UN Inter-Agency Update on Kosovo Situation Report 54,

Report
from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 19 Aug 1998
This report has been compiled by UNHCR with support from OCHA and with inputs from UN Agencies and other humanitarian organizations in FRY, FYROM and Albania
"We are very, very quickly moving from what is already a major crisis to a humanitarian catastrophe with winter just around the corner" Soren Jessen-Petersen, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner

1. KOSOVO

1.1 UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner Warns of a Humanitarian Catastrophe. UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner, Soren Jesen-Petersen, together with European Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs, Emma Bonino, warned today against a looming humanitarian catastrophe unless an immediate cease-fire was called and a political settlement reached in Kosovo.

In a news conference held with Bonino in Pristina, Jessen-Petersen said that the international community was now facing a serious crisis, and stressed that humanitarian action must not once again become a substitute for political action. He also stated the need for better access to people in need, as well as for increased security for humanitarian workers.

The Assistant High Commissioner emphasised that some 170,000 people uprooted in Kosovo, including those without shelter in open fields, should be brought back to their villages. He added that the authorities should send a "clear, strong and reassuring message" to the people in Kosovo. Jessen-Petersen added that an international presence in Kosovo was essential, as well as a better response from donors in funding the humanitarian relief effort.

1.2 ECHO Commissioner Calls for Increased Efforts to Solve the Crisis in Kosovo. "There is no possibility that the problem in Kosovo can be solved on purely humanitarian grounds" said Ms. Emma Bonino, European Community Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs, during a field visit in Kosovo. Escorted by UNHCR, and accompanied by WFP, MSF, PSF, ECMM and a number of diplomatic missions and journalists, the Commissioner visited a school in Cirrez, where according to the local Emergency Commission, some 20 families were staying. Approximately 12,600 displaced persons were reportedly staying in and around the village of Cirrez.

Ms. Bonino also toured through both police and UCK controlled areas, witnessing damaged villages of Komorane, Malisevo, Kijevo, Lapusnik, Trstenik, and Srbica, as well as through other major towns such as Kosovoska Mitrovica. In general, no problems were faced at the police or UCK checkpoints. Approaching Pagarusa (south of Malisevo), however, the team was stopped by a UCK checkpoint shortly after Dragoville. The team decided to turn back after the insistence of a UCK commander that journalists' cameras would be confiscated. A multi-agency humanitarian convoy had encountered problems at this same checkpoint yesterday, but had eventually negotiated entry to Pagarusa.

1.3 Humanitarian Aid Reaches Malisevo and Istok Municipalities. A multi-agency convoy delivered yesterday humanitarian assistance for some 20,000 people affected by the recent fighting. UNHCR led one convoy to Pagarusa village south of Malisevo and WFP took another convoy to Istok. Relief supplies included soap, clothes, food parcels, blankets and mattresses. These items were donated by CAD, CRS, DOW, HI, MCI, UNHCR and WFP.

The area had some 30,000 local residents and people who fled recent fighting in Malisevo and Orahovac. In a clinic in Pagarusa, a doctor who was himself displaced, showed UNHCR and NGO staff some severely dehydrated and malnourished children who, he said, would almost certainly die because there was no possibility of taking them to a hospital.

1.4 Repatriation of Refugees Continue. On 18 August, UNHCR transported to Belgrade 24 refugees from Duvakovac and Banja in the municipality of Istok for repatriation to Croatia this week. Another group of 13 refugees were also escorted by UNHCR yesterday from Lipljan to Pristina, to be transported to Belgrade for the same purpose. These refugees had been displaced during the previous war in the former Yugoslavia.

On the way to Duvakovac, UNHCR staff witnessed smoke coming out from the direction of Lodja and Rausic villages, south of Pec, where fighting had been reported recently. The team also saw one house aflame along the approaches to Klina from Pec. Very little traffic was seen along the Pec-Pristina road, especially between Komorane and Klina: villages appeared empty, except for scattered police presence in some areas.

2. MONTENEGRO

2.1 Inter-Agency Coordination Meeting. 16 agencies met today to discuss the humanitarian situation in Montenegro and to establish a mechanism for humanitarian coordination. The meeting was attended by the Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister and the Commissioner for Displaced Persons. The following sectors and focal points were agreed upon:

Shelter: UNHCR, SDR

Logistics: UNHCR, RC

Food: WFP

Health: WHO

Education: UNICEF

Assistance Caseload (source: Montenegrin Red Cross)

Location
Number
Ulcinj
11,985
Plav
7,106
Podgorica
4,266
Rozaje
3,995
Total
31194

2.2 UNICEF and UNHCR Discuss Education for IDP Children. UNICEF and UNHCR today met with the Montenegrin Minister of Education to discuss the possibility of enrollment for approximately 9,000 IDP children. The Government expressed its position that a parallel system for IDP children would not be acceptable, and that these children will be enrolled only in a manner consistent with the legal educational system. UNICEF and UNHCR will continue to work with the Government in search for a solution which would enhance educational opportunities for the displaced children.

3. NORTHERN ALBANIA

10-16 August 98

3.1 Fighting in Junik Results in New Influx. Fighting in and around the village of Junik in Kosovo has resulted in a new large influx of refugees, mostly women and children, into northern Albania. On 13 August, UNHCR assisted up to 300 of these people. Some 250 of them were unable to find accommodation, and were hosted at the reception/transit centre in Bajram Curri. According to the Albanian Office for Refugees, approximately 6,800 refugees are currently in theTropoje District. Refugees who have crossed from the Qaf e Prushit entry point have reported to UNHCR that many families were still hiding in the forest with little or no food, awaiting the right moment to cross.

3.2 More UCK Fighters Seen in Tropoje. Clashes in Junik have also resulted in an increase of UCK fighters being observed in the towns of Bajram Curri and Tropoje during the reporting period, as many of them have withdrawn from Kosovo into the Tropoje District. Aid agencies continue to be concerned about the potential problem of armed fighters withdrawing into an area occupied by refugees.

3.3 Humanitarian Assistance Continue. Work continues in identifying and/or repairing accommodation facilities to shelter the refugees. Food distribution for August has been completed during the reporting period, according to the latest registration figures. Meanwhile, UNHCR, IFRC, the Islamic Council and AEP continues to assist the new arrivals and those identified as in need. Distribution of non-food items is taking place on a daily basis for the new arrivals.

3.4 Kukes and Has remains Relatively Calm. The general situation in Kukes and Has remained calm. UNHCR Kukes is currently assisting 200 refugees. UNHCR continues to be present in Zogaj to receive small groups of refugees coming from the Djakovica area. The Albanian Vocational Education and Training Association Centre based in Tirana has offered to support UNHCR with the delivery of food and non-food items to the refugees in the two districts.

For information, please contact:

Fernando del Mundo
Kaoruko Seki (OCHA)
UNHCR Pristina
Tel: 381-38-321-09
UNHCR Belgrade
Tel: (381)11-344-2091