Albania + 3 more

Crisis in the Balkans - ICRC/IFRC Situation Report No. 62

Situation Report
Originally published
This report is published as a general update on Red Cross/Red Crescent activities in response to the Balkans crisis, primarily for the Movement's components and supporters. This text is also found on the Internet at and


The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement's Integrated Appeal and Operations for the Crisis in the Balkans ended on 31 December 1999. This is therefore the last Red Cross & Red Crescent Information bulletin on these operations. A consolidated final report on the operation will be issued in May with an overview of the financial income and expenditure drawn from the International Federation and ICRC's separately audited accounts. The operations described in this report are continuing, and details of the ICRC's and International Federation's separate but complementary operations for this year in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Albania and FYR of Macedonia can be found in their respective Appeal documents for 2000.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement would like to take this opportunity to thank all those individuals, organisations and governments who contributed to its humanitarian work in response to the Balkans Crisis.

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

People in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia are facing the harsh Balkan winter with contin-ued international isolation, an economically deteriorating environment, a lack of functioning public utilities, food and power shortages and high unemployment rates. The number of socially vulnerable people rise by the month. They not only include over half a million refugees and nearly a quarter of a million internally displaced people, but increasingly the ordinary Serbian citizen, who is in need of assistance from the humanitarian sector. Lengthy queues for milk, sugar, cooking oil and other basic commodities are a daily ritual, and those fortunate to have a job are finding that they sometimes have to wait months to get paid. At the end of 1999, the GDP was over 30% lower than the previous year, with the unemployment rate at 32% (OCHA). OCHA estimate (in their shopping basket of food and non-food items) a 7.7% increase in state controlled items and a 10% increase in grey market items from the period 26 November to 29 December. OCHA also placed the overall inflation rate for November at 11% and for 1999 as a whole at 135%. A significant difference between Serbian and Montenegrin salaries was noted. In Serbia the November average salary was 1,580 Dinars (79 DEM), which represents a decrease in real terms. In Montenegro, the average salary was 2,615 Dinars (130 DEM), which almost kept up with increases in retail costs and the real exchange rate. Pension comparisons demonstrated similar trends, with the latest pension paid in Monte-negro averaging 2,348 Dinars (117 DEM) compared to 1,332 Dinars (66 DEM) in Serbia (OCHA).

The Yugoslav Red Cross' (YRC) branch network provides the only existing operational capacity for the large scale nationwide distribution of humanitarian assistance, comprising 181 municipal branches and 11 regional distribution centres in the Federal Republic. Over the past six months the needs have increased dramatically to include 200,000 internally displaced people, predominantly from Kosovo and a sharp rise in socially vulnerable people throughout the region. This, added to half a million refugees from Bosnia Herzegovina and Croatia, has resulted in the YRC providing assistance to over one million beneficiaries per month. Indeed, the scale of programmes has steadily risen from approximately 3,000 metric tonnes to over 20,000 metric tonnes of food and non-food items on a monthly basis, which represents a near seven-fold increase in the second half of 1999. Consequently a Joint Red Cross Plan of Action has been prepared, aiming at strengthening the capacity of the YRC's distribution system. Special attention has been given to the YRC's Logistics Cell. A Joint Task Force, with International Federation and ICRC representation has been established and monitoring activities are also currently being intensified by extending the logistics systems and the capacity of field monitoring teams, in which each of the five field based teams will be headed by an international delegate.

Internally Displaced Persons: This programme consists of providing an individual food parcel (10 kg) of wheat flour to each beneficiary on a monthly basis and a family hygiene parcel per family every second month. During December, over 2,000 metric tonnes of food and more than 250 metric tonnes of non-food items were distributed to 221,253 IDPs in Serbia and 29,502 in Montenegro. A further 1,600 metric tonnes of food and 45 metric tonnes of non-food items need to be delivered to complete the monthly programme commitment. In addition, 785 of 1,285 baby parcels were delivered to IDP babies of up to two years old. During the same period, over 200 metric tonnes of milk powder was distributed, completing the November/ December supply of 1 kg of milk power per IDP.

