UN Inter-Agency Update on Kosovo Situation Report 64

Report
from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 23 Sep 1998
This report has been compiled by UNHCR with support from OCHA and with inputs from UN Agencies and other humanitarian organizations in former Yugoslavia and Albania
1. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees will visit Belgrade, Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania from 24-28 September, 1998. The purpose of the visit is to highlight the humanitarian plight of the 291,000 refugees and displaced from Kosovo province and to draw attention to the continuing needs of the 550,000 refugees in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia who originate from both Croatia and Bosnia and Herzogovina.

KOSOVO

Internal Displacement

2.1 The continued crackdown by the Serbian police and military against UCK strongholds in the villages between Mitrovica and Podujevo is resulting in increased numbers of civilian casualties and rising levels of displacement. On 21st September UNHCR saw small groups of displaced leaving the mountain village of Bajgora and heading towards Vucitrn. Local sources reported that 17 villages between Mitrovica and Podujevo with a population of 15,000 - 20,000 were affected. Although 2,000 displaced in this area were reportedly still in the open air the vast majority were living with friends and relatives in Mitrovica, Podujevo and Pristina. It is unlikely that the displaced from this area will return to their homes in the near future as most houses have been severely damaged and food stocks burned or looted.

2.2 UNHCR saw Serbian tanks shell villages on the night of 22nd September in an area approximately 20 km North of Pristina. Women, children and the elderly were reported to have been evacuated from at least 10 villages hit in the shelling. UNHCR saw smoke and flames from the villages, which had a population of about 6,000. The villages reportedly attacked were Becic, Mijalic, Strovce, Glavotina, Bivoljak, Zilivoda, Hamidia, Leskovcic, Sibovic and Spitula. Other clashes occurred near Mount Cicevica to the West of Pristina and various sources reported fighting North-West of Prizren.

2.3 On 19th September a U.S. Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission (KDOM) team saw 400 civilians moving from 3 villages near Srbica into the town of Mitrovica. Local sources reported that some 10,000 people had fled a government offensive in this area.

2.4 During a six hour period on 16th September KDOM directly observed 7,500 people living in the open air. Although many IDPs are terrified of any contact with the police, KDOM reports that increasing numbers of civilians are moving into urban areas due to the cold weather. According to KDOM the IDPs living in the open air in the Rugovska valley and in the central areas to the West of Pristina are most at risk. Most Albanian civilians are reportedly too proud to use the state-run humanitarian aid centres.

2.5 A UNHCR assessment of Gragovac village (near Pristina ) revealed that most of the houses in the village were intact and that the majority of the displaced were reluctant to return for security reasons. Of the 1,300 residents who fled the village, about 20 had returned during the previous two weeks.

UNHCR Estimated Displacement / Refugee Figures: (as at 23 September 1998)

Displacement within Kosovo1
200,000
Displacement into Montenegro2
41,800
Displacement into other parts of Serbia
20,000
Refugees in Bosnia Herzegovina3
6,800
Refugees into Albania4
18,000
Refugees into Turkey5
2,000
Refugees into Slovenia
2,000
Visitors into FYROM6
1,000
TOTAL
291,600

1 Estimated figure based on information from various organisations in Kosovo.
2 An average figure based on figures provided by the Montenegrin Ministry of Interior and the Montenegrin Red Cross, as shown in the next page.
3 Includes 2622 registered asylum seekers
4 Includes 7,000 registered in Tropoje District, an estimated 7,000 who have left for other areas and the newly-arrived 4,000
5 Figure announced by the Regional Bureau of Europe
6 Figure provided by a local NGO, El Hilal.

2.6 At a press conference held in Belgrade on 23rd September the Yugoslav Red Cross announced that there were a total of 11,642 displaced throughout Kosovo province.

Returnees

2.7 UNHCR estimates that at least 50,000 civilians in Kosovo have returned to their homes. It is expected that this trend will continue as the onset of colder weather is forcing the displaced to return home or seek shelter wherever possible if their residences are destroyed. Heavy police presence in areas of origin means that returnees live in fear. Total numbers of displaced within Kosovo province remain unchanged as the renewal of violence in the Klina, Srbica, Orahovac and Prizren municipalities as well as the onset of new clashes to the North of Pristina have resulted in rising levels of displacement in these areas, offsetting the total number of returnees.

Shelter

2.8 On 18th September the international humanitarian community met in Pristina to develop a coordinated approach to the provision of shelter for displaced people and returnees in Kosovo. It was concluded that agencies would divide areas of responsibility and identify villages in need of materials such as plastic sheeting, plywood and nails. The recent housing survey conducted by KDOM would serve as a useful source of baseline data. The Serbian Coordinator for Kosovo said that the Government was prepared to make available stockpiled shelter materials to encourage returns.

Relief Distribution

2.9 Interagency convoys successfully delivered essential relief supplies to four different delivery points during the period under review, namely Klina, Orahovac, Vucitrn and Mitrovica. The details are as follows:

Saturday 19th September

Destination: Klina
Cargo: 1400 boxes family food parcels, 48 MT wheat flour, 128 kg macaroni, 1 MT salt, 120 mattresses, 20 rolls plastic sheeting, 2280 kg detergent, 4 boxes soap. 40 bags of clothes.
Estimated beneficiaries: Approximately 11,000
Participating agencies: UNHCR ( convoy leader ), Children's Aid Direct, Doctors of the World, Mercy Corps International, Life Line.

