UN Inter-Agency Update on Kosovo Situation Report 65

Report
from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 30 Sep 1998
24 - 29 September 1998
This report has been compiled by UNHCR with support from OCHA and with inputs from UN Agencies and other humanitarian organisations in former Yugoslavia and Albania

KOSOVO

1. The UN Security Council has voted to demand that all parties, groups and individuals immediately cease hostilities and maintain a ceasefire in Kosovo. In its Resolution the Council said that such a ceasefire would enhance the prospects of meaningful dialogue between FRY and the Kosovo Albanian leadership. The Security Council also demanded that the FRY authorities and the Kosovo Albanian leadership take immediate steps to improve the humanitarian situation and to avert the impending humanitarian catastrophe.

2. The Resolution called on FRY to facilitate, in agreement with UNHCR and ICRC, the safe return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes and to allow free access for humanitarian organisations and supplies to Kosovo. The Resolution also called on Member States to provide adequate resources for humanitarian assistance in the region and to respond promptly and generously to the United Nations Consolidated InterAgency Appeal for Humanitarian Assistance Related to the Kosovo Crisis.

3. Several themes have emerged from public statements delivered by Mrs Ogata, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, during her recent visit to FRY and Kosovo: the situation in Kosovo is not a humanitarian problem but the consequences of a political one; negotiations to achieve a fair political settlement should begin immediately; the level of internal displacement in Kosovo was a source of grave anxiety; the violence and burning of civilian houses was deplored; commerce should be re-established so that supplies can reach the communities in need, thus avoiding continued dependence on humanitarian assistance; the police presence should be reduced to give the displaced the confidence to return home, particularly in light of the onset of winter; returnees should not be subjected to harassment; the Government's declared policy to assist the return of the displaced was welcomed.

4. Mrs Ogata stated that UNHCR's policy is to identify IDPs living in the open air and with host families; and to provide assistance in the form of food, shelter, clothing and medical help to the displaced and the returnees; she also called on the authorities to continue to facilitate humanitarian agencies' access to populations in need to enable them to carry out their work.

5. The United Nations system and international NGOs are rapidly expanding in Kosovo in order to meet increased humanitarian needs in the province. UNHCR has opened satellite offices in Pec, Mitrovica and Prizren and now has 28 staff, twice its strength one month ago. WFP has also increased its staff to more than 20 primarily with a view to improving its monitoring capacity. There are now more than 30 International NGOs in Kosovo, at least five of whom have arrived during the past month.

6. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has issued a statement dated September 1998 summarising its activities in Kosovo. In the field of protection ICRC is currently visiting 155 people in prisons in Kosovo and in other parts of FRY, 66 of whom are sentenced for offences against state security. ICRC has also received confirmation from the authorities that a further 54 people are detained. ICRC is aware of many other cases of alleged detention, reported by various sources. ICRC is also following up on 140 people who have been reported as abducted by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) or who have lost contact with their families. Efforts are being made to restore family links through the exchange of Red Cross messages.

Internal Displacement

7. During the period under review clashes between the KLA and the Serbian police occurred in the triangle defined by Suva Reka, Stimlje and Urosevac, South of Pristina, resulting in casualties on both sides. On 28th September a UNHCR assessment team in the area was told that 15,000 people from 13 villages in the Suva Reka area had been on the move since the previous day. To the North-West of Pristina, fighting between the KLA and the Serbian police in the Cicavica mountains continued to cause widespread civilian displacement, although hostilities between the two sides eased during the weekend.

8. The recent trip by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to Kosovo illustrates the extent to which displaced populations move around within the province due to a combination of insecurity and poor weather. On 25th September UNHCR staff saw an estimated 15,000 displaced in Resnik, a village situated two kilometres west of the road linking Pristina and Vucitrn. These people were fleeing serious fighting in the Cicavica Mountains. On 26th September the delegation of the High Commissioner for Refugees visited Resnik and discovered approximately 2,000 displaced. On 27th September staff from UNHCR's Pristina office visited the same village and discovered only a handful of displaced. The remaining displaced said that police had arrived with buses the previous night and transported women, children and many others to Vucitrn.

