UN Inter-Agency Update on Kosovo Situation Report 57

Report
from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 26 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
1. KOSOVO

1.1 Fighting was reported in several areas in recent days: west of Pec in Rugarovska area, along the Stimlje and Suva Reka road, on the Komorane - Kijevo stretch of the Pristina - Pec Road and near the Pristina airport 12 km south-west of Pristina leading to new displacement.

Thousands of people, mostly women and children, have fled their homes since Saturday following shelling of villages in central Kosovo. A UNHCR team visited on Tuesday the village of Pagarusa between Orahovac and Malisevo and found several hundreds encamped in the woods.

Most of the new arrivals into Pagarusa are sheltered by villagers in their homes but many others were staying on a hill on the outskirts of the village. Pagarusa already was hosting some 8,000 who arrived earlier in the month. On Tuesday, the UNHCR team saw small groups of several dozen people on foot, on carts and tractors heading toward Pagarusa under overcast skies and chilly winds.

The people said they came from the villages of Lower and Upper Pecan, Slapusan, Semetiste, Prestan, Studencan, Samodregja and Dobrdolan in the Suva Reka municipality and Optorusa, Reti and Zeciste which had come under heavy shelling the past three days. The people there said that on Tuesday one woman died of illness and a baby was born in the woods.

1.2 Returns. At the same time there has been considerable return of population to Orahovac. The return to Ade village remains tentative, as police continues to occupy some houses of displaced persons, while water and electricity have yet to be reconnected. Some returns have also taken place in the Srbica area. It is estimated that 30,000 persons altogether have returned.

Estimated Displacement Figures: (as at 24 August 1998)

Displacement within Kosovo*
170,000
Displacement into Montenegro**
33,500
Displacement into other parts of Serbia
20,000
Refugees into Albania***
14,000
Visitors into FYROM****
1,000
TOTAL
235,500

* Estimated figure based on information from various organisations in Kosovo.

** An average figure based on figures provided by the Montenegrin Ministry of Interior and the Montenegrin Red Cross, as shown in the next page.

*** Includes 7,000 registered in Tropoje District and an estimated 7,000 who have left for other areas.

**** Figure provided by a local NGO, El Hilal.

1.3 Desperate Civilians Fear Further Attacks. A 34-year-old woman was bringing a 5-week-old baby in her arms to the clinic at Pagarusa for treatment of diarrhea and fever. She said the baby was born in the woods last month, when she first fled her home at Reti village in Orahovac. After four weeks in the woods, she returned to her home in Reti, seeing other villagers going back. The woman said Reti had been relatively untouched during last months bombardments and she had stayed at her home for about a week. On Saturday, however, she fled once again after hearing artillery rounds hit her village. She fled in a group of 15, but lost her 3-year-old son and 1-1/2 year-old daughter during the flight. She said she saw flames in her village and still did not know what happened to her house. The woman claimed she had nowhere to go except Pagarusa because the area was ringed on one side by Serb forces and two main roads on the two other sides with heavy police presence.

1.4 Increased Concern Over Safety and Security of Aid Workers: Three Relief Workers Killed Under Fire. According to media reports and a witness on the ground, three workers of a local relief agency run by Kosovo Albanians, the Mother Theresa Society (MTS), were killed on Monday when tank fire hit their tractor. The workers were reported to have been on their way to distribute relief supplies in the village of Vlaski Drenovac outside Malisevo.

Another MTS worker who witnessed the incident from about 500 meters away told UNHCR that his tractor was raked with automatic fire but he escaped with only minor burns he suffered while trying to save some of the food packs on his trailer.

The victims were on a convoy of seven tractors that had earlier picked up the supplies at the MTS warehouse at Lapcevo, 10 kilometers west of Malisevo, delivered by a UNHCR/WFP escorted multi-agency convoy just two days earlier. Safety and Security of relief workers remain to be of high concern.

1.5 More Aid Reaches Displaced Persons. UNHCR escorted a multi-agency convoy to Barane on Tuesday to deliver supplies for some 30,000 displaced people and host families in the area 12 kilometers south of Pec. The 10-truck convoy carried shipments from Doctors of the World, Mercy Corps International, Catholic Relief Services, World Food Program, Handicap International, U.S. AID, and Papa Giovanni XXIII. The convoy transported 110 tons of wheat flour, 2,000 family food parcels, oil, beans, milk power, plastic sheeting, clothes, blankets, toothbrushes, toothpaste, detergent and sanitary napkins.

