UN Inter-Agency Update on Kosovo Situation Report 67

Report
from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 14 Oct 1998
7 October - 13 October 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. Relief operations have continued in Kosovo during the period under review albeit at a reduced level as some expatriate humanitarian personnel temporarily relocated due to the threat of NATO air strikes. Humanitarian activities have focused on the delivery of relief items, essential drugs and the provision of health care to those displaced by the conflict in Kosovo. Field assessments to determine levels of displacement have also continued. Relief activities were suspended on 12th October but should resume and expand on 14th October.

Relief Distribution

2. On 8th October a multi-agency convoy escorted by UNHCR delivered relief supplies to some 60,000 people in the Vucitrn area 25 kilometres Northwest of Pristina. The 20-truck convoy carried wheat flour, family food parcels, baby food, pasta, oil, sugar, rice, high protein biscuits, canned fish, used clothes, water containers, blankets, mattresses, soap and hygienic packets. The supplies came from UNHCR, WFP, Mercy Corps International, Catholic Relief Services, Doctors of the World, Children's Aid Direct and the International Rescue Committee.

3. On 10th October UNHCR sent a five truck convoy to Urosevac to meet the needs of some 15,000 displaced. The shipment included wheat flour, food parcels, blankets, mattresses, soap and clothes. The team also visited Jezerce, the scene of recent violence, and saw some 600 people living in destroyed houses in need of plastic sheeting and food.

Population Movements

4. Field assessments conducted by UN agencies during the period under review have indicated that movement among the displaced population in Kosovo continues to be fluid with significant return in some parts of the province being partly offset by some renewed displacement in other areas. The overall level of new displacement has reduced.

Displacement

5. A UNICEF field trip to Suka Reka on 7th October revealed that there were still large numbers of displaced in the municipality. In Nisor, Kostrce and Bresnace, three villages in the North-western Suva Reka, an estimated 8,000 displaced were still living with host families. In the South-eastern part of the municipality an estimated 10,000 displaced had sought ( and to a large extent found ) shelter in Suva Reka town and the surrounding villages.

6. A joint UNICEF / UNHCR trip to Kisna Reka valley, about 30 kilometres West of Pristina, on 10th October revealed that approximately 2,000 displaced were still living in woodlands without proper shelter or food. The displaced said that they were very concerned about the approaching winter but could not return to their village of Komorane because it had been occupied by the Police. Access to the displaced in Kisna Reka valley was becoming increasingly difficult due to poor road conditions exacerbated by the onset of winter.

Returns

7. On 8th October a UNHCR assessment team discovered that some 1,500 displaced living in the woods in the hills above Fustica village about 30 kilometres Southwest of Pristina had returned to their houses. The displaced told the team that they went back to their homes after they saw soldiers withdrawing from their village. They also said they were concerned about the health of their children due to the drop in temperature with the onset of winter weather. However, they remained concerned about security and one family had in its courtyard a trailer with plastic sheets covering mattresses and blankets, ready to move at short notice.

8. On 8th October a UNHCR mission to Rugova canyon in the Western of Pec discovered a significant reduction in the numbers of displaced in the area. UNHCR saw several families at Drelje village in Rugova who wanted help in returning to their houses in the Decane area. UNHCR was told there were 25 families, comprising about 150 people, in Rugova area and that many displaced had crossed the hills to go to either Albania or Montenegro. In September representatives from the Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission had indicated that there were some 25,000 displaced in the region.

Health

9. During the course of the field assessments mentioned in points 5 and 6 above, the UNICEF-supported mobile medical team, composed of three doctors and two nurses, provided primary health assistance to 650 patients, 75% of whom were children. Acute respiratory infections were becoming, with diarrhoeal diseases, the most serious health problem. Health workers also reported increasing symptoms of malnutrition and vitamin deficiency among the children.

10. Shortages of drugs and medical supplies are a major problem for the public health stations that are still functioning. For example, the local doctor at the state clinic in Nisor expressed extreme frustration at the lack of medicine, given that patients were unable to purchase drugs in the nearest town due to insecurity. Although Nisor's problems have been temporarily alleviated by the provision of drugs by UNICEF, it is clear that many other health clinics in Kosovo must remain desperately short of medical supplies.

UNHCR Estimated Kosovo Displacement / Refugee Figures:
(as at 13 October 1998)

Kosovo1
200,000
Montenegro2
42,000
Bosnia Herzegovina3
8,000
Albania4
20,500
Other parts of Serbia
20,000
Turkey5
2,000
Slovenia6
2,000
FYROM7
3,000
TOTAL
297,500

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

2 Aaverage based on figures provided by the Montenegrin Ministry of Interior and the Montenegrin Red Cross.

3 UNHCR estimate.

4 Figures provided by Albanian Government's Office for Refugees and endorsed by UNHCR..

5 UNHCR estimate.

6 UNHCR estimate.

7 Estimate of those whose presence is directly linked tothe conflict in Kosovo.

Liaison with Kosovo Authorities

11. On 8th October senior UNHCR officials met Mr Andjelkovic, the newly-appointed President of the Kosovo Provisional Executive Council ( KPEC), in Pristina. At the meeting Mr Andjelkovic said that the authorities hoped to open approximately 100 humanitarian distribution centres and that he hoped to cooperate closely with UNHCR to achieve this objective. In response, the UNHCR officials noted the importance of humanitarian assistance being distributed through arrangements in which beneficiaries had confidence. UNHCR also recalled the recent meeting between the High Commissioner and President Milosevic in which the importance of creating a genuinely secure environment for returnees was stressed.

