Conflict in Macedonia Update Apr 2001

Report
from Catholic Relief Services
Published on 10 Apr 2001
Fortunately, military activity has slowed significantly in Macedonia and the 40,000 refugees and displaced persons are slowly starting to return to Tetovo to rebuild their lives. However, the Kosovo province continues to host some 8,000 refugees and it may take some time for them to safely return to Macedonia.
Catholic Relief Services staff together with Caritas Kosova is committed to assisting these refugees for as long as necessary and will continue to pursue opportunities that, while assisting those most in need, will not promote long-term displacement or ethnic division.

Catholic Relief Services' Response:

CRS Distributions
Seven-day ration kits 1,170
Three-day ration kits 981
Hygiene kits 876
Flour (to bakeries) 4,900kg
(Convert to pounds by multiplying by 2.2)
Bread Loaves 5,055
Bottles of Water 2,242
Liters of Milk 1,336
Biscuits 1,647
Tinned Fish 650
Mattresses 73
Blankets 1,136

Refugees crossing into Kosovo had a bitter journey. They came across small, sometimes snowy mountain passes on foot bringing with them the few items they could carry. Catholic Relief Services has been transporting thousands of these refugees from the brutal mountains down to Prizren, Kosovo. Once in Prizren, the refugees are placed with host families, some of whom have graciously accepted as many as 20 people. As many of these families are already struggling to make ends meet, Catholic Relief Services is providing both the refugees and the families with daily food rations and non-food household items.

These host families were refugees themselves not long ago having been forced from their homes during the last round of fighting two years ago. They remember the help that was given to them and are more than happy to help now. "Everyone spoke of the huge hospitality they received" These people were always smiling and the kids were playing. There was absolutely no complaining," said Tom Price, Catholic Relief Services Regional Communications Officer for Europe after conducting a needs assessment with some of the host families. The families are not alone in their generous aid to the refugees. "The Hotel Prizren voluntarily set itself up as the registration center [and] taxi drivers are giving refugees free rides," added Price.

Catholic Relief Services' commitment doesn't end with food and necessities' distributions. Staff in Kosovo and Macedonia are also deeply concerned with promoting peace. To demonstrate their commitment, agency staff in Macedonia has initiated the Blue Ribbons-for-Peace campaign in Skopje. "We are trying to act as a catalyst here to promote peace," said Price. "We are not presenting this as a Catholic Relief Services campaign, but as what we hope will be a mass movement for peace."

Background:

Just two years after the world watched the region around Yugoslavia's province of Kosovo deteriorate, tensions rose again. This time the neighboring country of Macedonia suffered from fighting that forced tens-of-thousands of refugees to flee to Kosovo for safety. The Macedonian government tried to pacify aggressive ethnic Albanian militants operating in the areas surrounding Tetovo, Macedonia, a predominantly Albanian town close to the border with Kosovo.

Copyright=A92001 CRS