Refugees: In the Federal Republic there are over half a million refugees from Bosnia Herzegovina and Croatia, many of whom are extremely vulnerable, being reliant on humanitarian assistance. Since May 1999, the Red Cross Red Crescent, with ECHO funding, has distributed a total of 3,000 metric tonnes of beans, oil and sugar for 125,000 refugees. In December alone, 151.4 metric tonnes of beans and 319.4 metric tonnes of sugar arrived in Serbia, with the three commodities (to include oil already in warehouses) being distributed to beneficiaries through the YRC. Due to high numbers of vulnerable refugees, preparations were underway to increase the beneficiary numbers from 125,000 to up to 360,000 refugees. Additional food items for the expanded programme started arriving during December, to include 335,684 tins of canned meat (184.6 metric tonnes), 86.84 metric tonnes of yeast and 216.22 metric tonnes of milk powder. The canned meat and yeast were purchased in the Federal Republic and are being dispatched directly to the Red Cross' regional warehouses across the region. Since January 1999, the Red Cross Red Crescent, with ECHO funding, has also provided over 800,000 hygiene parcels for 225,000 refugee beneficiaries, and in December alone 85,504 parcels arrived in Belgrade for distribution through the extensive YRC branch network.

Winterization: Up to 240,000 of the most vulnerable IDPs and social cases are to receive a set consisting of one winter jacket, a sweater and a pair of boots. All requested quantities of winter sets have reached the regional warehouses, except sets allocated to the Kragujevac and Belgrade areas due to blockage of above mentioned warehouses. Furthermore, 10,000 stoves are being distributed to the beneficiaries from the same target population, which have been chosen in cooperation with the YRC. Out of this number, 300 stoves will be sent to Novi Sad region, which will complete the distribution.

In addition, over 82,000 refugee children under the age of 14 years old will also shortly be receiving British Red Cross funded winter jackets and shoes. Some 30,000 ECHO/ Norwegian Red Cross funded sets of underwear for refugees over 65 years old, living in private accommodation, are also scheduled for delivery in the Federal Republic.

Soup kitchens: This programme, aimed at reaching up to 100,000 socially vulnerable people in Serbia, continues to improve. During November, a record was set with some 1,200,000 meals being prepared and distributed to beneficiaries, with 90 cooking places and 250 distribution points established by the end of December. The following Participating National Societies (PNS) are successfully managing the soup kitchen programme: German Red Cross in Nis, Italian Red Cross in Belgrade East, Belgian Red Cross in Belgrade West, Danish Red Cross in Kraljevo and Canadian Red Cross in Novi Sad.

Disaster Preparedness
During December heavy rain resulted in the Vojvodina region being flooded. Many people had to be evacuated from their homes in the worst affected areas. The YRC branches immediately reacted by delivering emergency relief to the flood victims. The floods highlight the need for further disaster preparedness programmes. It is predicted that three destroyed bridges in the Novi Sad region of the Danube river could result in flooding during the late winter/early spring period. It is feared that up to 500,000 people could be affected. Accordingly appropriate emergency equipment and items are being transferred from neighbouring countries into a newly rented warehouse and a full assessment was being prepared during December, under the YRC's disaster preparedness programme, supported by the International Federation.

Water/habitat and medical/health
Phase II of the reconstruction works at the Muscular Dystrophy Institute in Novi Pazar was successfully completed and checked. A partial reconstruction of the water treatment station in Blace was started, but work was slowed down at the end of the month due to bad weather conditions. In December, distributions of various medical material was made to three hospitals and four health posts in Serbia. The humanitarian pharmacies programme, which is managed by the Japanese Red Cross, provided 12 humanitarian pharmacies in Serbia with drugs for chronic diseases.

