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ICRC mission in Kosovo

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been present in Kosovo since 1992. In 1998, its presence was stepped up. On March 29, 1999, ICRC was forced to leave Kosovo for security reasons, returning on May 24.
The ICRC seeks to respond to the need of the population resulting from conflict regardless of their ethnic civilian origin.

Some twenty National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (RCS) are working and running projects on behalf of, or in partnership with, the ICRC. The Kosovo mission comprises over 100 international staff assisted by approximately 400 local employees. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is also present. The ICRC co-ordinates the activities of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in Kosovo.

I - Protection and Detention

As in other conflict situations, the ICRC seeks to establish the whereabouts of all persons reportedly detained or otherwise missing.

People deprived of their freedom

The ICRC is visiting some 1,700 persons held in Serbia proper, in order to verify their conditions of detention and enable them to remain in contact with their relatives in Kosovo. Thus, over 4,250 Red Cross Messages (RCMs) have been delivered to prisoners' relatives in Kosovo and some 3,600 were delivered to the prisons.

Since June, ICRC has helped 326 persons to come back home in safety after their release in Serbia. On a regular basis, ICRC helps ex-detainees in this manner after their release from prison.

ICRC also visits those detained by KFOR, CIVPOL and United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) police in Gnjilane/Gjilan, Mitrovica, Pec/Peja, Pristina and Prizren.

ICRC as lead agency for missing people in Kosovo

More than 3,000 persons have come to the ICRC offices to report their missing or arrested relatives. ICRC is completing a campaign of tracing by event, visiting the communities in order to gather information on the people who have disappeared in similar circumstances.

Seven ICRC Family Link Centres in the main centres of Kosovo

The ICRC staff receives those who are seeking information about missing relatives. All ICRC protection staff have been trained in providing emotional support.

Re-establishing family links

When an elderly person, a child, a sick or injured person is separated from his family, the ICRC helps to reunite them. So far, 175 people have been assisted with family reunions and 3'400 RCMs have been exchanged both internationally and internally.

II - Keeping People Healthy

Since October, 187 people received advice on health matters from the ICRC as well as access to medical services. Supplies of blood transfusion equipment were given to the six main hospitals of Kosovo (blood bags, serum for testing blood groups and laboratory kits to ensure that donated blood is not contaminated by HIV or other diseases). ICRC arranged a blood donation session among its own staff and encouraged international organisations to do the same. The local Red Cross is also participating in the recruitment of voluntary blood donors.

Several Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (RCS) are active in the health sector:

  • Finnish RCS manages Gnjilane/Gjilan Hospital and a dispensary in Vitina/Viti
  • Norwegian RCS manages the Stimlje/Shtime Institute for mentally handicapped and psychiatric patients
  • Japanese RCS in Decani/Decan area, has renovated the State Pharmacy and nine dispensaries
  • German RCS has rehabilitated a paediatric clinic in Pec/Peja and is rehabilitating the Health House of Strpce/Shterpce.
  • Central heating has been installed in Stimlje/Shtime Institute
  • Danish RCS started a psycho-social programme in Mitrovica and Vucitrn/Vushtrri for traumatised school children
  • Spanish RCS donated the first ambulance and is supporting patient transport in Pec/Peja, Istok/Istog and Decani/Decan
  • Turkish RCS provides a mobile medical team covering 36 villages, serving 6'000 people around Prizren
    Saudi RCS donated seven ambulances in October and provided 10 dispensaries with medicine

Water is Life

Since July, in rural Glogovce/Gllogoc, Srbica/Skenderaj, Klina, Lipljan/Lipjan, Stimlje/Shtime, Kosovo Polje/Fushe Kosove and Obilic/Obiliq, the ICRC has cleaned and disinfected 3'905 wells in order to improve the water supply to 75,000 people. In urban areas served by the Kosovo Water Boards, the ICRC has supported the post conflict recovery of the water board, in Zubin Potok, Pec/Peja, Orahovac/Rahovec, Urosevac/Ferizaj, Gnjilane/Gjilan, Glogovce/Gllogoc and Lipljan/Lipjan.

To ensure control of water quality, the ICRC is supporting the Institute of Public Health with the equipment and training necessary for seven major bacteriological, physical and chemical analytical laboratories in major urban centres (Pristina, Urosevac/Ferizaj, Gnjilane/Gjilan, Djakovica/Gjakova, Pec/Peja, Prizren and Mitrovica).

