UN Inter-Agency Update on Kosovo Humanitarian Situation Report 82

Report
from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 04 Mar 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. The most recent displacement is along Kosovo's Southeastern region bordering the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia an area previously unaffected by violence. To date UNHCR reports that more than 5,000 people have fled six villages in this area. On 2 March UNHCR brought plastic sheeting, sleeping bags, blankets, hygienic kits and canned food to 250 displaced staying in a school in Kacanik town. The displaced had previously been evacuated by UNHCR after spending two days under plastic sheeting in the mountains.

2. On 3 March UNHCR saw about 200 IDPs living rough on a mountainside at Kodra Ljacit. They had been there five days, fearing fighting between security forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army. UNHCR brought food for the these IDPs ( mostly women, children and elderly ) who on 26 February fled from their homes at nearby Pustenik, a village of about 600.

3. Elsewhere, UNHCR staff said on 3 March that they continued to hear shelling and gunfire overnight in the Vucitrn region. More than 11,000 people left their homes there after fighting broke out two weeks ago. Some 1,500 residents of Prcevo near Klina fled their homes at 03:00h 2 March when troops conducted military exercises there, but returned to their houses six hours later after troops withdrew. Most of the 4,000 residents of Studencane, near Suva Reka, returned home in this period.

4. UNHCR currently estimates that there are at least 211,000 displaced within Kosovo. Some 63,000 people have been forced to leave their homes during the past two and a half months due to clashes between Government security forces and the KLA, kidnappings, street violence and, more recently, military exercises by the Yugoslav army. In places where there is no violence, and especially where KVM has a continuing presence, returns have continued.

Protection

5. On 3 March UNHCR discussed with local authorities in Pristina and Kacanik the possibility of facilitating the issuance of travel papers for people who wished to go to Macedonia. The authorities appear willing to help within the law, and have provided a focal point for UNHCR to work with. However, as applicants must present citizenship, birth and residence certificates, the process inevitably will be delayed because most of those who want to leave have evacuated villages engulfed in fighting. UNHCR also urged the KLA to allow villagers to secure documentation.

Relief Distribution

6. During the period under review UNHCR continued to lead interagency convoys delivering food and non-food items to the municipalities of Djakovica, Srbica, Urosevac, Kosovska Mitrovica, Glogovac, Lipljan, Pec, Prizren, Klina, Orahovac, Suva Reka and Kacanik. Agencies supplying relief items include UNHCR, WFP, Mercy Corps International, Mother Teresa Society, Doctors of the World, Children's Aid Direct, Caritas and Catholic Relief Services.

Education

7. According to UNICEF, distribution of firewood for schools started last week in the municipality of Glogovac. In 15 schools 395 cubic metres of firewood were distributed. Some 900 cubic metres of wood has been distributed to Albanian-run and State schools in the municipality of Klina and in the Malisevo area.

8. 17,000 school kits have been distributed thus far. Distribution of the remaining 24,500 school kits ( 17,000 provided by UNHCR , 7,500 provided by UNICEF) continues for children in the municipalities of Glogovac, Suva Reka and Orahovac. UNICEF has coordinated the distribution of school kits in other municipalities through UNHCR-led convoys.

Food Aid Programme related to the Kosovo Crisis

9. Stocks for full WFP distributions in Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania are available and a further 7,500 MT of mixed WFP, CRS and MCI commodities are awaiting clearance in the Montenegrin port of Bar which acts as the main supply point for food aid programmes in the region. On 27 February two new vessels containing wheat flour, oil and pulses for WFP, CRS and MCI arrived in Bar. There are now sufficient quantities of food in the region to meet the needs of people affected by the Kosovo crisis in FRY for a period of approximately four months.

10. Food dispatches resumed from Bar to Kosovo on 25 February, following the temporary one-week suspension due to insecurity. Nonetheless, distributions in Kosovo were not significantly disrupted with convoys leaving Pristina daily. A loan of oil from CRS enabled WFP to continue distributions with a full food basket. February was the first month that WFP included sugar in the monthly food basket in Kosovo. WFP estimates that current stocks of sugar in Pristina will last for at least three months.

11. WFP continues to mill wheat grain in Kosovo and Montenegro thereby supporting local industry. In Kosovo, WFP has signed agreements with an additional three mills in Lipljan and Vucitrn for the milling of 3,500 MT of wheat grain currently awaiting clearance in Bar.

12. In Montenegro food aid distributions to the caseload of 32,100 have been completed for the month of February. February was the first month that distributions were made to host families and the Montenegrin Red Cross identified 4,389 host families for whom MCI and CRS provided food aid.