The International Federation and YRC launched a dynamic anti-AIDS campaign on 1 December, including press conferences, talk shows and psychological workshops. Bill boards, television spots and radio clips reiterated the messages and the distribution of posters, leaflets, brochures, calendars, condoms and condom machines was ongoing throughout the month.

Social Welfare Programme
To date 117 YRC branches have some type of social welfare function. New project initiatives during December included: the Subotica Brandt cancer support group and the Zvezdara Branch's daily art classes for handicapped children with interactions from able bodied children. Over the Christmas and New Year period, many programmes for children living in collective centres and Red Cross youth clubs were initiated. Activities included workshops for children, drawing and writing Christmas cards and decorating premises.

YRC Institutional development
Several meetings took place in December including a regional Red Cross strategy meeting in Budapest to discuss institutional development and a regional youth conference. At the latter meeting, it was agreed that more YRC youth leaders will be trained during 2000 and further youth policies will be developed. The YRC's Federal and Executive Board also adopted the 2000/2001 planning document on 23 December. The implementation of 17 Swedish Red Cross funded branch income generating programmes (IGPs) occurred during December. This brings the total number of operating IGPs in FRY to 99, enabling recipient YRC branches to become more autonomous and run additional programmes for their beneficiaries. The IGP committee also selected a further 19 branch projects to be funded during early 2000.

To date some 8,000 Red Cross Messages (RCM) have been exchanged between civilians in Kosovo and Serbia proper. In December alone, 208 RCMs were collected and 171 distributed. In addition, the ICRC facilitated family contact for detained persons in Serbia, by delivering some 1,300 RCMs to the detainees and collecting almost 3,000 RCMs from the recipients. The ICRC also carried out 42 family reunions in December. During the same month, it assisted 26 released detainees in their return home by transporting them to their places of origin in Kosovo. Dissemination activities with the YRC were resumed with the implementation of one dissemination seminar organised for 24 school teachers, who are actively engaged in disseminating Red Cross Red Crescent principles to elementary school children.

External Relations, Information and Publicity
A video produced by the ICRC on the joint Red Cross Red Crescent response in Serbia was distributed to embassies and international organisations based in Belgrade and a video on ECHO funded food and hygiene programmes for refugees was also produced during the month by the International Federation. With ECHO funding, 10,000 popular table calendars, promoting tolerance and human values and annual agendas, were also distributed during December. Additional contemporary annual promotional materials such as calendars, pad books and guidebooks, with strong Red Cross Red Crescent messages, were produced and distributed in the period under review. The YRC gained extensive media coverage regarding the situation of the local population and Red Cross programmes during the month. An inter-view by the ICRC was given to a local newspaper with wide circulation on humanitarian assis-tance and protection issues and the International Federation gave interviews to the Svenska Dagbladet, BETA and Tanjunk news agencies regarding refugee programmes and the general situation for vulnerable people. Journalists from the Svenska Dagbladet, Netherlands Press Association and BETA news agency were also taken on field trips to refugee collective centres and distribution points.


During December UNMIK continued to struggle against the odds for a multi-ethnic society in Kosovo. On 10 December, a Human Rights Conference was held, which served as a forum for discussion between representatives of different communities. However, threats and violence against non-Kosovo Albanians continued. Lawlessness also affected the Kosovo Albanian community, with many cases of criminality, including the abduction of women, reported. A peaceful demonstration was held in Pristina, which called for improved security measures. Consequently the UNMIK Police and KFOR increased their checkpoints and flying patrols in towns. For minorities, insecurity was also compounded by problems of access to public services, such as health and education.

In Mitrovica, the situation remained stable but tense. The division between the Serb North and the Albanian South increased, as demonstrated by joint facilities, such as the hospital, being abandoned to one or other community, while demonstrations on both sides of the bridge continued. The cold weather, fog and snowy conditions made life especially tough for those living in tents and make-shift accommodation, with KFOR closing some road routes for several days, making it difficult to get access to some people in need. The erratic behaviour of Kosovo power plants frequently left people without electricity or water during the month. In addition, with the inability of many farmers to plant/harvest their crops in 1999, most food supplies into Kosovo were imported and, combined with extra demands from international workers, resulted in the cost of living steadily increasing during the latter half of 1999.

