UN Inter-Agency Update on Kosovo Situation Report 44

Report
from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 21 Jul 1998
UNHCR Belgrade, Tuesday, 21 July 1998
This report has been compiled by UNHCR with inputs from UN Agencies and other humanitarian organizations in FRY, FYROM and Albania

1. KOSOVO

GENERAL SITUATION

1.1 Border Clashes Result in Heavy Casualties. Press reports indicated that between 30 to 110 ethnic Albanians were killed over the weekend in a number of incidents in which Yugoslav Army border guards clashed with ethnic Albanian militants trying to cross illegally from Albania into Kosovo.

According to several local media quoting military sources, the incident took place on Saturday after up to 1,000 armed ethnic Albanians tried to cross from Albania into Yugoslavia near the Djeravica border post, west of Decani, while fire was simultaneously opened at Yugoslav border guards from another side in Kosovo from the village of Jasic near Junik. Albanian fighters were said to have tried to enter Kosovo riding horses loaded with weapons and military equipment near the Djeravica and Kosare watchtowers.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports from Albania indicated that shelling was reported from Rasa e Zogut in the Kosovo side into Albania towards Ujeka.

1.2 Mixed Information on Situation in Orahovac. On 19 July, after three days of battling ethnic Albanian fighters, the Serbian authorities were reported to have regained control over Orahovac, while activities to mop up pockets of armed Kosovo Albanian resistance in the surrounding villages continued, according to Serb media sources. The town was reportedly held under the control of armed ethnic Albanians for at least two days towards the end of last week.

On 20 July, the Kosovo Information Centre which is close to the Democratic Party of Kosovo (LDK), on the other hand, reported that fighting for the town still continued, while BBC said on the same day that ethnic Albanians had surrounded some 200 policemen in Orahovac, quoting Kosovo Albanian sources.

Orahovac is a town located 20 kms north of Prizren and 15 kms south of Malisevo, where a heavy presence of Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) is said to be concentrated. Its capture by armed Kosovo Albanians could signify their gain over an urban area, as opposed to control over rural areas seen previously. No independent confirmation of the current situation in Orahovac is available.

Several local media also reported that the village of Velika Hoca, near Orahovac, was also attacked by armed ethnic Albanians over the weekend, as they retreated from Orahovac. Velika Hoca has a Serbian population of over 4,000.

HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE

1.3 Access Remain Unhindered, in General. During an inter-agency security meeting held in Pristina on 20 July, UN Agencies and NGOs present in Kosovo confirmed that access, in general, was not a problem throughout Kosovo, except in areas under direct armed confrontation. Over the weekend, no humanitarian agency had visited the tense areas of Decane and Orahovac, as safety and security could not be assured.

In Orahovac, the total regular population is some 20,000. As at 17 July, it has been hosting some 170 IDPs. Its feared that many people will be displaced following recent fighting, some for the second time. UNHCR is today (21 July) undertaking an assessment mission to the area.

1.4 UNICEF Team Visits Malisevo. On 19 July, a UNICEF team composed of the Special Representative for the Former Yugoslavia, Head of Belgrade Office and UNICEF Pristina visited Malisevo to assess the health situation. The team travelled via the southern route through Stimlje, as they were first stopped at a UCK check point and turned back shortly after Komoran on the Pec-Pristina route.

A significant number of IDPs were seen on Sunday, arriving on tractors and by other means from Orahovac. UNICEF confirmed arrival of many injured civilians including women and children at the "health house" in Malisevo. Plans are underway to increase support to the health facility.

1.5 Training Underway to Restart Psycho-social Projects. A UNICEF-assisted psycho-social project, "Smile Keepers," aimed at assisting traumatized children to restore their psycho-social stability has been disrupted for weeks due to lack of security in many areas. Last week, however, UNICEF gathered various international NGOs in order to encourage their initiative to engage in psycho-social activities with their local community partners. UNICEF offered technical expertise to nine NGOs to carry-out these activities, through provision of training and manuals, as well as material necessary in conducting workshops for traumatised children.

1.6 Immunization Considered. In cooperation with local public health services, UNICEF is working to re-establish the immunization programme in the areas where these routine activities had been suspended. Last week, two UNICEF teams visited villages of Lipljan and Stimlje, together with vaccination teams of municipal primary health centres. The teams delivered vaccines, immunized children and registered newborns.

