UN Inter-Agency Update on Kosovo Situation Report 71

Report
from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 17 Nov 1998
4 November - 13 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

1. In a briefing to the Security Council on 10 November the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees noted that many displaced were returning to their homes, including some from Montenegro. However, she considered that it was unlikely that significant return of Kosovo Albanians would occur before Spring 1999 from other countries, including Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Given the fragility of the situation UNHCR was not promoting repatriation for the time being, but would provide support to those voluntarily choosing repatriation. The High Commissioner said that UNHCR was concentrating on the main humanitarian priority which is to help those without winter-proof shelter to find it as soon as possible, preferably in their own homes.

2. The High Commissioner drew a distinction between the UNHCR's humanitarian mandate and the political mandate of OSCE. However, she emphasised UNHCR's commitment to ensuring cooperation with the OSCE in Europe, and its verifiers, as well as the NATO air verification mission.

3. In a meeting with UNHCR on 10 November the Prime Minister of Kosovo's Provisional Council, Zoran Andjelkovic, gave assurances of the government's cooperation in its humanitarian activities in Kosovo. In discussions on the Government's shelter programme he said that 23 households had requested building materials in Decane.

Security

4. During the past week the general situation in Kosovo remained one of tenuous calm, although tension increased between the Police and the KLA in Malisevo, Drenica, Suva Reka and Vucitrn areas. The ceasefire was challenged several times through incidents such as an attack on mineworkers in Grabovac, a shootout between a heavily-armed KLA patrol and police resulting in five dead KLA members, and a KLA attack on the Malisevo police station. Two police reservists were kidnapped, apparently in retaliation, and their bodies subsequently found near Malisevo. The police stations in Glogovac and Srbica were also reportedly attacked.

5. KDOM reported that the KLA presence was increasing in some areas and that the KLA did not appear to be strictly observing the ceasefire. It was also reported that the police was maintaining a relatively strong presence in areas such as Malisevo and Stimlje.

Access

6. KDOM reported that freedom of access deteriorated during the week under review. On several occasions KDOM was turned back by the KLA at checkpoints near Mitrovica and Podujevo. Humanitarian agencies, on the other hand, reported no such constraints and relief convoys proceeded to their intended destinations without impediment.

7. Villagers continue to report new discoveries of mines and booby traps to UN and NGO staff, which serve as a constraint to the movement of relief workers in some areas. (See point 5, Update 70 for more details). UNHCR, in collaboration with OSCE and KDOM, conducted workshops on landmine risks during the past week, which were attended by 280 humanitiarian personnel. The Mine Action Service, which is part of the UN Department of Peace-keeping Operations in New York, is planning a mission to Kosovo in the near future.

Returns

8. The extent to which the displaced are willing return to their homes on a permanent basis is still variable. Some of the displaced have returned to their homes where they are repairing their houses and cultivating land. Others prefer to work their fields by day but return to safer refuge at night. Others, after visiting their houses, are reluctant to return permanently, particularly in areas where the KLA and the police are concentrated. However, it is clear that the last known group of displaced living under plastic sheeting in the hills of Kosovo have moved and sought shelter with friends and relatives or in their own homes.

Relief Distribution

9. UNICEF has distributed the following emergency supplies to the internally displaced and local population in central Kosovo since the beginning of November: 3 Essential Drug Kits (used by the mobile teams); 1,569 sweaters, 64 jackets; 7 boxes of socks; 252 pairs of tennis shoes; 142 pairs of jogging suits; 160 pairs of trousers; 98 pairs of jeans; 66 boxes of disposable diapers, 65 tubes of washing detergent; 240 blankets; 125 baby hygiene kits; 5 boxes of sanitary napkins.

10. On 5 November convoys delivered relief aid to some 28,000 returnees, IDPs and host families at Urosevac and Klina. The 10 trucks carried wheat flour, milk powder, sugar, vegetable oil, rice, margarine, beans, mattresses, used clothes, stoves, blankets and soap. The supplies came from UNHCR, WFP, Mercy Corps International and Children's Aid Direct.

