Italian emergency relief assistance to the Kosovo refugees

from Government of Italy
Published on 14 Jun 1999
In response to the plight of the Kosovo refugees, Italy has mounted a relief effort that is the largest ever undertaken by the Italian emergency infrastructure outside the Country. Italian public opinion, NGOs, parliamentarians have responded with enthusiasm and commitment to the crisis and are supporting the Government in providing assistance to the refugees.
In the framework of "Operazione Arcobaleno" (Operation Rainbow) in Albania, Italy has set up several refugee camps: Kukes 1 (5,000 refugees), Kukes 2 (6,000), Durres Rrashbull (2,000), Durres Shijak (1,500), Durres (600), Durres (40), Kavaje (5,000), Kavaje 2 (800), Tirana (800), Tirana (800), Tirana-Kinostudio (600), Lezha-Shengjin (1,000), Lezha-Fishta (2,200), Vlore (5,000), Shkoder (700), Sarande (700). Furthermore, a field hospital with 100 beds was set up in Durres.

Additional camps are being organised in Sarande (1,000) and Elbasan (2,000). Italy is also participating in the management of the UNHCR camps of Lac (2,600), Durres (300), Golem/Kavaje (300), Shkoder 1 and 2 (560).

Operation "Arcobaleno" also provides the logistics of emergency response: Navy ships, commercial vessels, and military aircraft have been mobilised in order to ferry supplies across the Adriatic sea. The priorities include direct assistance to the refugee camps as well as support to the Albanian Government.

Similar initiatives have been undertaken for Macedonia and Montenegro (FRY) to help them cope with the emergency.

Public emergency aid granted so far for the Operation "Arcobaleno" amounts to over 52 million US dollars. The said amount does not include the operational costs borne by the military (estimated to be around 91 million US$) and the lease of merchant shipping.

To co-ordinate the humanitarian effort, the Government has taken the following measures:

  • enhancement of the operational capabilities of the Italian Embassies in neighbouring Countries through additional technical staff for the co-ordination of the relief effort;
  • an Emergency Office was opened lat April in Pogdorica, Montenegro (FRY), to support the activity of the Italian Consulate General in Bar;
  • conveying supplies from private donors to a central depot in Pisa managed by the Government in co-operation with the United Nation Office for Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA);
  • mobilisation of Government stocks of tents, pharmaceutical supplies and food rations by the Civil Defence Agency in the numerous depots throughout Italy;
  • three ships of the Italian navy, "San Giorgio", "San Giusto" and "San Marco", are shuttling between Bari and Durres. Three daily flights of C130 cargo aircrafts and helicopters are carrying emergency goods between Brindisi and the camps, via Tirana;
  • a field hospital has been set up in Durres and a relocation centre, run by the Italian Army, in Bari. Two civilian ferries, "Scilla" and "Mario", have been leased by the Government;
  • Italy's humanitarian effort is promoted in close coordination with UN agencies (UNHCR, UNDP, UNICEF), also in view of providing financial contributions for their relief operations in the area;
  • ad hoc understandings have been made with Countries of the region to allow free transit of relief supplies to the refugees camps.

There are over 1,000 Italian civilian personnel and 2,300 soldiers operating in Albania. Italy has sent 5,600 tents, 40,000 sleeping bags, 50,000 mats, 26 camp stoves, 51 tons of sanitary materials, food and blankets, 400 buses, 30 off-road vehicles with trailer, 40 tank trucks, 1 fire brigade truck, 2 ambulances, 2 hoists, 2 military buses, 1 laboratory for explosive identification and 5 electric power generators.

The financial requirement of the mission until 30 June 1999 is estimated to be at about 75 million dollars.

"Operation Arcobaleno" is carried out in close cooperation with the Albanian authorities and supervised by a coordination unit at the Italian Embassy, headed by the Ambassador, and consisting of representatives of the various agencies involved: the Special Diplomatic Delegation, the Technical Experts Delegation, the Civil Defence Department, the Army and Police Joint Staff, the Ministry of Health. The Government Special Commissioner for institutional support to Albania, active since 1997, has been involved in the emergency operations.

Donations by private Italian citizens to "Operation Arcobaleno" and to the UNHCR amount respectively to about 61 and 12.7 million dollars. Other donations from Italian private associations for the purchase of foodstuff, medicines and clothing also total over 11 million US$.

