UN Inter-Agency Update on Kosovo Situation Report 68

Report
from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 21 Oct 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. Following the recent negotiations between Ambassador Holbrooke and President Milosevic, the FRY Government has signed two agreements designed to verify compliance by all parties with UN Security Council Resolution 1199, which calls, inter alia, for a cessation of hostilities in Kosovo. On 15th October NATO generals and the Yugoslav Army signed an agreement permitting unarmed NATO aircraft to fly over Kosovo.

2. On 16th October the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Yugoslav Foreign Minister signed an agreement authorising the OSCE to begin a verification mission in Kosovo through the deployment of 2,000 unarmed monitors from OSCE member states. The agreement states that the Kosovo Verification Mission, which will absorb the Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission (KDOM), will " travel throughout Kosovo to verify the maintenance of the cease-fire by all elements. It will investigate reports of cease-fire violations. Mission personnel will have full freedom of movement and access throughout Kosovo at all times."

3. The text of the Agreement on the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission addresses humanitarian issues as follows: " The Verification Mission will, to the extent possible, assist UNHCR, ICRC and other international organisations in facilitating the return of displaced persons to their homes, the provision of facilitative and humanitarian assistance to them by the FRY, Serbian and Kosovo authorities as well as the humanitarian organisations and NGOs. The Mission will verify the level of co-operation and support provided by the FRY and its entities to the humanitarian organisations and accredited NGOs in facilitating procedural requirements such as issuance of travel documentation, expedited customs clearance for humanitarian shipments and radio frequencies. The Mission will make such representations as it deems necessary to resolve problems it observes."

4. The Agreement on the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission also makes provision for ICRC's detention work: "The Verification Mission will maintain liaison with FRY, Serbian and, as appropriate, Kosovo authorities and with ICRC regarding ICRC access to detained persons." It is also intended that the Verification Mission, which will have an initial lifespan for one year, will provide support in areas such as elections supervision, assistance in the establishment of Kosovo institutions and police force development in Kosovo.

5. At the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 15 October representatives from both UNHCR and OSCE emphasised the importance of maintaining a coordinated approach to the Kosovo crisis in order to pave the way for a political settlement and lasting peace. Discussions are ongoing to determine in more detail the respective roles and responsibilities of UNHCR and OSCE in Kosovo.

United Nations Assessment Mission in FRY

6. In response to the request of the Security Council in the President's statement to the press, and in lieu of a personal visit, the UN Secretary-General has despatched a mission to FRY to consider how to ensure that the UN Secretariat has a first-hand capability to assess developments in FRY and to continue reporting to the Security Council on compliance with resolutions 1160 and 1199. The mission will assess present and proposed arrangements for cooperation and information-sharing among UN entities, the OSCE and other international actors present in the region. The mission will also assess the current situation in Kosovo and investigate the possibilities for expanding the UN presence in Kosovo, if so requested by Member States. The mission will take place from 17-24 October and will travel to Belgrade, Kosovo and Montenegro. The mission includes representatives from the political, peace-keeping, humanitarian and human rights components of the United Nations system.

UN Humanitarian Strategy for Kosovo

7. On 14 -15th October the UNHCR Special Envoy for former Yugoslavia chaired an Interagency Regional Strategic Planning meeting in Sarajevo. The meeting included UN agency representatives from Sarajevo, Belgrade, Zagreb, Tirana, Skopje and Geneva. The International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) was also present to represent the views of the NGOs. The participants of the meeting welcomed the recent political progress made with regard to Kosovo and, after extensive discussion, decided to revise humanitarian strategy in Kosovo as follows:

Strategy within Kosovo
to promote and assist the safe return of the displaced to their homes, or to host families where their homes are too severely damaged; to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance to all the affected population (food, blankets, mattresses, stoves etc); to provide immediate winterisation of damaged dwellings -- to a minimum of one room weatherproof; to support self-help house repairs; to ensure Serbian authorities deliver promised material assistance; to restore essential services (electricity, water and restocking/repair of health clinics); to support reactivation of education and extend winterisation assistance to damaged schools; and to support seeds programmes for spring planting.

Strategy outside Kosovo
Assistance should continue to be given to the estimated existing Kosovo Albanian caseload in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, FYROM, Montenegro and other parts of Serbia until Spring, with return taking place thereafter. If earlier return is possible resources would be shifted to Kosovo as necessary.