Since June 6,371 metric tonnes of food and 742 metric tonnes of non-food items have been distributed, in cooperation with other humanitarian organisations, to people in need. In addition, some 300 displaced families have received assistance in urban Pristina. Several Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have also been active in distributing relief in various areas of Kosovo. The German, Netherlands, Belgium and American Red Cross Societies are running public kitchens, providing 300,000 hot meals monthly to vulnerable people. These soup kitchens provide five hot meals a week to a total of 13,000 beneficiaries.

Local Red Cross in Kosovo
During the last week in December the Movement winterization programme commenced, whereby 15 Red Cross branches were involved in the distribution of blankets, mattresses, tarpaulins, clothes, shoes and sleeping bags. The recent Movement relief training workshop, which focused on beneficiary selection and distribution management for branch personnel, was followed-up by on-site training at the branch level and the establishment of a committee, which randomly visited beneficiaries selected by the branches to assess screening capacities and accountability. On 1 December the Red Cross of Kosova held a conference on AIDS in Pristina, which was attended by community members and international organisations. A booklet on HIV/AIDS was up-dated and republished. Posters and brochures were also developed and distributed.

During the month under review the branch support programme included work to repair or rebuild seven Red Cross warehouses and two offices in Kosovo, of which the renovation of a 200 square metre office/warehouse in Glogovac was completed in time for the start of the winterization programme. Preparations were also being made for the renovation of the Red Cross of Kosova's headquarters buildings in Pristina. Also under the branch support programme, financial assistance and salaries were distributed during December to branch and headquarters members. In addition, British Red Cross funded computer equipment began arriving in Pristina, which will be distributed to branches. Computer training and English language courses were also ongoing. A meeting was held in December between the Kosovo Red Cross, YRC and other Movement representatives to improve communication systems and exchange information. All components of the Red Cross Movement operating in Kosovo also received an information package on the local Red Cross structures and a branch profile information collection project was launched.

In addition to the October distribution of 3,350 metric tonnes of winter wheat seed and 3,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser for 18,000 families, during December the Norwegian Red Cross repaired 340 damaged tractors and trained young local mechanics.

A particular focus is being given to the rehabilitation of schools, with the aim of getting as many children back to a normal school environment as possible. Schools are also used as community centres in many villages and are especially vital when village houses have not been reconstructed. The following Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies are assisting with the massive post-conflict reconstruction work in homes and schools:

Austria: In Istok/Istog, the Society has provided 1,529 families with construction material to winterise one to two rooms and distributed 40,000 food parcels, 34,000 hygiene parcels and 950 stoves.

Britain: The Society is repairing 28 schools in five regions of Kosovo, Djakovica/Gjakova, Malisevo, Glogovac/Gllogoc, Orahovac/Rahovec and Suva Reka/Suhareke, with 15 completed so far. Education kits for 60,000 children and teachers, as well as recreational kits to 156 schools, have been provided.

Belgium: The Society is working in Suvareka/Suharek and Vraniq to rehabilitate 333 houses (116 completed and electricity installed in 323), the local Red Cross offices, two schools and a dispensary.

Denmark: The Society is working in Vucitrn/Vushtrri and Mitrovica to reconstruct 1,500 houses and two schools. Some 300 shelter homes are also planned with 231 completed.

France: The Society is working in Mitrovica and Srbica/Skenderaj to reconstruct 738 houses in 16 villages (650 completed), eight schools and two dispensaries.

Germany: The Society is providing building materials to repair 500 houses in Pec/Peja and 65 houses in Lodja/Loxha (41 completed). In Decani/Decan, 70 per cent of the rehabilitation work in schools, serving 9,000 children, is completed.

Switzerland: The Society is repairing 130 houses in Decani/Decan and southern Pec/Peja. 90 houses and five schools have been completed in Voksa/Voksh, Pobergje/Poberde, Vitomirica, Kodradic and Shtupel/Stupelj.