In addition to the extraordinary effort linked to the "Operazione Arcobaleno", the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department for Development Cooperation, is disbursing another 2.7 million US$ for relief assistance. Two Italian experts as well as an official of the Civil Defence Agency are working in the Albanian Prime Minister's Office to help coordinate the logistics of international aid activities, in close touch with representatives of the UN, the World Bank, the International Red Cross, and major bilateral donors.

The Embassy in Tirana signed contracts for 1.1 million dollars with Italian NGOs for food and medical supplies aimed to assist 18,000 refugees, 10,000 of which are hosted by Albanian families and 8,000 reside in the camps. The program benefits towns in the north (Shkoder, Puke, Lezha, Mirdite), center (Berat, Elbasan, Lushnja, Kavaje, Tirana, Durres, Kruja), south (Saranda, Delvine, Vlore, Gjrokaster).

Programs are being finalised by the Embassy and UNHCR to entrust aid projects to Italian NGOs, including the drilling of a well for drinking water at the "Don Bosco" Centre in Tirana.

Also, medicines worth 2.3 million dollars are being purchased by the Italian Embassy through the World Health Organization.

Several seriously ill refugees have been evacuated and are being treated in Italian hospitals.

Italy has now conceived a programme to deal with the "Second Phase" emergency in Albania. A total of 60 million US$ is required for its implementation. Beneficiaries will be both the Kosovar refugees and the local population.

This "post-emergency" programme, which has been drafted keeping in mind the medium and long-term necessities of the refugees, can be outlined ad follows:

1) 20 million US$ for the rehabilitation of existing facilities (barracks, hotels, abandoned infrastructures), for the sheltering of up to 20,000 refugees. The project includes a one year direct health and food assistance to the refugees, the rehabilitation of social and medical services already existing in the area, restoration of the supply of water and electricity, transportation facilities, etc..

The programme has been conceived in full accordance with the emergency services of the European Commission (ECHO). Having been devised with a modular structure, the project has been submitted to other international donors.

2) 40 million US$ for the reinforcement at the national level of essential services (water, electricity, health, municipal services) whose scarcity is made even more striking by the refugee emergency.

The amount available will be so divided:

- 1.7 million US$ for emergency interventions to rehabilitate public services in some municipalities;

- 23.3 million US$, as commodity aid, to increase water and electricity production, and to improve health, municipal and environmental sanitation services. This project will help improve Albania's balance of payments and reduce the budget deficit caused by the Kosovo crisis;

- 15 million US$ for projects already under consideration in the water, electricity and municipal sectors.


The Department for Development Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already allocated 2 million dollars in emergency aid to refugees in the FYROM.

Seven trucks carrying medicines, tents, and emergency supplies, both drawn from the Pisa depot and supplied by Italian NGOs arrived in Skopje at the very beginning of the humanitarian crisis.

14 tons of Italian medical first aid supplies have been ferried to Skopje in April. A second shipment was sent to Skopje a few days later.

Food aid worth 2 million dollars has already reached the camps.

A high level mission plans to visit FYROM in the coming days to identify further relief measures.

In the near future, a programme aiming to address the refugees emergency in Macedonia will be discussed with the Government of FYROM. 6.3 million dollars have been allocated for this purpose.


The Department of Development Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already disbursed 1.7 million dollars for emergency aid.

14 tons of medical supplies have arrived in Montenegro via Dubrovnik (Croatia) and were handed over to the Montenegrin Ministry of Health. The Croatian Government has granted free transit through Croatian territory.

Food aid worth 1.5 million dollars has been drawn from the World Food Program depot in Bar and handed over to the Montenegro Government. The Department for Development Cooperation has allocated a further 2.3 million dollars for food aid that will be granted to Montenegro either directly or through the WFP.

In Podgorica, the Cooperation Department has opened, on April 11, an aid coordination Office.

Furthermore, Italy intends to allocate 3 million dollars for a new emergency programme. The main part of this amount will be utilised to assist families hosting refugees in the three above mentioned countries.

Italy has also decided to provide a contribution to IOM in order to implement a programme in Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia, in agreement with UNHCR, for registration of refugees and the issuance of identity cards.