9. The most immediate response to those suffering in Resnik was provided by ICRC. On 25th September ICRC provided medical treatment for 30 wounded in Resnik and evacuated the most seriously injured. Three trucks, with 47 tonnes of food, 11,500 blankets as well as plastic sheeting were also brought to the village.

10. During the weekend of 26-27 September a Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission (KDOM) team discovered several thousand displaced 5 km South-West of Komorane in Glogovac municipality, an area believed to be under the control of the KLA. The team estimated that 1,800 people were living in the open air in urgent need of security, food and medical care.

UNHCR Estimated Displacement / Refugee Figures: (as at 29 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 Slovenia6
2,000
Non-visa guests into FYROM
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 3,000 registered in Tropoje District and an estimated 15,000 in other parts of Albania, most of whom are in the South.

5 UNHCR estimate

6 UNHCR estimate

Access

11. The ability of humanitarian organisations to gain access to populations in need remains sporadic. WFP attempted to visit Vucak (in Glogovac municipality ) following reports of 6,000 - 8,000 people living in the open air but were blocked by the Police due to fighting in the vicinity. At the outskirts of Vucak the team observed that many houses were on fire and that the village appeared deserted. On 25th September humanitarian organisations, including UNICEF and UNHCR, were turned back at Slatina 10 kilometres west of Pristina on the Pristina-Pec road. In the afternoon aid agencies saw smoke emanating from several villages in the Drenica area, through which this road passes.

Relief Distribution

12. On 24th September joint convoys delivered emergency aid for some 28,000 people in Pec and Istinic in Western Kosovo. The 12 trucks carried family food parcels, wheat flour, pasta, medicine, soap, detergent, plastic sheeting, hygienic parcels and stoves. Participating agencies include Children's Aid Direct, Doctors of the World, Mercy Corps International and the Centre for the Protection of Women and Children( a local NGO). The convoy was led by UNHCR.

13. On 26th September multi-agency convoys escorted by UNHCR and WFP delivered relief supplies to approximately 50,000 beneficiaries in Sedlare ( Kosovska Kamenica municipality), Pagarusa ( Orahovac municipality) and Guncat ( Suva Reka municipality ). The shipment consisted of family food parcels, wheat flour, plastic sheeting , blankets, mattresses and hygienic kits. Participating agencies include Children's Aid Direct, Doctors of the World, Mercy Corps International, the Centre for the Protection of Women and Children, Catholic Relief Services and Kinderberg.

14. On 29th September multi-agency convoys escorted by UNHCR and WFP delivered supplies to more than 40,000 people in Podujevo and Srbica in central Kosovo. The 13 trucks carried family food parcels, high protein biscuits, wheat flour canned fish, vegetable oi, beans, salt, marmalade, pasta, soap, hygienic parcels, clothes, jerry cans and stoves. Participating agencies included Doctors of the World, Children's Aid Direct, Mercy Corps International, Catholic Relief Services and Handicap International.

15. On 27th September UNHCR distributed two truckloads of Humanitarian Daily Rations (HDR) to some 1,000 displaced at Kula woods just outside Pristina and 384 boxes HDR to approximately 400 displaced living in Fustica village to the West of Pristina.

16. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) reports that it is continuing to distribute family hygiene kits to cover the needs of more than 60,000 beneficiaries per month. Firewood continues to be distributed at the rate of more than 1,000 cubic metres per week.

17. Since the start of the crisis in Kosovo ICRC has distributed more than 150 MT of food and non-food items to people displaced from their homes. ICRC has provided some 30 health facilities with basic supplies to help them cope with additional demands. Critical cases , such as wounded people, pregnant women with complications and other life-threatening conditions, are evacuated to Pristina.

18. Since the beginning of 1998 the Yugoslav Red Cross (YRC) has distributed 14,222 MT relief items throughout FRY. Some 2,708 MT were provided by the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC). Although IFRC's existing programmes include Kosovo, an additional 22 MT pasta and 55 ML oil have been diverted to the province to meet expanding needs.