MONTENEGRO

12. Reports from humanitarian agencies in Podgorica said that the atmosphere in the town was calm during the past week and that the usual crowds were in evidence on the streets. There were, however, indications that the local population was stockpiling goods despite the Government's exhortations. The Government of Montenegro assured humanitarian agencies of protection in the event of air strikes.

13. Humanitarian operations continued in Montenegro during the period under review, albeit at a reduced level as many expatriate staff left the Republic as a precautionary measure. UNHCR received 4 trucks last weekend with a cargo of blankets, mattresses and soap and ICRC accepted delivery of 3 trucks from the Bosnia and Herzegovina programme to supplement the existing fleet of the Montengrin Red Cross. The distribution of food aid continued as planned.

14. UNICEF continued to focus on the needs of displaced children from Montenegro including support for their education. At the health meeting chaired by WHO and the Institute of Public Health on 8th October, it was noted that there was still a shortage of medicines, sanitary material, baby and hygienic parcels and vaccines in the municipalities where the majority of the displaced were accommodated. Doctors of the World have received a consignment of drugs in Bar which will be transferred to UNHCR's warehouse shortly. UNICEF is also expecting an imminent delivery of vaccines.

ALBANIA

Food Aid

15. Food aid agencies in Albania have completed their October distribution to 21,500 Kosovo refugees. WFP targeted 6,500 beneficiaries and the food needs of the remaining 15,000 were met by IFRC, Mercy Corps International, Islamic Relief Services, Catholic Relief Services and the Kosovo Association, a local NGO which has recently assumed responsibility for the Tirana caseload.

16. WFP and IFRC have made the joint decision to halt operations in Tropoje district for security reasons after IFRC had food parcels looted from its warehouses in the district during the weekend of 10-11 October. There are also concerns with regard to the integrity of registration procedures.

Health

17. Since May 1998 when refugees from Kosovo first started to flow into Albania, WHO has regularly chaired health meetings in Tirana which have enabled UN agencies, NGOs and local health authorities to develop contingency plans in the health sector. This process has enabled health agencies to execute joint assessments of health care available to refugees throughout Albania. It has also facilitated the creation of a surveillance system to allow for the early detection and control of outbreaks of communicable diseases.

18. There has been a coordinated response to the delivery of health services to Kosovo refugees in Albania. WHO has delivered emergency health and surgical kits to the hospitals in Bajram Curri and Krume and General Practitioner kits to the Tropoje health centre even though the uncertain security situation has prevented WHO from establishing an office in Northern Albania. UNICEF's initial response was the immediate delivery of hygiene supplies, basic drugs, immunisation services and water and quality control. UNICEF subsequently provided supplementary food and hygiene parcels for infants through the Albanian Red Cross. UNICEF, in collaboration with its NGO partners, has also helped to rehabilitate health facilities and train health staff in the districts of Kukes and Puka.

Education

19. As requested by the Ministry of Education, UNICEF procured and delivered basic education kits in time for the beginning of the school year in October. These kits contain basic materials for more than 8,000 primary school pupils, both refugees and from vulnerable host families.

Psychosocial assistance

20. In order to increase local capacity for the provision of psychosocial assistance to refugee children who have endured particularly stressful situations, UNICEF has initiated, in collaboration with national and international NGO partners a training programme for care givers, with long term follow up activities.

Capacity-building

21. UNDP has established a project office to increase the capacity of communities and local authorities in Shkodra ( in the North ) and Durres ( on the West coast of Tirana ) to cope with the strains created by the presence of refugees from Kosovo. UNDP will help local authorities to provide basic services to both the local population and refugees by implementing programmes designed to improve water supply, sewerage and road conditions.

Family Tracing

22. The Albanian Red Cross, supported by IFRC and ICRC, has set up tracing services for many refugees from Kosovo who are separated from family members. It also responds to enquiries from family members working abroad on the welfare of relatives caught up in the hostilities.

FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA (FYROM)

23. The Macedonian Red Cross, with the support of UNHCR, is preparing to identify and register the arrivals fleeing the conflict in Kosovo who have exceeded the two month temporary stay permit for FRY citizens. They are mainly concentrated in the Western part of FYROM between the towns of Kumanovo and Struga / Ohrid. When the registration process has been completed under the supervision of UNHCR, the final list will be submitted to the Government's Ministry of Interior for extension of the two month stay permit with the status of "Humanitarian Assisted Persons," which is similar to Temporary Protection Status granted elsewhere.

24. A modest assistance programme for the most vulnerable of those registered from Kosovo will be implemented by UNHCR, UNICEF, ICRC and IFRC. The Macedonian Red Cross will distribute food, hygienic parcels, adult clothing and baby parcels provided by IFRC and ICRC will undertake tracing activities. UNICEF will handle the requirements for primary education, children's clothing, vaccinations and baby parcels. UNHCR will be responsible for administering the registration process and the provision of food when IFRC's stocks are finished. UNHCR will also facilitate access to medical care provided by the Ministry of Health. Additional needs will be addressed when they are identified.

25. WFP continues to maintain contingency stocks of 95 MT mixed food commodities in Skopje. Should beneficiaries increase to exceed 5,000 WFP is likely to establish a small office to implement a food distribution programme. Food rations will be similar to those distributed elsewhere in former Yugoslavia and will consist of basic commodities such as wheat flour, pulses and sugar.

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

26. Kosovo refugees continue to enter Bosnia and Herzegovina at an average of 40 per day bringing the total estimated caseload to 8,000. 1,500 refugees are currently accommodated in 3 different reception centres in different parts of the country. 180 are in Bosanski Petrovac, 100 in Srednje and the remainder are temporarily located in the Coca Cola plant in Hadzici suburb in Sarajevo. 3 new refugee sites are under construction to provide accommodation for up to 2,500 refugees, including those currently living in the Coca Cola plant.

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