UN Inter-Agency Update on Kosovo Situation Report 70

Report
from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 04 Nov 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

1. Although many Serbian security forces have withdrawn from Kosovo, dismantling numerous checkpoints and fortified positions, there is still a police presence in some areas, notably in the Srbica-Istok region, and to the south of Pec. During the past week humanitarian agency personnel have seen security forces in the hills near Komorane ( which overlooks the Pristina to Pec road ), Dulje ( between Stymle and Suva Reka ) and Prcevo (in Klina ).

2. During the period 26 October - 1 November the Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission (KDOM) reported: "The Serbian Police have retained control over key roads, particularly the Pristina-Suva Reka-Prizren and Pristina-Pec routes. Police mobile checkpoints have been established on major roads in some areas. The KLA are asserting their own authority to supplant that of the Serb police in areas from which the police have withdrawn. Although the KLA has not established checkpoints on major roads, it has established them on secondary roads in areas it controls in the Drenica, Podujevo and Malisevo regions."

Returns

3. Since the military withdrawal on 27 October, thousands of displaced have gone back to their villages, mainly to see the condition of their houses and to ascertain the extent of police presence near their homes. Many of the returnees to houses that were intact said they would stay and would shelter neighbours who had lost their homes. Others are repairing homes to bring back their families. In some areas, villagers were preparing to plant the winter crop of wheat. Although there were some reports of harassment and obstruction by the security forces, most returnees encountered few problems. There are, however, still some villages such as Malisevo in Orahovac municipality and to a lesser extent Junik, South-west of Decane, which remain deserted. It is also clear that there are still many displaced families remaining with host families and in towns. An interagency survey is currently underway to determine the precise number of returnees and the condition of houses. Early deployment of OSCE verifiers in rural areas will facilitate the process of return.

4. Of the 10,000 displaced estimated to be living under plastic sheeting before the 27 October military withdrawal almost all have either returned to their villages or are staying with host families. On 31 October small groups were reported to be in Pagarusa between Malisevo and Orahovac. The widely publicised group of 3,500 displaced formerly encamped on the hill above Kisna Reka, 30 kilometres west of Pristina, have all returned to their home areas.

5. Landmines and booby-traps are becoming a significant problem in Kosovo both for displaced persons returning to their homes and for humanitarian personnel. As the displaced returned to their villages this week, several people were killed by anti-personnel mines or booby-traps laid around houses, buildings and wells. Vehicle mines are also present on a number of dirt roads in the province. Seven areas have confirmed minefields and others have been reported by humanitarian personnel. The current situation will be exacerbated by the onset of winter when snow will cover traces of landmine locations. Humanitarian agencies have asked local communities to seek the KLA's assistance in removing landmines in areas which they control. Efforts are underway to train relief staff in mine awareness and first aid training courses. Discussions are also underway at the UN Mine Centre in New York to determine future courses of action.

Shelter

6. Many of those returning to their homes are in desperate need of shelter. Estimates from various sources indicate 20,000 houses have been either slightly, partially or totally damaged during eight months of fighting in Kosovo. Visual surveys indicate: 40 percent of the houses are either intact or have only minor damage (bullet holes, broken windows) and are habitable; 30 percent severely damaged (partly burned / shelled) but could be habitable if repairs are made; 30 percent totally destroyed / reduced to rubble and uninhabitable. UNHCR is distributing 3,000 emergency shelter kits (plastic sheeting, wooden poles, nails, hammers) together with NGOs during the coming week. A more systematic distribution of shelter materials will be made on completion of the interagency survey mentioned in point 3 above.

Relief Distribution

7. On 28 October UNHCR and WFP led convoys that delivered relief aid for 6,000 returnees, displaced people and host families at Kodralija in Decane, Drejle in Pec and Cadrak in Suva Reka. The supplies included wheat flour, vegetable oil, sugar, milk powder, beans, pasta, soap, sleeping bags, mattresses, clothes, blankets and stoves. These items came from UNHCR, WFP and Mercy Corps International.

8. On 29 October UNHCR escorted convoys that delivered relief aid for 30,000 IDPs and host families at Srbica and Stimlje. The 16 trucks carried wheat flour, biscuit, oil, pasta, baby parcels, milk, margarine, rice, beans, jackets, used clothes, blankets, soap, sanitary napkins and boots. The supplies came from WFP, Mercy Corps International, Children's Aid Direct and Catholic Relief Services.

9. On 30 October interagency convoys delivered relief aid to 16,000 displaced, host families and returnees at Negrovc and Kisna Reka, both in Glogovac, and Kostrce in Suva Reka. The supplies came from UNHCR, WFP, Mercy Corps International, Catholic Relief Services, Children's Aid Direct, Oxfam.

10. On 31 October convoys delivered relief aid to 28,000 displaced, returnees and host families at Istinic and Lipljan. The 12 trucks carried wheat flour, oil, sugar, margarine, pasta, milk powder, beans, mattresses, stoves, used clothes, plastic cans, candles, hygienic napkins and soap. The supplies came from UNHCR, WFP, Mercy Corps International and Catholic Relief Services.

11. On 2 November interagency convoys delivered relief supplies for 20,000 returnees, IDPs and host families at Ciflak in Orahovac, Gorna Luka at Decane and Cerez in Glogovac. The supplies included wheat flour, milk powder, sugar, oil, rice, margarine, beans, pasta, blankets, mattresses, candles, jackets, used clothes, jackets, boots, soap and plastic sheeting. These items came from UNHCR, WFP and Mercy Corps International.

