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Kosovo: Activities of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is engaged in a wide-ranging operation to provide emergency and longer-term help for the victims of the conflicts in Kosovo. People throughout the province benefit from these programmes.
Activities include protection issues (missing persons, detainees, minority groups), assistance to the vulnerable, support for the health sector, psycho-social programmes, food aid, reconstruction of homes & schools, supporting the local Red Cross, and mine action.

National Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies from nearly 20 countries are involved, along with the International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies; there are around 100 expatriates and some 450 local staff. Movement activities are coordinated and supported by the ICRC.

Keeping People in Touch

Working for the families of the Missing

Thousands of families in all communities continue to bear the emotional scars of the conflict because they remain without news of the fate of their loved ones. As lead agency for the question of missing persons in Kosovo, the ICRC maintains a dialogue with authorities in Pristina and Belgrade, coordinates with other organisations concerned and carries out tracing in the field to try to find answers.

Through its detention activities in Serbia (see below) the ICRC has been able to trace some 1'300 of the more than 4'400 people reported as missing.

The ICRC's concern is purely humanitarian and its activities are centred on providing support to help the families cope with their burden of grief and uncertainty.

People deprived of their freedom

Since June 99 ICRC teams based in Belgrade have visited some 2,000 people arrested in Kosovo and held in detention in Serbia proper.

ICRC is the only organisation with such comprehensive access to detainees. The purpose of the visits is to intervene with the authorities, where necessary, to secure improvements in the prisoners' treatment and their psychological and material conditions of detention.

The visits also enable the prisoners to exchange Red Cross Messages (RCMs) with their families. Nearly 5,900 RCMs have been delivered to prisoners' relatives in Kosovo and some 5,000 from families have been delivered to the prisons.

Since June 99 ICRC has helped more than 400 persons to return home in safety after their release in Serbia.
ICRC also visits people detained in Kosovo by KFOR, CIVPOL and UNMIK police.

Restoring family links

When an elderly person, a child, or a sick or injured person is separated from his family, ICRC helps to reunite them. So far, more than 200 people have benefitted from family reunions and nearly 4'700 RCMs have been exchanged both internationally and internally.

Keeping People Alive and Healthy

Community-based Mine Awareness Programme (MAP)

While the number of deaths and injuries has shown a decrease during the winter, mines and unexploded bombs continue to pose a threat to life and limb. The MAP so far covers some 320 villages in areas most affected by the problem. The programme's professional staff work with adults and children, raising awareness of the dangers and teaching them how to avoid risks. They are now training local volunteers who will carry out the work on an ongoing basis in the villages.

ICRC is the lead agency for gathering data on mine/UXO incidents. It has begun research for a study on the issue, to be published later in the year.

Health matters

Many people come to the ICRC every week to seek advice on health matters including how and where to get access to medical treatment in Kosovo and abroad.

The ICRC has continued to donate supplies to the blood transfusion services in the six main hospitals of Kosovo. These include blood bags, serum for testing blood groups and laboratory kits to ensure that donated blood is safe from HIV and other infectious diseases.

There is a need for some 20'000 blood donations per year in Kosovo. The Pristina Blood Transfusion Centre and the local Red Cross are urgently seeking donors.

ICRC health department helps arrange medical family reunions, medical assessments and transportation.

Several national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies are also active in rehabilitating and managing health facilities in Kosovo:

  • Finnish RCS is managing Gnjilane/Gjilan Hospital and Health Centre as well as the Health Centre and ambulantas in Vitina/Viti.
  • Norwegian RCS is managing the Stimlje/Stime Institute for mentally handicapped and psychiatric patients, co-ordinating assistance from several other organisations.
  • Japanese RCS has renovated the State Pharmacy and several ambulantas in Decane/Decan. Their next project is to rebuild the municipal Health Centre.
  • German RCS has rehabilitated a specialized ambulanta for children and women in Pec/Peja. They are also rehabilitating the Health Centre of Strpce/Shterpce.
  • Spanish RCS has donated ambulances and are supporting patient transport in Pec/Peja, Istok/Istog and Decane/Decan.
  • Danish RCS has started a psycho-social support programme in Mitrovica and Vucitrn/Vushtrri for school children traumatised by events during the conflict.
  • Italian RCS has started to renovate the out-patient departments for women and children in Pec/Peja hospital, and is supporting an immunisation programme.
  • French RCS has started its assessment of medical structures in Gracanica.