Health

19. The expanded immunisation programme supported by UNICEF and WHO continued. On 25th September the Orahovac health team was supported in its efforts to vaccinate 121 children against DPT and Polio in Ratkovac and Danjane villages in Orahovac municipality. The programme will be expanded to include the surrounding villages during the coming week. UNICEF and WHO also plan to help the Pec health team conduct a similar vaccination campaign in Istinic village on 29th September. The successful implementation of these programmes is of critical importance to the eradication of polio in Europe.

20. On 25th September the UNICEF-assisted MTA mobile medical team consulted over 200 patients in the villages of Poluza and Pusta in the West of Orahovac. UNICEF also distributed drugs , sanitary napkins and children's clothing to beneficiaries in five different villages and three health units throughout Kosovo during the period under review.

Women and children

21. At the Community Services Task Force meeting, chaired jointly by UNICEF and UNHCR in Pristina on 24th September, the necessity of developing a co-ordinated approach to the provision of emergency relief services to women and children was discussed. A focal point group was formed comprising five organisations: Save the Children Fund, Children's Aid Direct, Kinderberg, Oxfam and UNICEF.

MONTENEGRO

22. On 27th September the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mrs Ogata, met Mr Djukanovic, the President of Montenegro, in Podgorica. At the meeting Mrs Ogata reiterated UNHCR's request that the border be re-opened to those fleeing violence in Kosovo, particularly women and children, while acknowledging the burden that any new influx might place on the coping capacity of the Republic. Mrs Ogata said that UNHCR was committed to offering increased financial support to Montenegro to help it fulfil its humanitarian responsibilities. Areas targeted for support include shelter, health, education, registration of displaced and training in protection criteria. UNHCR's capacity to respond would be enhanced through the opening of satellite offices in Ulcinj and Rozaje-Plav.

23. The three food supply agencies for Montenegro have commenced food distribution to Kosovo displaced for the month of September, 1998. WFP will provide for 18,000 displaced whilst ICRC and Mercy Corps International are responsible for the food needs of the remaining 24,700 beneficiaries.

24. UNICEF distributed clothing to some 400 children at the collective centre in Plav. The beneficiaries included both Bosnian refugees and Kosovo displaced.

ALBANIA

25. A recent UNHCR assessment in Northern Albania revealed that many of the Kosovo refugees in the area were leaving Tropoje district spontaneously and moving into the South of the country, particularly Durres, due to a combination of deteriorating security and adverse weather conditions. The majority of the estimated 3,000 refugees still in Tropoje are accommodated with host families although some 200 are hosted in transit centres. The entry point from Kosovo into Albania has not been used for several weeks as a result of aggressive surveillance by the Serbian security forces.

26. UNHCR has closed its office in Bajram Curri for security reasons but the refugee situation in Tropoje district will continue to be monitored by the satellite offices in Kukes ( adjacent to Djakovica in Kosovo ) and Shkodra. In Kukes an average of 60 Kosovo refugees per day have been arriving through Zogaje.

27. Following the closure of UNHCR's office WFP is now the only United Nations agency maintaining a presence in Tropoje district. WFP is planning to conduct an assessment of Bajram Curri to determine the feasibility of implementing a food aid distribution in the light of the deteriorating security situation and inclement weather. WFP has also distributed additional rations to refugees in Shkozet in Durres Prefecture to meet the food needs of the additional refugee influx into this area.

FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA (FYROM)

28. The FYROM Government does not recognise the existence of refugees from Kosovo in its country, merely the presence of "non-visa guests." Following the Government's request for the provision of assistance to the most vulnerable among the "non-visa guests," coordination meetings have been held between the Government, UNHCR, UNICEF, ICRC and IFRC to discuss implementation modalities.

29. As at 16th September,1998 UNHCR in Skopje had interviewed approximately 250 Kosovo Albanians seeking either visa extensions, relocation to other countries or medical assistance. Recommendations on the appropriate course of action for 17 of those families have been submitted by UNHCR to the Ministry of Interior but no reply has been received to date. The IFRC has another list of 220 Kosovo Albanians who have received first aid assistance.

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