UN Inter-Agency Update on Kosovo Situation Report 72

Report
from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 26 Nov 1998
14 November - 25 November 1998
This report has been compiled by OCHA with support from UNHCR and with inputs from UN Agencies and other humanitarian organisations in former Yugoslavia and Albania

KOSOVO

UN Security Council on Kosovo

1. On 19 November the UN Security Council met to discuss the UN Secretary-General's most recent report on Kosovo. After the meeting the President of the Security Council said that Council members welcomed the recent agreements on Kosovo, which were helping to defuse the immediate crisis and create more favourable conditions for a political settlement which respects the full rights of all the people of Kosovo. He said that members of the Security Council reaffirmed their commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of FRY. However, Council members were concerned about the persisting tensions in many areas described in the report. He said the Council members called on all parties concerned to comply fully with the Security Council Resolutions, to cooperate with the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM), to honour their commitments and to provide for the security of all KVM personnel.

2. On 16 November the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1207 acting under Chapter 7 of the UN charter. The Resolution deplored the continued failure of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY). With regard to Kosovo the Resolution reiterated its "call upon the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the leaders of the Kosovo Albanian community and all others concerned to cooperate fully with the Prosecutor in the investigation of all possible violations within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal." As at 25 November the Tribunal's investigators had still not been granted entry visas by the Yugoslav authorities.

Humanitarian Assistance

3. The humanitarian community continues to provide aid to the displaced and returnee populations. Convoys escorted by UNHCR and WFP have increased to six days per week. During the past week, 120 trucks provided food and non-food assistance to 100,000 beneficiaries in 21 different locations. Humanitarian agencies providing relief supplies on these convoys include WFP, UNHCR, Catholic Relief Services, Children's Aid Direct, Doctors of the World and Mercy Corps International. Employees of the German company, Goerlitz Fleece GmbH, also donated 9,212 polartec blankets which they produced in their spare time.

4. A new challenge to the provision of humanitarian assistance during the period under review was the heavy snowfall in Kosovo on 19/20 November, which caused a significant deterioration in road conditions. Humanitarian aid continued to be delivered in the immediate aftermath of the snowfall. On 20 November WFP successfully delivered 13.5 MT of wheat flour and 1.5 MT split peas to an estimated 8,000 displaced in Banjica in Glogovac municipality using its 4x4 off-road truck fleet. During the weekend of 21-22 November eight trucks delivered aid to 34,000 displaced, returnees and host families in the municipalities of Stimlje, Lipljan and Pec.

Returns

5. Since the recall of Serbian security forces on 27 October, the displaced have been returning to their home areas. The latest UNHCR estimate indicates that some 75,000 internally displaced persons have returned to their villages in central and western Kosovo. Many of those returning to their villlages have found their houses destroyed and have been forced to stay in the houses of their more fortunate neighbours, thereby remaining displaced. The latest UNHCR estimate is that there are approximately 175,000 Kosovo Albanians displaced within Kosovo.

6. The most extensive returns have taken place in areas where the Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission (KDOM) presence is most visible. For example, between 70 to 100 percent returns have been reported in the villages of Dragobilja, Ostrozub, Banja, Dobrodeljane and Pagarusa. KDOM has either maintained an outpost or conducted regular patrols in these villages, which have a combined population of more than 10,000. The same is true of seven villages in the Suva Reka region. Since KDOM began to deploy to this area, some 13,000 of the 30,000 residents there have returned. In areas where KDOM's presence is less visible returns have been more tentative.

7. In short, uncertainty appears to be the main deterrent to returns. Where spontaneous returns have taken place, these were mainly a question of survival during the expected harsh winter months. In the villages where displaced have gone back, many have winterised just one room.

8. At the Humanitarian Issues Working Group of the Peace Implementation Council (HIWG), which took place on 20 November, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that the extremely fragile conditions for return do not allow for the promotion of the voluntary repatriation of people displaced outside the province of Kosovo at this point in time although UNHCR would assist those already wishing to return. The High Commissioner recommended that the humanitarian community should use the winter months to focus on the return of the internally displaced within Kosovo and meeting the needs of the most vulnerable among them, while planning for overall repatriation. Participating delegations agreed that it was not appropriate to promote repatriation of refugees from abroad to Kosovo at this time.

