UN Inter-Agency Update on Kosovo Humanitarian Situation Report 77

Report
from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 25 Jan 1999
This report has been compiled by OCHA with support from UNHCR and with inputs from UN Agencies and other humanitarian organisations in former Yugoslavia and Albania
KOSOVO

Population Movements

1. Approximately 30,000 people have fled fighting since late December in some 25 villages in the municipalities of Podujevo, Decane, Stimlje, Suva Reka and Kosovska Mitrovica. The four days of fighting in late December at Podujevo led to the departure from the suburbs and surrounding villages of an estimated 5,500 people. As little damage was done to buildings, return to the villages started as soon as a ceasefire was brokered. However when eight soldiers were kidnapped, tension rose again leading to new displacement. Since the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) negotiated the release of the eight soldiers, over 5,000 have returned to the Podujevo / Mitrovica area. In the second week of January, there were clashes in the Decane municipality, prompting some 4,000 people to flee from five villages; UNHCR estimates that over 500 of these have now returned to two of the villages.

2. Serious fighting broke out in Stimlje / Suva Reka on 15 January. KVM's attempts to intervene were not accepted, and following the reported massacre of some 45 people in the village of Racak, 6,400 villagers fled from six villages. Most of these people found shelter in Stimlje, Suva Reka, Lipljan, Urosevac and Pristina. However, an estimated 300-400 people were obliged to remain in the open under makeshift shelters, afraid to approach roads where security forces were present. Displaced leaving these encampments told UNHCR and KVM that at least three babies had died in the cold.

3. On 20 January 5 policemen were injured by alleged KLA mortar fire on the outskirts of Mitrovica. Police action in nearby villages such as Sipolje and Vaganica continued until the next day resulting in the evacuation of the population as well as the people from their homes on the outskirts of Mitrovica. The displaced started to return on 22 January when the police withdrew from the area.

4. Where peace has held, there have been continuing returns, usually slow and gradual. In Malisevo more than half of the 3,000 who left in July have come back and a degree of normalcy is being established. At Lodja near Pec, work on the school which is to serve as a home for some families while they repaired their houses stopped following the murders in the Pec cafe, but is expected to start again now. Representatives of twenty families from Opertusa, a village in Suva Reka, have asked UNHCR for assistance to return home. At Junik, a village from which 10,000 fled in August 1998, there have been 1,500 returns, primarily from Albania and Djakovica, despite ongoing tensions between the local population and the police.

5. Government sources have informed UNHCR that some 90 villages previously of mixed population have seen the flight of all their Serbian citizens. Some are displaced inside Kosovo, while the Government estimates that there are 50,000 displaced from Kosovo living elsewhere in Serbia.

6. At the beginning of 1999 UNHCR estimated that some 180,000 remained displaced within Kosovo. Although some 30,000 people have since fled their homes for reasons of insecurity, an estimated 7,000 people have been able to return to their home areas and a further 3,000 to areas not affected by recent conflict. Thus, UNHCR estimates that there are 200,000 persons displaced within Kosovo as at 22 January. It is difficult to give a definitive assessment of the numbers of displaced / returnees as many people flee their homes for one day before returning. Some have fled and returned to their home areas several times.

Security of humanitarian personnel

7. UNHCR has continued to conduct mine-awareness seminars and security briefings for all agencies working in Kosovo in order to alert relief agencies to areas where fighting is in progress. Regular warnings have been issued over the presence of land mines. More than 140 areas have been identified where the presence of land mines and explosive devices has been confirmed.

Relief Distribution

8. During the period under review UNHCR led convoys providing food and non-food items to more than 40,000 beneficiaries in the municipalities of Orahovac, Srbica, Decane, Klina, Mitrovica, Djakovica, Glogovac, Stimlje, Obilic, Prizren, Suva Reka, Istok, Urosevac, Podujevo and Lipljan. The supplies were provided by UNHCR, WFP, Mercy Corps International, Catholic Relief Services, Children's Aid Direct, Doctors of the World, World Vision and Oxfam. The provision of emergency relief to the newly-displaced in Stimlje and to those living in the affected villages of Dramnjak, Budakova and Petrovo was given high priority and on 21 January three interagency convoys delivered humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable displaced in these areas. UNHCR contacted those camped in the woods to provide relief items and offer assistance to reach shelter and safety.

9. WFP still has minimal food stocks in Kosovo but this situation is set to improve as more than 800 MT of food stocks have recently been despatched from the Montenegrin port of Bar to Kosovo. 225 MT of WFP wheat grain has already arrived in Pristina for milling prior to distribution. WFP is working closely with other food agencies, Mother Theresa Society and the Yugoslav Red Cross to determine precise numbers of those in need.

Shelter

10. UNHCR, together with eight international shelter agencies, has completed or is now actively involved in emergency repairs of 1,700 houses in 75 villages. The different programmes include roof reconstruction with wooden beams covered with plastic sheeting and the provision of at least one winter-proof living room. In addition, 6,800 shelter kits for minor repairs were distributed by the international humanitarian agencies. More than 11,000 families now have winter-proof rooms as well as materials for roofing and window repair and bulk deliveries of plastic, plywood, tools and stoves for heating. Assessments in an additional 50 villages are ongoing.