Population Movements

8. Humanitarian agencies have reported that the onset of winter, epitomised by the first light snow fall in Kosovo on 14th October, has obliged increasing numbers of displaced living under plastic in the hills and mountains to seek shelter, despite their continuing security-related concerns. Many of those dislocated from their homes have now sought refuge in major towns such as Podujevo, Mitrovica, Vucitrn, Urosevac and Pristina. In these towns many of the houses contain three to four times the number of their original occupants. Barns are used for shelter and tents and covered wagons can be seen in the courtyards of many homes. The Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission (KDOM) also reported increased IDP returns, particularly in the areas of Malisevo, Orahovac, Suva Reka, Djakovica and Decani, as well as in the Drenica region. However, there has also been some renewed displacement in the Malisevo area and in the area South of Komorane and Lapusnik in the wake of skirmishes between Government forces and the KLA over the weekend of 17-18 October during which 3 Serbian policemen were reportedly killed and 4 wounded.

Agriculture

9. FAO has despatched a mission to FRY to evaluate the condition of the agricultural sector in Kosovo and areas affected by the crisis in Kosovo.

The purpose of the mission is to determine the degree to which the war-affected population is able to cover its food needs until the next harvest. In the event of a shortfall FAO will identify the necessary emergency agricultural input requirements to increase family food production for the 1999 Spring and Autumn planting season. The mission will also review the activities of NGOs and other humanitarian organisations in the agricultural sector.

Relief Distribution

10. Deliveries of relief supplies have sharply increased as humanitarian agencies have returned to full strength in Kosovo and experienced improved freedom of movement in many areas. Humanitarian agencies are also determined to make as many deliveries as possible to vulnerable populations in rural areas before future access is constrained by deteriorating road conditions. From 14-20 October interagency convoys delivered both food and non-food items to meet the needs of some 135,000 beneficiaries throughout Kosovo. It is anticipated that relief convoys will continue to operate on a daily basis in the foreseeable future subject to security constraints.

11. On 14th October UNHCR and Mercy Corps International sent five trucks of relief aid for 600 IDPs living in destroyed houses at Jezerce in Urosevac and 2,000 living in the hills above Kisna Reka village in Komarane. The supplies included wheat flour, high protein biscuits, rice, oil, sugar, salt, pasta, milk powder, canned meat and fish, used clothing, shoes, blankets, jerry cans and soap.

12. On 15th October convoys delivered relief aid to some 20,000 people in Malisevo, Glogovac and Mitrovica. The 10 trucks carried wheat flour, food packages, plastic sheeting, soap, hygienic kits, blankets, stoves and used clothes. The supplies came from UNHCR, Catholic Relief Services and Mercy Corps International.

13. On 16th October joint UNHCR / WFP convoys delivered food and non-food items to an estimated 48,000 beneficiaries in the villages of Ratkovac and Skivjane in Djakovica municipality. The five trucks carried wheat flour, Humanitarian Daily Rations, blankets and mattresses.

14. On 17th October UNHCR escorted convoys to two different locations in Malisevo municipality. One 11 truck convoy took food and non-food items donated by WFP, Catholic Relief Services, Doctors of the World and Mercy Corps International to an estimated 18,000 beneficiaries in Pagarusa village. The other 8 truck convoy delivered relief aid to an estimated 13,000 beneficiaries in Crna Vrna village. Participating agencies include WFP, Doctors of the World, Mercy Corps International and Catholic Relief Services.

15. On 18th October a 4 truck convoy led by UNHCR delivered food and hygienic items provided by WFP and Mercy Corps International to 3,000 displaced in the village of Trdevac, West of Glogovac. This is the first convoy to have reached this village as it is near an area which is known to be mined. A second convoy of three trucks delivered food and hygienic items to an estimated 3,000 people in Glogjan in Pec municipality.

16. On 20th October multi-agency convoys supplied aid to an estimated 11,000 beneficiaries in Istok ( Istok municipality ) and to approximately 18,000 beneficiaries in Djinovce ( Suva Reka municipality ). The 18 truck convoys carried a variety of food and non-food items. Participating agencies included: WFP, Children's Aid Direct, Doctors of the World, Mercy Corps International and Catholic Relief Services.