Sustainable return movements

9. In her statement at the HIWG the UN High Commissioner for Refugees outlined three crucial elements needed for the sustainable return of the displaced and refugee populations. First, safe conditions for return must be set and respected by both sides. The "reprisal killings" by government authorities and Kosovo Liberation Army members, and other violent breaches of the cease-fire must stop. While government forces have withdrawn from some areas, their presence still inhibits return in others. Incidents, such as the governmental authorities' recent detention of an entire village population only served to spur fear and renewed displacement. Able-bodied men are particularly targeted for suspected allegiance to the Kosovo Liberation Army. In this context, the rapid adoption of a genuine amnesty is crucial. Further stabilisation of the security situation is linked to compliance with the cease-fire by the Kosovo Liberation Army.

10. Second, the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission should be fully deployed in order to monitor compliance by both sides with relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. A fully deployed OSCE verification staff would also provide a sense of security to all communities where it is present.

11. Third, land mines and other unexploded devices must be urgently identified and removed. There are apparently relatively small numbers of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines as well as booby-traps in villages vacated by the police. The imminent dispatch of a special mission of the Mine Action Service to survey mine risks in the region was a welcome development.

Security

12. Local sources reported that the ceasefire held from 17-22 November although tensions remained high in the Malisevo and Decane areas, and in Podujevo where two police were killed in an apparent KLA ambush. Some elements of the KDOM engaged in intensive discussions with both senior Serbian officials and the area KLA commander in Podujevo concerning the recent kidnapping of one Serb and two ethnic Albanians, which has greatly increased tensions in the area. The Serbian detainee was subsequently released on 24 November. Such incidents are clearly not conducive to return movements.

Shelter

13. From 2-4 November United Nations agencies and NGOs conducted a joint shelter survey in Kosovo. Of the 285 villages assessed 210 had been damaged by the conflict. Nearly 40 percent of the homes were found to be habitable, requiring basic shelter materials, plastic and plywood to close windows or seal off doors. About 30 percent of the homes were damaged or destroyed and will need to be renovated next spring, if the fragile return process holds. UNHCR's is liaising with the Yugoslav authorities on the distribution of basic shelter materials such as tiles, bricks and windows which the FRY Government must provide in accordance with the provisions of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1199.

Food Aid

14. WFP, UNHCR, MCI and CRS continue to coordinate food aid activities within Kosovo. WFP is responsible for determining overall food requirements in the region, while UNHCR, MCI and CRS are responsible for moving food from secondary distribution points in Pristina, Pec and Prizren respectively. This will be facilitated by the opening of MCI and CRS offices in Pec and Prizren, as well as by the UNHCR offices in these locations.

Health

15. At the most recent health coordination meeting, chaired by WHO at the Institute of Public Health on 17 November, UNICEF gave an update on the National Programme for Immunisation. UNICEF said that the conflict in Kosovo and the resulting insecurity had significantly disrupted the normal immunisation schedule. Population movements had also caused the registration system to break down. Thus, UNICEF, WHO and medical NGOs were working with the Ministry of Health to vaccinate children under the age of two regardless of past records. UNICEF appealed to other NGOs to support the immunisation programme by providing logistical support to local vaccination teams which were having difficulty in accessing remote areas. WHO has seconded vehicles to the primary health care team from Pristina for immunisation purposes.

16. 10,000 doses of an influenza vaccine donated by WHO have been distributed by the Institute of Public Health in Pristina to primary health care institutions throughout Kosovo. Vaccination of elderly persons has started.

17. According to WHO there has been a significant increase in Hepatitis A cases during the past three months: 17 in August, 38 in September and 91 in October. This increase is attributed to water and sanitation problems within the displaced population even though Hepatitis A has always been a chronic problem in the region. WHO also warned of the vulnerability of urban areas to a measles epidemic due to overcrowding and a decrease in personal hygiene and stated that the provision of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations in the cities should be a priority. UNICEF is providing 100,000 doses of MMR to the FRY Ministry of Health.

18. WHO has developed a standardised daily reporting form for the mobile medical teams to facilitate the collection and analysis of health-related data.

The Mother Theresa Association / Medecins du Monde mobile teams provided medical services to the villages of Guncat, Blace, Ponorac, Drenovac, Potocani, Pustaselo and Petkovac in Orahovac municipality during the past week.

Water and Sanitation

19. Unclean water supplies and poor sanitation are becoming a problem for displaced returning to their homes. Returnees frequently find their wells contaminated with rubbish, animal carcasses and fuel. Some wells are reportedly booby-trapped. Humanitarian agencies working in this sector are developing a standardised form for conducting field assessments. OFDA is helping NGOs to obtain a product which can clean up petroleum in wells.

Education

20. It is estimated that more than 60,000 school-age children are not attending classes in Kosovo. It is also believed that 100 schools have been destroyed, damaged or occupied by displaced or armed forces. In those that are open to receive children classrooms are overcrowded and without teaching aids, school materials and text-books.

