"Without safe return, thousands of people will remain out in the open fields and there will be a catastrophe with winter setting in." Soren Jessen-Petersen, UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees
1.1 Immediate Measures Needed in Kosovo. Soren Jessen-Petersen, the UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees, Friday stressed that immediate measures were needed to allow the safe return to their homes of more than 230,000 people uprooted by the conflict in Kosovo. The primary responsibility remained with the Government in establishing the necessary conditions for safe return, but clearly people lacked the confidence to go home under current circumstances. Jessen-Petersen issued the statement after visiting areas engulfed in recent violence in Kosovo.
1.2 Displaced Persons Afraid to Return Home. In Kotodic, a small village in the outskirts of Pec, people displaced by the conflict told Jessen-Petersen they felt threatened without representatives of the international community in their midst. They were particularly concerned about what they saw as a pattern of attacks on villages happening on weekends and requested UNHCR to send out teams during these periods.
1.3 United Nations Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees Visits Villages Damaged by the Conflict. On 20 August, the UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees went to empty villages damaged by the conflict in Kosovo. Junik and Malisevo were heavily looted, with almost every single building damaged. These villages appeared completely deserted except for the presence of police. Prilep was heavily damaged as a result of shelling last weekend, with some buildings torn completely to the ground. In contrast, the town of Djakovica appeared lively with many people on the streets. In Orahovac, the scene of heavy shelling in mid-July, some shops had begun to reopen and a few people were out in the streets.
"We simply want to go back home. We don't need big houses, but we need safety." a villager in Kotodic
1.4 Crops Remain Unharvested Increasing Concern for Food Shortage. At Ade village, less than 10 kms outside Pristina, villagers said they had been prevented from harvesting, though they had returned to their village with the hopes of resuming normal life. In many areas throughout Kosovo, very little activity was seen, vast area of farmlands remained mostly deserted, while crops were ready to be harvested. Livestock were seen feeding on the crops.
1.5 Humanitarian Assistance Reach Western Kosovo. UNHCR yesterday escorted a multi-agency convoy which delivered relief supplies to Lower Streoc, an area just north of Decane, where many displaced persons had escaped recent armed clashes. The seven-truck convoy brought one-month worth of food parcels for 2,000 families, blankets, mattresses and hygienic kits. These items were donated by CAD, DOW, MCI, Oxfam, and UNICEF.
During the last month, UNHCR escorted two to three convoys per week, carrying supplies from various humanitarian agencies. Joint efforts of these agencies have allowed a wide coverage of many of the displaced, but the assistance requirements remain substantial. Access to various areas across police checkpoints has not been a problem so far.
1.6 UNICEF Responds to Medical Needs of Displaced Women and Children. UNICEF today escorted a mobile medical team of the Mother Theresa Society, a local NGO run by Kosovo Albanians, to several villages in Lower Streoc, where many displaced children were suffering from diarrhea and dehydration. The team composed of three doctors and a nurse delivered medicine and provided consultation.
2.1 UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees Visits IDPs. After touring Kosovo, the UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees, Soren Jessen-Petersen visited Montenegro, and met today with President Milo Djukanovic, and other senior officials. Jessen-Petersen also visited displaced persons in Dinosha, an ethnic Albanian village and in the Roma camps in Podgorica. According to the Ministry of Interior, 29,215 people have entered Montenegro from Kosovo between 25 April and 19 August 1998, in addition to the estimated 2,500 who have arrived between March and April of this year.
3. NORTHERN ALBANIA
3.1 UNHCR Estimates 14,000 Refugees in Albania. With new influx from Western Kosovo last week, the total number of registered refugees in Tropoje District has increased to approximately 7,000, according to the Government. UNHCR estimates that an additional 7,000 or so have traveled to other areas within Albania or overseas. Accommodation for refugees remains a problem, and this week, UNHCR visited Lujna in search for possible new sites.
4. FYR of MACEDONIA
4.1 Over 1,000 People From Kosovo in Need of Assistance Says a Local NGO. A local Albanian NGO, El Hilal claim they have registered more than 1,000 "visitors" from Kosovo who are in need of humanitarian assistance. Many of these people crossed the border as a tourist, but are not willing to return to Kosovo at this time. After spending several weeks in Macedonia, their resources have run out. Overall, however, the general situation in FYROM remain relatively calm and quiet, according to reports from UNHCR Skopje, UNPREDEP, ECMM and OSCE.
For information, please contact:
Fernando del Mundo / Kaoruko Seki
UNHCR Pristina Tel: 381-38-321-09
UNHCR Belgrade Tel: (381)11-344-2091