MONTENEGRO

13. UNICEF has identified a total of 14 schools with an estimated 1,700 displaced students in Plav, Gusinje, Rozaje, Tuzi and Ulcinj. Classes have begun in nearly all locations. Agencies involved will include Danish Refugee Council for provision of desks and chairs, CRS for provision of firewood, CARE for coal and heating fuel, heating stoves by UNHCR, rehabilitation of premises by Swiss Disaster Relief and UNHCR, transportation of students by Danish Refugee Council and textbooks and school supplies by UNICEF.

14. WHO and the Institute of Public Health report that there are no major health problems among the displaced population in Montenegro although it is becoming apparent that there are strains being placed on the health system. The availability of drugs is inadequate to provide sufficient coverage. The outbreak of cases of hepatitis A are part of a regular cyclical occurrence and affect both the displaced and local population. No other serious illnesses have been identified among the displaced population.

FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA

15. Some 1,500 asylum seekers from Kosovo entered the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia during the period under review, fleeing fighting between Serbian security forces and the KLA in border villages in the municipality of Kacanik. The new influx were registered by the Macedonian Red Cross (MRC) assisted by UNHCR, the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and ICRC. Most of those entering the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia were met by friends and relatives but some of the refugees were accommodated in villages near the border and provided with emergency assistance in the form of wheat flour, beans, oil, blankets and soap.

16. The United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) ceased its monitoring activities in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on 1 March 1999 after a draft resolution to extend its mandate by six months was vetoed by China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council. China considered that UNPREDEP had achieved its original objective of securing stability in the country and therefore did not require its mandate to be extended. China did not accept the arguments linking UNPREDEP to the situation in Kosovo which it considered to be an internal issue for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Discussions are ongoing to determine whether other agencies might be able to fulfil elements of UNPREDEP's mandate.

ALBANIA

Contingency Planning

17. UNHCR is collaborating with the Government to develop contingency plans in the event of a further influx of refugees from Kosovo into Albania. A preliminary planning refugee caseload of some 50,000 is being used and efforts are underway to identify sites to accommodate a possible new influx in Western Albania.

Humanitarian Assistance

18. During the last week of February IFRC and UNHCR, through its implementing partner Humanitarian Cargo Carriers, distributed shoes, jackets, underwear and trousers to some 500 Kosovo refugees still living in Tropoje district. This was a significant achievement as humanitarian operations have been constrained in recent months in Northern Albania due to insecurity. The distribution took place without incident. The only other humanitarian intervention to have taken place in Tropoje in recent months was a food distribution which took place one month ago.

19. Efforts are underway to address drug shortages in refugee centres in Velipoje and Shengjin in North-west Albania. Food agencies are also trying to standardise the food basket to ensure equitable distribution throughout the country. The relief community is also working jointly to provide community and social services to the most vulnerable, regardless of whether they are refugees or members of the local population.

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

20. According to UNHCR approximately 10,000 refugees from Kosovo have arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina since January 1998. Some 8,500 are living in private accommodation, mainly in Sarajevo canton, and 1,500 are living in transit or collective centres.

21. It is planned that refugees currently living in collective accommodation will ultimately be accommodated in four different centres ( 1 in Srednje, 3 in Bosanski Petrovac ) with a total capacity of some 2,000 persons. An additional centre with a capacity of some 1,000 persons is expected to be completed by June 1999 as a contingency measure in the event of a small-scale influx of refugees from Kosovo. If a large number of Kosovo refugees arrive in Bosnia and Hercegovina tented accommodation will be used.

22. The Coca Cola factory in Hadzici on the outskirts of Sarajevo has now been closed following the transfer of the 330 Kosovo refugees living in the factory to the new refugee reception centre in Bosanski Petrovac and the nearby Rakovica centre. The transfer was organised by UNHCR with security being provided by the NATO Stabilisation Force (SFOR) and the United Nations International Police Task Force (IPTF). The closure of the camp is a welcome development as the refugees had been living in poor conditions for a period of nearly six months. The closure of the "Coca Cola camp" marks the end of UNHCR's direct operational involvement in the management of refugee centres in Bosnia and Herzegovina which are now all entirely managed by Government personnel with support and advice from UNHCR and NGOs.

23. Refugees from Kosovo living in collective accommodation continue to benefit from humanitarian assistance as food and non-food items are provided by relief agencies to those in need. Primary health care is also available to those living in transit centres. However, successful integration of Kosovo Albanian children into the Bosnian school system remains a challenge.

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