Destination: Orahovac
Cargo: 2,800 family food parcels, sanitary napkins, blankets, 50 boxes chlorine, 72 MT wheat flour, 128 kg salt, 180 mattresses, 30 rolls plastic sheeting, 4 boxes soap, 3 MT detergent, 50 boxes clothing.
Estimated beneficiaries: 15,000 - 20,000
Participating agencies: UNHCR ( convoy leader ), Children's Aid Direct, Doctors of the World, Handicap International, Mercy Corps International, Oxfam, Kinderberg

Tuesday 22nd September

Destination: Vucitrn
Cargo: 12.6 MT food parcels, 2,000 boxes food parcels, 68 MT wheat flour, 2 MT macaroni, salt, soap, detergent, 40 stoves, 20 sheets plastic sheeting, 120 bags used clothes, 3.6 MT canned fish, 2.4 MT soap
Estimated beneficiaries: 62,000
Participating agencies: UNHCR ( convoy leader ), WFP, Children's Aid Direct, Doctors of the World, Mercy Corps International, Catholic Relief Services, Mercy Corps International

Destination: Mitrovica
Cargo: 2000 boxes family food parcels, 68 MT wheat flour, Macaroni, salt, soap, detergent, 40 stoves, 20 rolls plastic sheeting, 110 bags used clothes, 3 MT canned fish.
Estimated beneficiaries: 55,000
Participating agencies: UNHCR ( convoy leader ), Children's Aid Direct, Doctors of the World, Mercy Corps International, Catholic Relief Services

2.10 The deliveries to Podujevo and Mitrovica were particularly timely due to ongoing fighting in neighbouring villages which caused large numbers of civilians to flee into these towns.

2.11 WFP has distributed 180 MT of wheat flour, beans and oil to beneficiaries in Kosovo province during the period from 25th June to 14th September, 1998. During the past two days WFP has transported 224 MT of mixed food commodities from Bar in Montenegro to Pristina which is sufficient to cover the requirements of the existing caseload until the end of October assuming current delivery rates.

Health

2.12 UNICEF, in collaboration with Mother Theresa Association, a local NGO, continues to provide emergency primary health care to displaced women and children without access to health services. During the period under review the medical team visited Kisna Reka Valley, Novo Selo, Divljak, Klecka and Orlate ( in the municipalities of Glogovac, Lipljan and Orahovac ) where a total of 300 were treated, 200 of whom were children.

2.13 UNICEF and WHO are investigating the possibility of re-establishing an immunisation programme in the Drenica area. The programme will start in the villages of Cirez and Gradica as vaccination of children in these areas has been disrupted since March 1998.

2.14 A recent UNICEF assessment of Cirez revealed that the village was hosting approximately 20,000 displaced. Although the majority of the displaced were living with families and friends, some were settled in collective centres at the school and the mosque with neither water nor electricity. UNICEF set up a mobile health clinic in the village where a total of 350 patients were treated. UNICEF donated baby hygiene parcels, baby cream, diapers and washing detergent. 130 collapsible water containers, water purification tablets and blankets were also provided.

MONTENEGRO

3.1 The Government of Montenegro has continued to enforce its decision to close its border to Kosovo refugees despite the protests of UNHCR ( See points 1.3 and 1.4, Update No. 63). This decision is clearly having severe humanitarian consequences for the considerable number of displaced living in the mountains in the Western part of Kosovo province. The increase in the Montenegrin Red Cross displaced caseload from 44,218 ( as at 18 September ) to 46,425 ( as at 23 September ) reflects a rise in registrations rather than a new influx of Kosovo displaced.

3.2 The health status of Kosovo displaced in Montenegro is becoming a source of concern. Local health centres in Plav, Rozaje and Ulcinje have reported an increase in referrals by 30-50 % during the past month and the Ministry of Health has appealed for assistance from the international community. Food availability has improved following the recent arrival of 124 MT of food in Podgorica supplied by WFP.

Refugee Influx (as at 19 September 1998)

Ministry of Interior Count of New Arrivals: 37,180

Montenegrin Red Cross Registered Caseload:

Ulcinj
18,146
Rozaje
9,271
Podgorica
5,255
Plav
9,048
Berane
1,263
Bjelo Polje
1,008
Others
2,434
Total
46,425

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 travelling 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.

ALBANIA

4.1 UNHCR reports that the total Kosovo refugee caseload is approximately 18,000. A total of 4,000 have now arrived in Shkodra, the vast majority of whom are residing with host families. Some refugees are accommodated in the dormitory at Shkodra University and approximately 200 are staying in a hotel in Lezha district. WFP has transported 6.5 MT of high protein biscuits to Shkodra to meet the immediate needs of this new influx.

4.2 According to UNHCR 2,370 refugees have crossed into the Kukes region adjacent to South-West Kosovo. 700 have been registered thus far. Most remain in the area although some have moved to Tirana and other locations.

BOSNIA AND HERZOGOVINA

5.1 UNHCR reports an influx of 6,800 Kosovo refugees into Bosnia and Herzegovina since the start of the crisis, with a steady influx of approximately 200 per day into Sarajevo. Some 700 refugees were reportedly staying in poor conditions in an abandoned Coca Cola plant in the Sarajevo suburb of Hadzici and efforts are ongoing to provide better accommodation for these people.

SLOVENIA

6. 1 According to UNHCR approximately 2,000 Kosovo Albanians have taken refuge in Slovenia as of 21st September. Although the Slovenian authorities are not willing to grant the new influx refugee status, they have not deported any of the new arrivals. To date 23 ( including dependants) have applied for asylum and 75 for residence permits for humanitarian reasons.

FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA

No updated reports received.

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