III - Helping People in Need

The ICRC has made regular relief distributions in Kosovo, working in co-operation with other agencies.

Since June, the ICRC has distributed 6,371 tons of food and 742 tons of non-food aid. Some 300 displaced families have also received assistance in urban Pristina. Several Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (RCS) are also active in the distribution of relief supplies.

Soup Kitchens

German, Netherlands, Belgium and American RCS are running public kitchens, providing 300'000 hot meals monthly. These soup kitchens provide five hot meals a week to a total of 13,000 beneficiaries.


The ICRC has distributed 3,350 tons of winter wheat seed and 3,000 tons of fertiliser since October. The programme will enable 18,000 families to benefit from a spring harvest.

Tractor repairs

In October, the Norwegian Red Cross set up six workshops which have repaired 340 damaged tractors and trained young local mechanics. A number of powerful tractors have been brought into Kosovo to help with ploughing.


ICRC's main goal in this field is school rehabilitation. The aim is to see children resume their education and provide potential community centres in case houses are not reconstructed in time for winter.

  • Austrian RCS in Istok/Istog, has provided 1,529 families with construction material to winterise one to two rooms and distributed 40,000 food parcels, 34,000 hygiene parcels and 950 stoves
  • British RCS is repairing 28 schools in five regions of Kosovo, Djakovica/Gjakova, Malisevo, Glogovac/Gllogoc, Orahovac/Rahovec and Suva Reka/Suhareke (15 have been completed so far). Education kits for 60,000 children and teachers, as well as recreational kits to 156 schools, have been provided
  • Belgian RCS is working in Suvareka/Suharek and Vraniq to rehabilitate 333 houses (116 completed and electricity installed in 323), the local Red Cross offices, two schools and a dispensary
  • Danish RCS is working in Vucitrn/Vushtrri and Mitrovica to reconstruct 1,500 houses and two schools. They plan to provide 300 shelter homes (231 completed)
  • French RCS is working in Mitrovica and Srbica/Skenderaj to reconstruct 738 houses in 16 villages (650 completed), eight schools and two dispensaries
  • German RCS is providing building materials to repair 500 houses in Pec/Peja and 65 houses in Lodja/Loxha (41 completed). In Decani/Decan 70% of the rehabilitation work in schools, serving 9,000 children, is completed
  • Swiss RCS is repairing 130 houses in Decani/Decan and southern Pec/Peja. 90 houses and 5 schools have been completed in Voksa/Voksh, Pobergje/Poberde, Vitomirica, Kodradic and Shtupel/Stupelj
  • Spanish RCS is repairing 25 schools in Pec/Peja, Istok/Istog, Novo Brdo/Novoberde and Labljane/Llabjan.
  • United Arab Emirates RCS has received material for 200 houses (cat. 5) for reconstruction in Djakovica/Gjakova, Pec/Peja and Vucitrn/Vushtrri (work has begun in five villages)

Mine/Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Awareness

Mines, UXOs and cluster bombs still continue to kill. However, the trend shows a clear decrease in incidents. The ICRC Community-based Mine Awareness Programme has 11 trained officers. So far, they have visited some 220 villages in the areas most affected by mines. They work with adults and children, raising awareness of mines and UXOs, teaching them what to do when in the presence of mines/UXOs and how to make their environment safer. The ICRC is the lead agency for gathering data on mine/UXO incidents. Data is collected by the ICRC and processed by the UN Mine Action Co-ordination Centre in Kosovo.

Psycho-social Support

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Psycho-Social Programme, in co-operation with the Red Cross of Kosova, has 5 Mobile Outreach Teams (MOT) visiting families in more than 25 villages across Kosovo. They provide comfort and psychological support. The Psycho-Social Centres in Djakovica/Gjakova and Pec/Peja are operating - Glogovce/Gllogoc, Podujevo, and Pristina will open on the 3rd week of December - providing the same services as the MOTs do.

Local Red Cross

An ICRC Co-operation Co-ordinator worked on specific projects and assessed how to improve a co-operation (started in September 99) with the local Red Cross structures (LRCS). An information package on the LRCS was distributed and a branch profiles information collection project launched and guidelines established for all components of the Movement to follow in their relations with the LRCS. These co-operations will be engaged through a winter programme, with the distribution of 50,000 winter clothes.