21. In order to verify the accuracy of these estimates UNICEF, in collaboration with Catholic Relief Services, Italian Consortium of Solidarity, InterSOS, Save the Children Fund UK, Norwegian Church Aid, CESVI, Childrens Aid Direct, Kinderburg and EU KDOM, will be conducting an assessment of school conditions in 13 municipalities in Kosovo. When the assessment is completed UNICEF will inform the Government of the 1999 planned programme including emergency school repair, distribution of educational supplies and teachers' in-service training. In the meantime UNHCR, Children's Aid Direct and UNICEF have agreed to have a joint distribution of educational supply kits for primary school children in need. Basic stationary with school bags will be distributed through school channels of both state and Albanian parallel systems.

Psychosocial Care

22. In response to the need for psychosocial support to children who have suffered stress and trauma related to the armed conflict in Kosovo, UNICEF launched a project called "Smile Keepers" in Spring 1998. Three rounds of initial workshops have been conducted to enable local care providers to assist children affected by conflict. Cooperation was established with other international NGOs in order to expand the project to many local communities and cover as many children as possible. The most recent workshop, which was held in Belgrade from 16 - 20 November was attended by 18 child welfare professionals from both Serbian and Albanian communities. 60 child care providers have been trained and 600 children have benefited since the programme was launched.

MONTENEGRO

23. As at 24 November UNHCR reports that some 30,000 displaced are receiving assistance in Montenegro. UNHCR estimates that some 10,000 -12,000 displaced from Montenegro have returned to Kosovo, although it is not known how many have stayed there. Many displaced have returned to Montenegro after assessing the condition of their houses, others have gone to Albania and others have moved to Western Europe. When the November distribution figures are available from the Montenegrin Red Cross it will be possible to have a more accurate count of the displaced still in Montenegro. The possible release of the official figures from the Ministry of Interior, which is responsible for monitoring the border, may also help to clarify the situation. It will also take a few weeks to determine the exact location of those displaced who have departed from Montenegro.

24. UNICEF has provided 12,000 doses of vaccines and distributed emergency supplies and education material to help displaced children from Kosovo who are accommodated in Montenegro. UNICEF has also supported the printing of first grade textbooks to enable seven-year-olds from Kosovo to start their education in a new environment. As a result of UNHCR / UNICEF negotiations with the Montenegrin education authorities, it is anticipated that, with external assistance, it will soon be possible for all displaced children in Montenegro to attend school.

ALBANIA

25. Security remains tight along villages on the border with Albania, where illegal traffic in arms continues. Early this month, troops detained an entire village population for 24 hours while they conducted a house-to-house search for weapons. As a result, the number of refugees returning to Kosovo is slight although a few refugee families from northern Albania have returned along Kosovo's western frontier villages.

26. Albania hosts some 20,000 refugees from Kosovo. Lawlessness and bandit attacks on aid agencies in the northern Albanian town of Bajram Curri have created a precarious security situation which has influenced the decision of refugees to return home for lack of options. UNHCR is working to relocate these refugees to safer areas within Albania, thus avoiding involuntary returns. Plans are underway to assist the relocation of the first group of 53 refugees to Velipolje, which is near Shkodra.

FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA

27. As of 10 November 1998, UNHCR had registered 616 refugees from Kosovo. 307 refugees are staying in Tetovo and 233 in Skopje. The reminder are located in Debar, Gostivar, Kumanovo and Kicevo. Half of those registered are children. 380 refugees, the majority of whom are children, will shortly be entitled to access medical services.

28. UNICEF has just completed an assessment of health and education facilities in the parts of FYROM where refugees are most likely to congregate in the event of an influx from Kosovo. The overall findings reveal that health and education services in rural areas are already under severe strain and would have great difficulty coping with additional demands.

29. In the health sector the assessment revealed a lack of medical equipment and basic drugs in many village ambulantas, a shortage of mobile health workers and a need for health education. UNICEF will provide basic health kits and essential drugs to help bolster the quality and coverage of health care, and will also work with local NGOs in an effort to promote better health behaviour at the community and household level.

30. With regard to education it was noted that many rural schools are in very poor physical shape which makes it difficult to accommodate additional students. There is a shortage of desks, chairs, blackboards and other basic supplies and equipment. Accordingly, UNICEF has agreed to provide funds for the immediate rehabilitation of 10 rural classrooms to the Ministry of Education, in addition to the distribution of teaching and learning materials.

For information, please contact:

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

David Carden (OCHA), UNHCR Belgrade
Tel: 381-11-344-2091Fax: 381-11-344-2947
E-mail: carden@unhcr.ch