1.6 Reports of Land mines. Sightings of land mines believed to have been laid by UCK have been made on dirt tracks leading north of the town of Junik as well as in areas near Malisevo and Orahovac. Diplomatic sources said they had found evidence of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines and craters made in the blasts. There were also indications rebels had set up explosives rigged from water tanks and jerry cans.

There are reports of land mines laid by the Serbian authorities on the Albanian border and along the Macedonian border through the Sar Mountains to General Jankovic (Blace).

1.7 WFP Food Aid Update. According to WFP, 160 MT of mixed food aid arrived in Pristina on 21 August. Up until now, food deliveries by WFP have consisted of emergency high protein biscuits. For those with access to cooking facilities, deliveries of wheat flour, oil and pulses will take place. Distributions in Kosovo remain frequent with rations limited to one week. This is due to the continued hostilities and constant movement of ethnic Albanians within Kosovo.

1.8 UNICEF Mobile Medical Team Continues Assistance. In order to assist internally displaced women and children in remote and mountainous areas, UNICEF established a mobile medical team. The team, composed of a physician, a pediatrician, a gynecologist, a pediatric nurse and a midwife, last week visited villages of Novo Selo in Berisha Mountain and Veliki Ribar in Lipljan municipality. About 20,000 IDPs were reported to have found shelter at the Berisha Mountain, and in the village of Veliki Ribar, 4,000. The Mother Theresa Society provided health workers and UNICEF provided transportation, essential drugs and medical supplies.

The first checkups of about 400 people, mainly children and pregnant women, proved that diarrhea, bronchitis, scabies and lice are the most common diseases among children. The mobile teams have distributed oral rehydration salt, as well as UNICEF leaflets and brochures containing health messages.

1.9 Community Based Health Education Project. In the village of Veliki Ribar, UNICEF has launched a community based health education project based on the "Facts for Life" messages. Both local population (2,500) and internally displaced (4,000) will benefit from the project. The training of 25 young women on health education has started, and they will continue to disseminate messages in the local community.

1.9 Update on Distribution by UNICEF. Last week, UNICEF distributed following assistance directly to the internally displaced population in the villages of Suva Reka, Berisha Mountain, Lipljan, Klina, Pec, and Decane municipalities:

  • 10 essential drug kits (each covering needs of the population of 10,000 for three months);
  • 590 collapsible water containers;
  • 150 packs of water purification tablets;
  • 390 baby hygiene kits;
  • 36 boxes of diapers;
  • 25 boxes of sanitary napkins;
  • 3 boxes of soap, and 80 blankets.
1.11 WHO Releases Epidemiological Report. In the frame of the Regional Health Coordination meeting co-chaired by WHO and the Institute of Public Health (IPH) of Pristina, a weekly epidemiological report has been established by WHO and distributed to all partners in the health sector. Epidemiological reports of the past three months show a high incidence of acute intestinal diseases associated with a high lethality rate, a high incidence of acute respiratory diseases, a high incidence of lethality rate for meningitis, a high prevalence of tuberculosis, and four cases of suspected heamorrhagic fever (among which one serologically confirmed).

2. MONTENEGRO

2.1 One Thousand New Arrivals in One Day. Marking the largest single influx since mid-June, over 1,000 people arrived into Rozaje yesterday from Pec. These people apparently fled fighting taking place over the last couple of days in Rugovska Klisura, a valley west of the town of Pec. The area which is comprised of 35 villages was considered a safe area, just as recently as until last week, with no armed clashes being reported. Many people who fled recent fighting in various villages in Western Kosovo, therefore, had sought refuge in the area, before coming under fire during the last two days.

2.2 Large New Influx Confirmed by Authorities. The arrival of 1,000 newly displaced persons into Montenegro has been confirmed both by the police and by the Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister. 500 people out of the 1,000 have transited through Rozaje, and have proceeded to Ulcinj. This has been confirmed by the local Red Cross. As the number of IDPs have already increased to 56 per cent of the total local population of 25,000 in Ulcinj, urgent measures continue to be needed.