In Kosovo, the outreach routine immunization was usually organized by mobile teams of the respective municipal primary health centres. These teams visited villages and immunized children every 42 days. However, in the central-western part of Kosovo, many municipalities have suspended their activities during the past few months due to difficulty in field movement. Regular vaccine supply channels have been disrupted in areas under conflict. In addition, frequent movement of the IDPs makes immunization difficult.

1.7 Emergency Aid for Children. Emergency relief items targeted for the children in Kosovo, such as hygiene items, child underwear and essential drug kits reached the country. Distribution will take place shortly in cooperation with local public health institutions and the Mother Theresa Society (MTS), a local NGO.

2. NORTHERN ALBANIA (13-19 July 1998/UNHCR Bajram Curri)

GENERAL SITUATION

2.1 Presence of UCK Fighters Evident. The security situation in northern Albania remains a key issue particularly around the areas of Tropoje and Bajram Curri, where a large concentration of UCK fighters continues to be evident.

2.2 Working in a Volatile Area Remains a Concern for Humanitarian Agencies. In a meeting with the Plenipotentiary, UNHCR raised its concern in assisting refugees in an armed environment, and asked the government representative to ensure, at the local level, a clear distinction between humanitarian assistance activities and those others related to the situation in Kosovo.

As a result, UNHCR was assured that efforts will be made to enable the international community to implement their activities in a neutral manner. The degree of control the central government of Albania has over the district of Tropoje, however, is rather questionable at this point of time.

Recently, UNHCR has been under pressure to provide logistical assistance to the wounded fighters. It was explained, however, that it was beyond UNHCR's mandate to assist combatants. The Head of Delegation of ICRC who was visiting the area took the lead in assisting the wounded. 35 combatants were transported to the hospital in Bajram Curri, and critical cases were evacuated by an Albanian army helicopter.

Due to the volatile environment, a relocation plan for the refugees is being considered. New surveys are being conducted in the South, in cooperation with NGOs.

An effort to control and improve security in the district was made official by the arrival of the new Chief of Police, Mr. Fatmir Meta, previously in charge for the overall security of the Tirana International Airport.

2.3 No Significant Influx Last Week. New influx of refugees remained low. Last week, only one family of 11 persons from Brovina had crossed. Meanwhile, the working figure for UNHCR continues to be of 10,000 people. More refugees are reported to be living in the south and in particular in Durres (approx. 2,000).

The good will of the local host families in accommodating the refugees are starting to reach its limitations. This week, UNHCR Bajram Curri assisted the first family which was asked to leave the house of a host family. After various attempts to shelter the family (two hotels refused them), accommodation was found in Fierze.

2.4 Situation Calm in Kukes and Haas. Situation in the Kukes and Haas prefectures remained calm with no refugee influx last week. UNHCR is monitoring the Qafe e Prushit entry point which is two hours away from Bajram Curri )

PROTECTION/ COMMUNITY SERVICES

2.5 Refugee Interviews Continue. No restriction of movement was reported last week. In depth interviews has randomly been carried out with refugee families approaching UNHCR Bajram Curri who came to seek mainly material assistance. Most families are referred to the local authorities, who are presently distributing mattresses and will continue distribution of kitchen items next week according to agreed procedures. Joint home visits to refugee families have been carried out in cooperation with Oxfam and AEP.

2.6 Re-registration at a Halt. The re-registration of refugees is still pending due to a delay in printing the new registration forms. Newly arrived refugees are registered according to the old procedures. The forthcoming re-registration is expected to provide an accurate statistic for future planning and voluntary relocation.

2.7 Birth and Death Certificates Needed. The government representative and the local authorities has been alerted on the need to set up a proper structure for registration and issuance of birth and death certificates for the refugees. The registration of new born babies have been initiated and will be closely monitored by the office as well as the issuance of death certificates.

2.8 Victims of Violence: Both Male and Female. Many Kosovar refugees approaching the office are reporting that they have been subjected to violence in their country of origin, not only by the Serbian authorities but also by "gangs of neighbours" with the same ethnic origin as the refugees.