Spain: The Society is repairing 25 schools in Pec/Peja, Istok/Istog, Novo Brdo/Novoberde and Labljane/Llabjan.

United Arab Emirates: The Society has received materials for 200 houses to be reconstructed in Djakovica/Gjakova, Pec/Peja and Vucitrn/Vushtrri; work has begun in five villages.

In December, 39 people received advice on health matters from the Red Cross as well as access to medical services. Supplies of blood transfusion equipment were also provided to the six main hospitals of Kosovo (blood bags, serum for testing blood groups and laboratory kits to ensure that donated blood is not contaminated by HIV or other diseases).

The local Red Cross is also participating in the recruitment of voluntary blood donors, with the following Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies being active in the health sector:

  • The Danish Red Cross has started a psycho-social programme in Mitrovica and Vucitrn/Vushtrri for traumatised school children.
  • The Finnish Red Cross manages the Gnjilane/Gjilan hospital and a dispensary in Vitina/Viti.
  • The German Red Cross has rehabilitated a paediatric clinic in Pec/Peja and is rehabilitating the health house of Strpce/Shterpce; central heating has been installed in Stimlje/Shtime Institute.
  • The Japanese Red Cross in Decani/Decan area, has renovated the state pharmacy and nine dispensaries.
  • The Norwegian Red Cross manages the Stimlje/Shtime institute for mentally disabled and psychiatric patients.
  • The Saudi Red Crescent donated seven ambulances in October and provided 10 dispensaries with medicine.
  • The Spanish Red Cross donated the first ambulance and is supporting patient transport in Pec/Peja, Istok/Istog and Decani/Decan.
  • The Turkish Red Crescent provides a mobile medical team covering 36 villages, serving 6,000 people around Prizren.
Psycho-Social Support
In December alone, over 1,000 beneficiaries were given psycho-social support by Federation or local Red Cross psycho-social staff in the Psycho-Social Programme (PSP) Red Cross Centres and Mobile Outreach Teams (MOTs), which are located in the five most adversely affected areas of Kosovo. The programme works hand-in-hand with local Red Cross branches to give the psychologically vulnerable urgently needed support. Programme beneficiaries are of all ages, with an almost fifty-fifty gender split. Among the most psychologically vulnerable are those people who have lost family members in the conflict and/or witnessed massacres and recently released detainees. Festive parties were held in the Pec/Peja and Gjakova/Djakovica PSP Centres for traumatised children and the MOTs in Pristina and Glogovac/Gllogoc delivered gifts to 85 children living in remote villages. Special Red Cross activities were held for Roma children living in a Leposavic collective centre and for people living in the Kosovo Polje collective centres. Gifts were distributed to several hundred orphaned beneficiaries by Red Cross of Kosova branches.

In order to improve the clean water supply in various rural areas of Kosovo, the ICRC has cleaned and disinfected some 4,500 wells between June and December 1999. Support was also given to a number of Kosovo Water Boards in urban areas. Furthermore, the Institute of Public Health received the equipment and training necessary for seven major bacteriological, physical and chemical analytical laboratories in major urban centres - Pristina, Urosevac/Ferizaj, Gnjilane/Gjilan, Djakovica/Gjakova, Pec/Peja, Prizren and Mitrovica.

Protection and Detention
As in other conflict situations, the ICRC seeks to establish the whereabouts of all persons reportedly detained or otherwise missing. Some 1,570 persons held in Serbia proper are currently being visited, in order to verify their conditions of detention and enable them to remain in contact with their relatives in Kosovo. The ICRC is also visiting those detained by KFOR, CIVPOL and United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) police in Gnjilane/Gjilan, Mitrovica, Pec/Peja, Pristina and Prizren. During December 192 persons visited the Red Cross offices, reporting their missing or arrested relatives, 15 people were assisted in their return home to Kosovo after their release in Serbia, 3,283 RCMs were exchanged and 46 people were assisted with family reunions.

