Conflict in Macedonia Updated Jul 2001
Catholic Relief Services Responds
Catholic Relief Services is stepping up its assistance to the increasing number of refugees fleeing the conflict in the Balkan nation of Macedonia. The Agency has provided more than $170,000 in emergency aid to refugees entering Kosovo so far, and recently committed another $100,000 to local charities to boost their capacity to assist both refugees and the thousands of host families that have volunteered to house them. Catholic Relief Services has committed $270,000 to aid Macedonian refugees.
"We are praying that peace and stability return to this region and that more families will not be forced to flee their homes" said Rick Estridge, Zonal Director for CRS in Kosovo. "But we are fully prepared to commit more funds and expand our emergency assistance program should this increase in refugee numbers continue." With the situation in Macedonia extremely unstable, CRS/Kosovo is preparing to receive even larger numbers of refugees. The CRS warehouse in Prizren has been prepared to give temporary shelter to 500 people if necessary.
The CRS emergency response principally consists of distributing hygiene packs and infant packs to refugee families throughout Kosovo, as well as to new arrivals at border crossings. This is done in cooperation with our local partners including Caritas Kosovo. Hygiene packs include such staples as soap and washing power, and infant packs include baby food and diapers. Almost 15,000 packs have been distributed so far. At border crossings basic items like water, juice packs and biscuits are being provided to refugees as they arrive in soaring summer temperatures after often harrowing journeys.
The large numbers of refugees in Kosovo is putting increasing strain on the host families who are providing shelter. "Their generosity is incredible," said Estridge. "But these are often poor families themselves, and we are moving to make sure assistance also reaches these host families."
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, but the situation flared again in the last few weeks and violence is once again at hand.
In Macedonia, where some 40,000 people have left their homes and are scattered throughout the country, Catholic Relief Services continues to operate a $2 million country program, which includes education and microfinance projects. CRS/Macedonia is also preparing to assist displaced families within the country as the humanitarian situation worsens.
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