2.3 Thousands More May Be Fleeing. UNHCR Podgorica also received unconfirmed information that another 4,000 people are still in the mountains, and could arrive in Montenegro in the coming days. Accommodation will be a serious problem, if this influx happens.

2.4 Humanitarian Agencies Decide on Contingency Action. As a result of an urgent meeting held today between UNHCR, ICRC and the Montenegrin Red Cross, additional aid will be dispatched to the area immediately from existing stocks in the country, in preparation for a potential large influx in the days ahead. These relief items which will be donated by ICRC and UNHCR include mattresses, blankets, oil, flour, and family parcels. UNHCR offices in Podgorica and Pristina are monitoring the situation closely, as well as the ICRC team in Pec.

Statistics (as at 25 August 1998)

Ministry of Interior Count of New Arrivals: 33,336

Montenegrin Red Cross Registered Caseload:

Ulcinj
14,125
Rozaje
4,160
Podgorica
4,507
Plav
7,273
Others
4,119
Total
34,184

Average of the two figures is shown on the first page. The discrepancy may be due to the fact that the Ministry of Interior is not keeping track of IDPs traveling through mountain paths. The registration in each municipality conducted by the Commissioner for Displaced Persons' Office is proceeding slowly, with only 9,000 IDPs recorded to date.

2.5 UNICEF To Fund Textbooks for IDP Children. Following discussions with the Ministry of Education of Montenegro in Podgorica last week, UNICEF will fund 1,000 complete sets of first grade textbooks for displaced children from Kosovo in order for them to attend school in September. UNICEF is also seeking funds to cover the needs of an additional 8,500 IDP students. Save the Children Fund (SCF) is also interested in supporting education for IDP children, and is requesting funds for this purpose. The Ministry of Education has decided to allow IDP children without certificates to attend classes, reversing its previous position.

2.6 Essential Drug Kits Donated by UNICEF. UNICEF provided six essential drugs kits to the Institute of Public Health of Montenegro. The kits have already been distributed to health centres in the places with largest number of IDPs: Podgorica, Plav, Rozaje and Ulcinj.

2.7 WHO Completes Health Data Collection. WHO in close collaboration with the Institute of Public Health of Montenegro and the Director of Mental Health Care services of Dobrota Hospital has now completed the stage of data collection of a health survey among IDPs. The survey intends to outline the health status and mental health status of IDPs in Montenegro.

2.8 MSF Completes Health Assessment Mission. An assessment mission by Medecins Sans Frontiere (MSF) left the country last week. It was their view that the medical system was efficiently coping with the crisis and there were no imminent risk of an outbreak of contagious diseases. However, drug shortage may be expected in the future. Risk of epidemic diseases cannot be ruled out and monitoring should be maintained.

2.9 Food Distribution for August Completed in Montenegro. August distributions have been completed in Montenegro. The full 145 MT of food aid (125 MT wheat flour, 10 MT oil and 10 MT of pulses) which was delivered to Podgorica in June has been distributed to IDPs in Rozaje and Plav. Approximately 20,000 IDPs received WFP food aid. (10,500 IDPs received wheat flour and 9,500 IDPs received wheat flour, oil and pulses.) An additional 18 MT of high protein biscuits were distributed to children under seven years of age and elderly people as a supplementary food.

WFP is now working on plans for the September distribution. As a number of new agencies are opening offices in Montenegro, coordination of food aid will be important.

3. NORTHERN ALBANIA

3.1 Food Distribution for August Completed. August distributions have been completed in Albania in Tropoje District, Tirana, Durres and Shkoder. WFP has distributed a total of 160 MT of food aid in monthly rations to more than 6,700 individuals.

4. FYR of MACEDONIA

4.1 WFP Assessment Mission in Skopje. WFP is conducting a week long assessment in Skopje, paying particular attention to the establishment of an office there. A permanent presence of WFP in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia may be required to adequately meet food aid needs, should there be a large influx of people from Kosovo in the future.

For information, please contact:

Fernando del Mundo, UNHCR Pristina
Tel: 381-38-321-09

Kaoruko Seki (OCHA), UNHCR Belgrade
Tel: (381)11-344-2091
Fax: (381)11-344-2947