17. From 14 -16 October UNICEF distributed the following emergency supplies in Kosovo: 3 Essential Drug Kits, 140 Baby Hygiene Kits, 2 boxes of baby cream, 100 pieces of baby underwear, 65 tubes of washing detergent, 8 boxes of sanitary napkins, 108 pairs of shoes, 4 boxes of socks, 150 trousers, 32 jackets, 63 jogging suits, and 120 blankets.

18. WFP has released a report summarising its food aid activities to those affected by the Kosovo crisis. WFP has distributed 244.6 MT mixed commodities to the displaced in Kosovo since June 1998 and 287 MT to new influxes in Montenegro ( as well as refugees from the break-up of former Yugoslavia ) since August 1998. The food basket comprises wheat flour, oil, pulses and high protein biscuits.

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

Kosovo1
200,000
Montenegro2
42,000
Other parts of Serbia
20,000
Bosnia Herzegovina3
8,600
Albania4
20,500
Turkey5
2,000
Slovenia6
2,000
FYROM7
3,000
TOTAL
298,100

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 to the conflict in Kosovo.

Health

19. UNICEF-supported medical teams treated 863 patients, including approximately 615 children, in the municipalities of Urosevac, Suva Reka and Malisevo. The team distributed Oral Rehydration Salt, diarrhoea leaflets and the newly published "Breastfeeding in Emergency" publication to mothers.

20. During the past week WHO went on field trips to the municipality of Glogovac (with the UNHCR convoy) and to Prizren municipality accompanied by UNICEF and Mother Theresa Health Branch. The field trips revealed a high incidence of acute diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections among children. Displaced families living in makeshift houses were also observed using water from mountain streams without taking any precautions such as boiling or chlorination. Displaced populations were also being denied access normal preventive health care such as prenatal health care and vaccination of children in state health institutions.

21. On 16th October WHO co-chaired with the Institute of Public Health of Serbia the national health coordination meeting which focused on the humanitarian assistance in Kosovo. The meeting was attended by CARE International, IOM, IRC, MSF, Yugoslav Red Cross.

MONTENEGRO

22. Although cross-border movement of Kosovo displaced remains fluid with Kosovo Albanians both entering and leaving Montenegro, there has been a higher level of return during the period under review than vice versa. On 17th October the Montenegrin Commissioner for Displaced Persons reported that 5,000 Kosovo displaced had returned to their areas of origin since the start of the talks between Ambassador Holbrooke and President Milosevic. The police in Rozaje told UNHCR that 60-70 displaced per day were currently returning to Kosovo via mountain paths. The police attributed this movement to the poor living conditions of the displaced in mountain villages. On the other hand some sources in Plav and Rozaje reported a continuing influx of displaced. On one occasion a woman and 10 children were sent back to Kosovo by the Montenegrin border police suggesting that Government pledges to treat the most vulnerable displaced in a "flexible" manner had not been communicated to the appropriate border officials. UNHCR and the Government of Montenegro are currently planning a joint re-registration programme to determine the numbers of Kosovo displaced more accurately.

23. In accordance with the interagency plan for the provision of adequate shelter to the Kosovo displaced ( See point 19, Kosovo update 66), the authorities in Plav have produced a list of 90 houses in 10 villages hosting 1,052 displaced from Kosovo. The houses included on the list will be assessed by UNHCR, Swiss Disaster Relief, World Vision and the Danish Refugee Council to determine whether the displaced families still intend to remain in situ in light of the recent political discussions in Kosovo. The authorities in Ulcinj and Rozaje will submit a similar list in due course.

24. UNICEF provided the Institute of Public Health of Montenegro with 12,000 doses of vaccines to meet the most urgent needs for the immunisation of children from Kosovo. On 19th October, UNICEF started distribution of education and emergency supplies for internally displaced children in Montenegro.

25. UNICEF has started a project entitled Education for Development-Teachers and Parents in Action. The purpose of the project is to provide funds to the Ministry of Education for the training of pre-school teachers.

ALBANIA

26. UNHCR's office in Kukes in North-east Albania reports that approximately 100 Kosovars crossed into Albania through Zogaj ( opposite Dakovica ) during the past week. There was little evidence of any refugees returning into Kosovo and many of those interviewed expressed a reluctance to return to their destroyed houses during the Winter. The slowdown in the refugee influx into Albania during the past week is attributable to fears of an increased prevalence of landmines at the border as well as an improvement in security conditions in Kosovo. During the past week five refugees were reportedly killed and three wounded in separate mine-related incidents at the border near Kukes.

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
E-mail: carden@unhcr.ch