Conflict in Macedonia Update 27 Mar 2001

Report
from Catholic Relief Services
Published on 27 Mar 2001
Fighting intensified over the last several days as Macedonian forces attempted to dislodge rebel forces from the Tetovo area of Macedonia. The country is waiting to see if there will be any peace talks between the Albanian rebels and the Macedonian government.
Since Sunday 4,750 people from Macedonia have crossed the Sar Mountains - by foot - into Kosovo, a region barely recovering from their recent turmoil. In Macedonia, the total number of displaced people is close to 20,000, of which more than 13,000 are in the capital of Skopje.

Catholic Relief Services' Response:

The Agency has been active in both supporting those in need and promoting peace. Catholic Relief Services vehicles are helping to provide arriving groups transportation to Prizren, Kosovo and is helping to identify host families for the incoming refugees. As many of these host families in Kosovo are already struggling to make ends meet, Catholic Relief Services is providing the host families and the refugees with both daily food rations and non-food household items. So far the Agency has distributed 800 hygiene packs and 1,000 three-day ration packs. Seven-day food ration packs are being prepared now.

Additionally, the Agency is providing flour to bakeries in Prizren so they can bake fresh bread to complement the refugee and host family food rations. More than 2,000 loaves of bread are being prepared daily.

Catholic Relief Services is fortunate to have staff in Kosovo and Macedonia who are committed to peace and can respond to the needs of the people leaving their homes in fear. Agency staff in Macedonia have initiated a ribbons-for-peace effort in Skopje. "We are trying to act as a catalyst here to promote peace," said Tom Price, Catholic Relief Services Regional Communications Officer for Europe. "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 rise again. This time the neighboring country of Macedonia suffers from conflict and refugees are fleeing to Kosovo to avoid the fighting. For weeks the Macedonian government has been trying to pacify aggressive ethnic Albanian militants operating in the areas surrounding Tetovo, Macedonia, a predominantly Albanian town close to the border with Kosovo. The militants have also been causing problems in some of the small villages north of the Macedonian capital of Skopje.

The total number of people displaced in Macedonia is close to 20,000. Close to 13,000 are in Skopje while others have fled to the territories surrounding Macedonia. Some 4,750 people have crossed the border into Kosovo, many of whom have traveled over the hostile Sar Mountains. In Kosovo, a majority of these refugees are in the Prizren area.

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