12. On 3 November UNHCR escorted convoys that delivered aid supplies for 67,000 returnees, IDPs and host families in Vucitrn and Suva Reka. The supplies consisted of wheat flour, sugar, oil, rice, macaroni, beans, margarine, milk powder, food packages, blankets, mattresses, hygienic napkins, chlorine, candles, jackets, clothes and soap. The supplies came from UNHCR, WFP, Mercy Corps International, Catholic Relief Services and Children's Aid Direct.

13. The Norwegian Refugee Council has sent 12 trucks with humanitarian aid to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The cargo comprises winter clothes and hygienic items for about 30,000 refugees in collective centres in the Vojvodina area as well as displaced in Kosovo. Children's clothes, shoes and hygienic articles for infants are also been included. The trucks have now arrived in Belgrade and are being cleared for distribution. The relief items will be distributed through the Yugoslav Red Cross and Mother Theresa Association.

Food

14. From 24-30 October WFP distributed a total of 129 MT wheat flour, 2.3 MT pulses and 0.5 MT vegetable oil to an estimated 48,000 beneficiaries in Kosovo.

15. A recent FAO assessment mission to FRY concluded that the conflict in Kosovo was affecting the agricultural sector in four different ways:

a) Uncertain access to land
Although displaced were returning to their homes it was unlikely that they would be able to access land to establish a family garden until spring.

b) Collapse of local cereal production
Local cereal production has collapsed due to the destruction of wheat fields and the inability of many farmers to harvest in July 1998 for security reasons. Many people have also missed the autumn planting season which will reduce seed availability in 1999. The humanitarian impact of the decline in local production is difficult to quantify as Kosovo has traditionally imported large quantities of wheat from other parts of former Yugoslavia.

c) Shortage of farming equipment
Much farming equipment has reportedly been destroyed or looted. For example, it was reported to FAO that 4,600 tractors had been damaged.

d) Decline in Livestock
Local authorities indicated that 200,000 heads of livestock ( includes cows, horses, pigs and hens ) had been killed or stolen. The high level of free-roaming livestock could lead to the outbreak of animal disease. FAO believes that this could result in the death of a further 50,000 to 70,000 heads of livestock.

FAO will appeal to donors for essential agricultural inputs to enable those affected by the conflict to engage in basic food production activities.

Health

16. At the most recent health coordination meeting, which was chaired by WHO, on 22 October it was reported that there had been an increase in the number of medical NGOs working in Kosovo. WHO reported that IMC, IRC and Kinderberg were about to start a mobile medical service in Kosovo to complement the existing activities of MSF, MDM and UNICEF. At the meeting it emerged that many displaced suffering from tuberculosis were not receiving treatment as they were unable to access tuberculosis clinics where they were originally treated. Another problem is that children were not being vaccinated because they were not being officially registered. WHO and UNICEF are attempting to convince health professionals to vaccinate all children, regardless of their official status.

17. On 29 October, WHO donated one New Emergency Health Kit to Mother Theresa Association, a local NGO in Kosovo. According to WHO one new emergency health kit contains medical supplies to cover the basic medical needs of a population of 10,000 persons for a period of 3 months. WHO also donated 6 Surgical kits to the hospitals in Kosovo. According to WHO each surgical kit contains material to cover post-operative care of 100 patients undergoing surgery. In the field of preventive health care WHO supplied the Institute of Public Health of Pristina with 10,000 doses of influenza vaccines. Vaccination of elderly will be initiated immediately with the support of WHO.

MONTENEGRO

18. UNHCR and the Commissioner for Refugees have finalised the modalities for the re-registration of displaced from Kosovo. During the re-registration process an identification card, which will expire on 31st June, 1998, will be provided to all displaced in Montenegro, regardless of their arrival date. WFP and other food agencies have decided to defer the November food distribution until the registration exercise has been completed.

19. Although there are no concrete statistics on the number of Kosovo displaced still in Montenegro, anecdotal evidence suggests a net outflow of displaced during the period under review. UNHCR reports that although many displaced families have left Plav and Rozaje, not all have reached Kosovo. Some have been unable to cross the border due to harassment and beatings at the hands of the police. Others have sought to move from the mountains into improved accommodation in lowland areas. In Ulcinj thousands of displaced have reportedly departed for Kosovo and for Albania in an apparent attempt to gain access into Western Europe.

20. The discovery of six cases of hepatitis in Plav and Berane has alerted medical agencies to the importance of continued monitoring of the health condition of local inhabitants as well as displaced in the Plav and Rozaje area. There are fears that overcrowded conditions could lead to outbreaks of epidemics.

ALBANIA

21. UNHCR reports no cross-border movement along the main crossing points of Vlahani, Dobruna and Chani during the last three days of October. Refugees have been discouraged from returning due to the presence of landmines on the Kosovo side ( which have injured several KLA combatants trying to cross the border ) and an increase in the presence of FRY military along the border.

22. As at 31 October there are still approximately 3,000 Kosovo refugees in Northern Albania, the vast majority of whom are located in Tropoje district. Most refugees still live with host families although 300 are accommodated in 4 collective centres in Bajram Curri and 120 in two centres in Fierze rehabilitated by Swiss Disaster Relief. In Kukes the most vulnerable families have been identified and will be moved into accommodation constructed by THW, a German NGO.

Relief Distributions

23. The October food distribution was completed in the District of Has and Kukes with no incidents. 900 food parcels were distributed by the Albanian Red Cross( ARC). 124 stoves, 1,700 blankets and 300 winter jackets have also been distributed to the refugees.

Education

24. Refugee children are still unable to benefit from education as books, which the Ministry of Education agreed to provide free of charge, have still not reached the North of the country. Many schools are also without stoves and windows. UNHCR, Cap Anamour and the local Authorities are collaborating jointly to alleviate this situation through the distribution of window plastic sheeting and some stoves.

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