11. On 6 November convoys delivered relief aid to 14,000 displaced, returnees and host families at Turicevac in Srbica, Ratkovac in Orahovac and Haxhaj in Pec. The supplies included wheat flour, food packages, sugar, rice, margarine, pasta, marmalade, beans, milk powder, high protein biscuit, baby food, soap, candles, jackets, plastic cans, stoves, mattresses and blankets. These items came from UNHCR, WFP, Mercy Corps International and Children's Aid Direct.

12. On 7 November convoys delivered relief aid to some 24,000 displaced, returnees and host families in Glogovac town and the nearby village of Gornje Obrinje. The 10 trucks sent wheat flour, sugar, margarine, rice, pasta, milk powder, beans, soap, candles, food packages, shelter kits, mattresses and stoves. These items came from UNHCR, WFP and Mercy Corps International.

13. On 9 November convoys delivered relief aid to some 6,000 returnees, displaced and host families in Decane, Drenovac in Orahovac and Ljubicevo in Prizren. The supplies included wheat flour, sugar, food packages, vegetable oil, margarine, rice, salt, macaroni, milkpowder, beans, baby food, hygienic napkins, used clothes, mattresses, soap, candles and blankets. The supplies came from UNHCR, WFP and Mercy Corps International.

14. On 10 November convoys supplied relief items to some 48,500 displaced in Djakovica and Pec. The 23 trucks carried wheat flour, high protein biscuits, oil, pasta, sugar, rice, salt milk powder, beans, candles, winter clothes, boots, blankets, stoves, soap and sanitary napkins. The supplies came from UNHCR, WFP, Children's Aid Direct, Doctors of the World, Catholic Relief Services and Mercy Corps International. Djakovica hosts 28,500 IDPs from nearby villages, mainly from Junik, which remains practically empty. The rest of the beneficiaries are displaced people from villages south of Pec, which were severely damaged in fighting in August and September.

15. On 11 November interagency convoys delivered relief aid for more than 32,000 displaced, returnees and host families at Gurbardh, Novo Selo and Pagarusa villages in Malisevo. The supplies came from UNHCR, WFP, Mercy Corps International and Catholic Relief Services.

16. On 12 November convoys delivered relief aid for 29,000 IDPs, returnees and host families at Baran and Djinovce both in Pec. The supplies included wheat flour, sugar, margarine, rice, salt, macaroni, beans, soap, shoes, jackets, hygienic napkins and stoves. The supplies came from UNHCR, WFP, Doctors of the World, Children's Aid Direct, Catholic Relief Services and Mercy Corps International.

17. On 13 November multi-agency convoys delivered relief aid to some 13,500 displaced, returnees and host families at Sveka and Prcevo in Klina and Bllace in Suva Reka on Friday. The supplies included wheat flour, milk powder, sugar, rice, margarine, beans, macaroni, soap, hygienic napkins, used clothes, shoes, blankets, mattresses and stoves. The items came from UNHCR, WFP, Mercy Corps International, Catholic Relief Services and Children's Aid Direct.

Agriculture

18. WFP reports that some villagers in Kosovo have managed to harvest grain but are unable to grind it because the nearest mill is either destroyed or inaccessible because of continued police presence on the roads. For example, in Glodjane villagers estimated that they would have enough flour to feed themselves for 1-2 months if they could access a flour mill.

Health

19. UNICEF / Medecins Du Monde-supported Mother Theresa Association mobile medical teams are now regularly visiting villages in Glogovac, Suva Reka, Orahovac and Malisevo municipalities on a biweekly basis. More than 1350 patients have received health assistance since the beginning of November. In one of the villages in Orahovac municipality three cases of Hepatitis A were reported, which could spread rapidly due to crowded settlements and poor hygiene conditions.

20. UNICEF met other medical NGOs to encourage them to mobilise their logistical and social mobilisation capacities in support of outreach immunisation services. Meetings will be held with directors of 10 municipality health units to discuss recommendations to enhance immunisation activities. UNICEF has organised the first immunisation day in the village of Trdevac after 6 months of disruption in Glogovac municipality.