Refugees

11. There are approximately 7,000 refugees registered in 140 collective centres in Kosovo and another 1,000 living privately or with host families. Refugees in collective centres are continually moving in and out of Kosovo as they seek a safe environment. UNHCR is conducting an assessment of the situation of elderly refugees and women and children in collective centres. A new community services co-ordinator has been appointed to oversee the programme for women and children.

Health

12. At the most recent health coordination meeting, chaired by WHO, participants focused on the proposal to improve information on the distribution of health-related humanitarian assistance in Kosovo. The objective is to create a software database containing information on aid distributed by international agencies throughout Kosovo.

13. On 13 January WHO presented the preliminary analysis of the epidemiological pattern of communicable diseases in Kosovo for 1998, based on information collected by the Institute of Public Health in Pristina. The analysis will be available to health authorities and humanitarian agencies to plan health related projects in 1999. No cases of poliomyelitis or tetanus were recorded in 1998. However, an increase of Hepatitis A cases is noted in the period September-December 1998.

14. Cases of Hepatitis A have been reported in Kosovo (Suva Reka, Srbica, Klina, Stimlje and Malisevo), in areas with the highest concentration of displaced, as well as large quantities of returnees. UNICEF's immediate response consists of 1 million water purification tablets donated by the UNICEF Irish National Committee. The distribution in the affected areas will be carried out by public health units of Kosovo and the Mother Theresa Society, a local NGO. Institute of Public Health branches in Pristina and Podgorica will be supplied with 12 mobile test chlorinators for piped water quality control. A UNICEF-donated mobile water quality laboratory will be operational in Kosovo by the end of January 1999.

15. During the period under review UNICEF provided collapsible water containers, washable and disposable diapers, hygiene items, winter clothing and footwear, and a substantial quantity of blankets which were distributed through Mother Theresa Society branches in Suva Reka and Srbica municipalities. WHO distributed surgical kits to general hospitals in Gnjilane, Kosovska Mitrovica, Pec, Djakovica and Prizren.

Nutrition

16. Data collection for a joint UNICEF, ACF and MCI nutrition survey, which has proved a very difficult and time consuming task due to security restraints, has been finished. MDM, IMC, WFP and several other NGOs facilitated the effort by providing the logistic support. ACF plans to have the data processing completed by the end of January.

Education

17. A survey on the needs of the educational system is being conducted, using an assessment form produced by UNICEF Pristina. An educational coordination meeting is planned for next week. Primary school kits are being assembled and it is planned that the distribution will be in time for the second school term. The printing of mine-awareness leaflets is under way and it is expected that they will be ready for distribution by the end of next week.

MONTENEGRO

18. It has been reported that small numbers of returnees to Decane have left the area and entered Montenegro once more in the light of deteriorating security in Kosovo. It is known that this is the case because some of those entering Montenegro already possess the displaced registration cards issued by the Montenegrin Commissioner for Displaced Persons (MCDP). Anecdotal evidence suggests that increasing numbers of displaced want to proceed to Albania in the hope of gaining access to Western Europe.

19. The registration of Kosovo displaced in Montenegro will start on 1 February. The displaced will be provided with an identity card with a photograph and a booklet for the assistance received. The operation is organised by the MCDP, assisted by the Secretariat for Development and financed by UNHCR.

20. A mobile medical team from the mental health hospital in Kotor, led by a WHO consultant for mental health, regularly visits municipalities in Montenegro which host a large number of displaced from Kosovo. The team provides outreach mental health services to the displaced in close collaboration with the primary health centres responsible for each respective area. A project for regular weekly mental health consultations is planned to be implemented in the first quarter of 1999.

21. WHO reports an outbreak of hepatitis A in Plav. Out of 33 cases registered in Plav, 13 are from the collective centre which accommodates displaced from Kosovo as well as refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. The epidemiological team from Berane hospital visited the area, disinfected 110 rooms in the collective centre and some houses in Plav and the surrounding villages and organised education in hygienic issues for those living in the collective centre.

ALBANIA

22. At the UN / NGO coordination meeting on 28 January the Government Office for Refugees announced that it hoped to complete the registration of refugees from Kosovo in Shkodra, Durres and Tirana, where the vast majority are currently located, by 15 February. Beyond that date it was announced that only those refugees carrying an official Government registration card would be entitled to assistance.

FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA

23. As of 22 January the Macedonian Red Cross (MRC) has registered some 1,000 persons affected by the conflict in Kosovo, 80% of whom are women and children. In addition to MRC/IFRC/UNHCR's regular distributions of food and hygienic items, newly-registered people have received bedding and blankets. UNICEF, in collaboration within the Ministry of Health has distributed health kits, vaccine carriers and Oral Rehydration Salts.

24. In an attempt to improve community health awareness UNICEF has started to implement community based activities in the Kumanovo region through two women-orientated NGOs "Majka" and "Albanka". The project stresses the importance of hygiene care in the prevention of infectious and communicable diseases. It also aims to increase knowledge on the proper growth, development and nutrition of infants and children among rural families.

For information, please contact:
Fernando del Mundo, UNHCR Pristina Tel: 381-38-321-09
David Carden (OCHA), UNHCR Belgrade
Tel: 381-11-344-2091 - Fax: 381-11-344-2947 - E-mail: carden@unhcr.ch