The male members are reportedly threatened and beaten for as long as five hours if they refused to pay 2000 Swiss Francs. At the maternity ward in Bajram Curri, some cases of rape have allegedly been identified. Contraceptives and abortion are available upon request and are free of charge. Psycho-social counseling, however, is currently unavailable.

2.9 Domestic Violence Reported. Two individual cases of domestic violence have been identified. A fragile support system has been set up for one of these families. The host family has difficulties to accommodate the second family since the single mother and her children apparently have mental problems and are acting violently.

2.10 Tracing and Message Exchange. Links have been established with ICRC and ARC, who are carrying out the work according to their mandate. Refugees are referred directly to their offices.

ASSISTANCE OPERATIONS

2.12 Shelter and Host Family Support. The Albanian government has completed the distribution of 1,500 Leks (10 USD) to the remaining hosting families in the Tropoje Commune.

THW has identified three firms for the rehabilitation of the military hospital in Bajram Curri and is in the process of selecting the most appropriate one. The three trucks were unfortunately stolen again. The police are still investigating.

The Swiss Disaster Relief in Fierze has signed the contract with the commune and will start rehabilitating two buildings to be used for refugee accommodation.

2.13 Food and None Food Items. UNHCR and IFRC have completed the distribution of mattresses and blankets in Bajram Curri town. Distribution of clothing was carried out by AEF. WFP has concluded its July delivery. 85.5 mts was received in the warehouse and 81.3 mts was delivered to the communes. Remaining in the warehouse is 4.2 mts. The Islamic Relief Organisation distribution food in Bujam Margegaj and Fierze. 800 people have received assistance to date.

2.14 Health. General health condition of the refugees is considered to be satisfactory. Children Aid Direct (CAD), is continuing distribution of medical equipment and drugs in the health centres of the district. WHO is conducting a six days public health survey in the region.

2.15 Water and Sanitation. OXFAM is carrying activities related to pumping stations, by repairing the 75 kvh pump which supplies Cerrnice village (currently awaiting the town water company to repair the road as per agreement) and by repairing the springs at Cerrnice and a near by village.

Water situation at the Bajram Curri Hospital is not critical but requires an emergency back up supply. OXFAM is looking into several alternatives. Several outline villages hosting refugees will shortly be earmarked for water improvement.

3. MONTENEGRO

3.1 New Influx Continue. According to the Government of Montenegro, 21,194 people have entered Montenegro from Kosovo between 25 April and 20 July 1998. This is in addition to the estimated 2,500 new arrivals between March and April of this year.

3.2 Efforts Underway to Improve Accuracy of IDP Figures. In order to confirm the accuracy of the figures provided by the local authorities and to get a clear idea on how these statistics are assessed at the check point areas, UNHCR and the Office of the Police Commissioner undertook a joint mission on 16 July. Despite this mission, the local police are yet to establish a coherent check-out system. Meanwhile, the Montenegrin Red Cross has currently registered 19,500 persons as their assistance case load.

3.3 Alternative Accommodation Sought. Those displaced from the conflict in Kosovo are now said to be over one-fourth of the total population in the border towns of Plav and Rozaje. While 600 of these IDPs are already accommodated in collective centres in Plav, there is increased pressure for municipal authorities to provide alternative solutions to relying on host families. Recently, a factory in Plav was identified by the municipality authorities for this purpose.

The Swiss Disaster Relief Agency (SDR) has renovated sanitary facilities in the collective centres in Plav. They also plan to work on a school cite in Rozaje. In Ulcinje, the SDR is awaiting confirmation from the local authorities to identify and to renovate the facilities for accommodating the IDPs.

3.4 Food Aid Arrives. On 20 July, the first donation of 600 mts of rice from the Government of Italy arrived in Montenegro. UNHCR Podgorica has coordinated a plan for distribution between refugees, IDPs and the social cases. Meanwhile, WFP has confirmed food shortage in the assistance pipeline for the IDPs for August. Accordingly, it was decided that part of the donation provided by the Italian Government will be used to cover this gap.

Last week, a UNICEF assessment team led by UNICEF's Special Representative for the Former Yugoslavia visited the largest accommodation centres of internally displaced people from Kosovo in Plav and Rozaje.

For information, please contact:

Mans Nyberg or Kaoruko Seki
UNHCR Belgrade
Tel: (381)11-344-2091
Fax: (381)11-344-2947