Education

21. The Government is currently assessing the state of schools in Kosovo and will release the results by 15 November. UNICEF is also collecting information on school building conditions from both the Serbian official education department and the parallel Albanian education authority. In Guncat in Orahovac municipality, UNICEF recently visited a reopened local school which was very modest and poorly-equipped.

MONTENEGRO

22. A number of displaced in Montenegro have expressed to UNHCR their intention to return to Kosovo. Representatives of several families in Montenegro have returned to look at the condition of their houses, saying they are no longer able to afford the cost of temporary accommodation in Montenegro. Many prefer to stay in towns so that they can assess the state of their villages before making a final decision. According to UNHCR the majority of those returning to Kosovo were headed for destinations in the municipalities of Pec, Decane, Prizren and Klina.

23. The reported harassment by Serbian police of returning displaced at the Kula border crossing has acted as a disincentive to those wishing to return through this route during the period under review. On 5 November 11 returnees from Ulcinj, including 3 women, were stopped at the Savine Vode checkpoint and detained by the police in Pec. They were released the next day following the intervention of UNHCR, ICRC and KDOM. On 13 November it was reported that the checkpoint at Kula has been dismantled, which should simplify returns from Montenegro in the future.

24. ICRC has opened a new field office in Berane to meet the food and non-food needs of 12,000 displaced. The option of distributing mattresses, blankets, clothes and stoves through alternative channels to the Montenegrin Red Cross were discussed.

25. The Italian Consortium of Solidarity has raised concerns over the poor accommodation, sanitation and health conditions of the Roma displaced in Podgorica. WHO will organise a visit to the settlement to determine whether there is a risk of an epidemic outbreak.

26. UNICEF and UNHCR are having discussions with the Ministry of Education to try to ensure that all internally displaced children from Kosovo of primary school age have access to education. At present only those in the first grade, aged 6-7, are able to go to school.

27. During the past two weeks the condition of 73 houses in Plav and 48 in Rozaje was assessed. It was discovered that 44 houses needed tool kits to conduct basic repairs, whereas 33 houses needed more substantial work. UNHCR will supply tool kits through implementing partners and Swiss Disaster Relief will be reponsible for delivering material and supplying contractors for houses needing substantial winterisation.

ALBANIA

28. In a meeting with UNHCR on 5 November some of the refugees in Bajram Curri expressed a desire to return to their villages in Kosovo. The refugees have created a Committee for return which represents some 2,000 persons from the region of Junik, Decane and the surrounding villages of Djakovica. The reason why the refugees want to return is a combination of the fact that they cannot afford to pay their rent and the poor security situation which undermines the ability of international relief organisations to provide them with assistance. The refugees will be given the option to relocate to a collective centre in Burrel in a more secure location about 50km North-east of Tirana. UNHCR will approach the FRY authorities to secure the safe return of those choosing that option.

29. The food aid programmes of WFP and ICRC in Tropoje commune remain suspended due to continuing instability. WFP staff are exploring the possibility of using local NGOs staffed by Kosovo Albanians to distribute food in the future in the hope that they might be able to function more effectively in the community. A pilot project is being developed for testing in the near future.

30. According to UNHCR neither women nor children have crossed from Kosovo through any of the three main border points of Vlahni, Dobruna and Cahani into Kukes or Has districts into Northern Albania during the period 3-10 November. Any males crossing the border are perceived to be affiliated to the KLA.

31. The provision of relief assistance in Has and Kukes districts in Northern Albania continues. UNHCR continues to distribute heating and cooking stoves. Local education authorities, UNHCR and Cap Anamur have jointly distributed plastic sheeting to schools identified to be in need of immediate winterisation.

FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA

32. As at 1 November UNHCR in collaboration with the Macedonian Red Cross had registered 498 refugees from Kosovo. During August and October 1998 the Macedonian Red Cross distributed food and non-food items to 393 persons affected by the conflict in Kosovo.

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

33. On 10 November UNHCR reported the arrival of 18 Kosovo refugees in Sarajevo. The new arrivals said that they had visited their homes in Kosovo but left because their houses had been destroyed and because they did not feel safe.

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