon as the immediate physical needs of these children are met, structured non-formal education and recreation will be introduced.
A shipment of 1,500 family kits containing clothes, baby food, oral rehydration salts (to treat children with diarrhoea) and personal hygiene products is currently en route to Albania.
SCF is concentrating its relief efforts in two camps in Macedonia. Possible aid to refugees staying with host families is also being assessed. 1,500 family kits arrived 14 April in Skopje and will be distributed in refugee camps. A shipment of 185 family kits was distributed earlier to refugees residing with host families.
Registration of children separated from their immediate families is being undertaken in collaboration with UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross/ Crescent (ICRC) and CARE International. The majority of separated children are currently in the care of other refugees. We do not yet have confirmed numbers of unaccompanied children (UACs). Registration efforts are being concentrated in Brasda camp from which refugees are being evacuated to third countries.
Supervised play activities, staffed by pedagogues from within the refugee population will be set up in the two camps. Additional services will be instituted in these play centres once suitable staff is located or training provided. Initially the play centres will be aimed at children aged 3 to 10.
The office in Belgrade remains open with a skeleton staff of national employees. They are working under extremely stressful conditions to meet the needs of children in Serbia who are experiencing high levels of distress due to the bombings. They will focus, in coordination with the Ministry for Labour, Volunteers and Social Welfare, on responding to the immediate needs of children in institutions and fostering families. They are also liasing with local non-governmental organisations, UNHCR and UNICEF (the only other international organisations that remain in Serbia) to identify further interventions to improve the situation for children. In particular, SCF is identifying responses to the needs of 4,200 Roma Kosovan refugees now in Serbia.
SCF is funding emergency material assistance to Kosovar refugees in Montenegro. An initial shipment of material aid (food and hygiene products) cleared Montenegrin customs on 8 April. They have been distributed by SC US which is operational in Montenegro. A second shipment will be arriving early next week.
SCF UK is looking into opening programmes in Ulcinj, on the coast.
Bosnia and Bulgaria
The Bulgaria field office has prepared contingency plans in the event that Kosovar refugees are relocated there from Macedonia. There are also reported arrivals of Roma refugees crossing the Serbian border into Bulgaria. SCF is the only organisation working in Bulgaria with expertise in separated children and family reunification. SCF and Catholic Relief Service (CRS) are the only organisations working on children's psychosocial well being.
In Bosnia, the greater part of arriving Kosovar refugees are being housed by families and friends. Poverty is widespread in Bosnia following the war and the capacity of these families to continue to shelter the refugees is worrisome. SCF's field office in Bosnia is assessing the situation and the possible need for interventions.
Kosovar Refugees in the UK
While the UK government has not made a firm commitment to accept additional Kosovan refugees, the Home Office has asked local authorities to prepare contingency plans for the possible arrival of new refugees.
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, USAID and DFID reports, SCF field reports. For further information see Kosovo Emergency Bulletins of 6/4/99, 29/3/99, 27/1/99, 18/8/98, 26/6/98 and 20/3/98.