Mine/Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Awareness
During December alone, 54 villages badly affected by mines and UXO were visited by members of the community-based mine awareness programme. The teams, consisting of 11 awareness officers, worked with adults and children, raising awareness of mines and UXOs, teaching people from the village what to do when in the presence of mines/UXOs and how to make their environment safer.

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

The Macedonian Red Cross, supported by the International Federation delegation in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), has continued its operations, distributing relief items to refugees from Kosovo and southern Serbia who are living with host families throughout the country. At the end of 1999, it was estimated that around 12,000 refugees remained in FYROM. The established social case programme, reaching approximately 72,000 families, has continued, with a combined November and December distribution taking place in the reporting period. As of December, all temporary collective centres for refugees were closed and previous occupants moved to more permanent accommodation, operated partially by the Macedonian Red Cross.

During the reporting period, Macedonian Red Cross branches distributed relief aid items to 10,411 refugees residing in apartments or with host families, 2,000 host families and 72,000 social case families. Operations were implemented as in the previous months except that a double distribution to social cases, refugees and host families, took place in December. Some of the new collective centres were also provided with food/hygiene supplies by the Macedonian Red Cross.

In terms of incoming goods and warehousing, the volume of goods being handled by the logistics department has gradually decreased. In the purchasing department, several large orders of goods were completed on behalf of the International Federation sub-delegation in Kosovo. Macedonian Red Cross logistics staff and International Federation logistics delegates attended a logistics workshop in Tirana.

The ICRC tracing office in Macedonia reports that no family reunions took place in December. There were 80 RCMs received for distribution and 87 distributed; 44 RCMs were returned to sender. The tracing office received 263 visitors and 289 telephone calls.

Macedonian Red Cross
The information centre of the Macedonian Red Cross proceeded with its work as scheduled during December. Activities concerning the New Year and Christmas were realised, including the provision of small presents for children and additional help for mentally disabled people. Information leaflets regarding the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement were distributed at local Red Cross branches, aimed at young people. In addition, a distribution of leaflets, as part of the campaign for helping the elderly people, got underway during December. In early December, the Macedonian Red Cross (MRC) youth department organised two seminars where young people were educated about human values.

Participating National Societies
American Red Cross: The Society has been running a health programme and a social case activity, through which around 50,000 people in south-west Macedonia receive food assistance. Over the review period, the Society also provided institutional development assistance to the Macedonian Red Cross and sponsored a full-day workshop for branch warehouse managers. In December the American Red Cross (ARC) health delegate completed a 30 city health survey of maternal nutrition in conjunction with the MRC and its results are expected to determine what role nutrition habits play in the infant mortality rate in Macedonia. The ARC provides partial administrative costs and support for a food distribution programme in 17 remote villages in the north-west of the country. Beneficiaries received bulk food in December to restore winter stocks depleted when residents hosted refugees from Kosovo. The programme is run in conjunction with the MRC.

Finnish Red Cross: The Society's office in Skopje remains a support base for the Finnish Red Cross (FRC) projects in Kosovo in terms of medical equipment supply and bank services. It has also served as a transit centre for incoming and outgoing FRC delegates. The electricity equipment provided and handled by the FRC for the refugee camp of Stenkovec 2 has now been transferred to some of the hospitals in Kosovo.

French Red Cross: During December, in conjunction with the ICRC, the French Red Cross donated 80,000 food parcels to the MRC/International Federation social case programme for use in some areas where there are gaps. All local Red Cross branches were given small stocks of these parcels.

German Red Cross: During December, the Society provided support for 6,500 social case families from the cities of Radovish, Sveti Nikole and Kumanovo and assisted in running the collective centre of Dare Bombol, where Roma refugees have been accommodated, and supported the collective centre in Gazi Baba. One kitchen was opened in Chair, Skopje, to provide warm meals daily for around 150 people. A German Red Cross (GRC) emergency response