Water is Life

In February 2000 ICRC ended its emergency programme of cleaning and disinfecting wells that had been damaged and polluted by the conflict. More than 6'000 wells were rehabilitated, providing clean, safe water to more than 100'000 people in rural areas of ten municipalities. In urban areas ICRC has supported the post-conflict recovery of various water boards.

ICRC will now concentrate on supporting Public Health Institutes, to help establish water-testing procedures and standards for domestic water consumption.

Helping People in Need

Since June 99, ICRC in coordination with other agencies has distributed 6,455 MT of food and 1'016 MT of non-food assistance.

Several Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (RCS) are active in distribution of relief supplies.

Winter Relief

Distribution is continuing of basic goods aimed at helping the most vulnerable face the cold season. By the end of January some 18'600 sets of jackets, sweaters and shoes had been delivered to 13 local Red Cross branches for distribution, along with 15'000 blankets, 9'500 mattresses and 1'500 tarpaulins. Other relief included stoves, hygienic parcels, baby kits and candles.

Soup Kitchens

German, Netherlands, Belgian and American RCS are running public kitchens in various towns, providing some 300'000 hot meals monthly. New kitchens opened in Pristina in mid-February.


Planning and assessments are underway for a new programme of seed distributions to take place this spring.

Last autumn ICRC distributed 3,350 tons of winter wheat seed and 3,000 tons of fertiliser. The programme will help 18,000 families to produce crops in the coming months.

Tractor repair

The Norwegian Red Cross has set up workshops to repair hundreds of tractors damaged during the events of last year. The workshops have also provided the opportunity for training young local people in tractor maintenance.


ICRC's main goal is to rehabilitate schools, with the aim of seeing children resume their education and providing potential community centres in case of need.

Austrian RCS in Istok/Istog, has provided 1,529 families with construction material to make up to two rooms habitable during the winter, and distributed food parcels, hygiene parcels and stoves, along with firewood. More than 100 prefabricated houses are being put up. The AusRC Youth section is working on school rehabilitation in the same area and in Prizren.

British RCS is repairing 48 schools in five regions of Kosovo: Djakovica/Gjakova, Malisevo/Malishevo, Glogovac/ Gllogoc, Orahovac/Rahovec and Suva Reka/ Suhareke; 23 are now completed. Education kits for 60,000 children and teachers as well as recreational kits to 156 schools have been provided.

Belgian RCS has completed rehabilitation of 287 houses, 1 school and 10 dispensaries in Vranic/ Vraniq. Work is continuing on 290 houses in Studencan.

Danish RCS is working in Vucitrn/Vushtrri and Mitrovica to reconstruct 1,500 houses, two schools and two clinics. 550 shelters are completed.

French RCS is working in Mitrovica and Srbica/ Skenderaj to reconstruct 800 houses in 16 villages (650 finished), 8 schools and 2 dispensaries.

German RCS is providing building materials to repair 500 houses in Pec/Peja; 97 houses in Loxha are completed. In Decani/Decan. 70% of the rehabilitation work at a school serving 800 children is complete.

Spanish RCS is repairing 25 schools in three regions, Pec/Peja, Istok/Istog, Novoberde and Llabjan.

Swiss RCS is repairing 340 houses in Decani/Decan, Pec/Peja and Istok/Istog. SwiRC is also involved in assistance programmes in the region.

United Arab Emirates RCS has rehabilitated 400 houses in Djakovica/ Gjakova, Pec/Peja & Vucitrn/ Vushtrri. Work is planned on a further 600 homes.

Strengthening the local Red Cross

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is playing a leading role in developing local Red Cross structures that have been weakened by the events of the past decade. The support includes institutional development programmes which aim to create a strong, trained volunteer base supported by a small professional team. To this end various training programmes are taking place to create a sustainable structure that will enable delivery of assistance to the most vulnerable, enhance traditional activities and introduce new programmes.

Local Red Cross activists have been taking part in the distribution of relief supplies which, as well as increasing their profile among the population, has provided a useful exercise in relief administration and logistics.

The International Federation has also established a Psycho-Social Programme, in co-operation with the local Red Cross, with five Mobile Outreach Teams visiting families in more than 25 villages across Kosovo. The 24 professional staff (including 20 local specialists) provide comfort and psychological support to people traumatized by their experiences and refer them to other needed services. Centres offering the same counselling but from a fixed site are now operating in five main towns.

The International Red Cross & Red Crescent Movement is a worldwide humanitarian network dedicated to preventing and alleviating suffering arising from war, natural and environmental calamities and social inequalities. It comprises the International Committee of the Red Cross, more than 170 recognized national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and their International Federation.