Freezing temperatures permeating Kosovo serve as a constant reminder that winter has set in. Winter weather is likely to prove a challenge to the already clogged arteries of the Kosovo infrastructure system. Borders which are difficult to pass in good weather will turn treacherous, and delays in shipping time of much needed supplies and relief items is likely. Catholic Relief Services is prepared for the challenges ahead and has been adding to their stock of food as a preventive measure in the case of delays.
The agency continues to distribute food and non -food items in south Kosovo. Agency staff in Kosovo explain that, "A normal day at the CRS warehouse in Prizren sees about 280 tons of food going out to needy Serb and Albanian communities. As the lead United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees non-food distributor CRS gives away blankets, winter clothes, and stoves."
Having reached more than 300,000 people in the last year, Catholic Relief Services is the lead agency for food, non-food and education assistance. Catholic Relief Services continues to assist people in the following communities and towns: Dragash, Malisheva, Prizren, Rahovec, Shterpce, Shtimlje, and Suvareka.
In some villages in south Kosovo, villagers report that Catholic Relief Services is providing 100% of the basic food needs. In the enclave of Cod Crkva in Rahovec, one elderly woman came to one of CRS' Albanian field monitor for the region during a distribution and said, in tears, "CRS people are the only ones who care about us."
Most Recent Accomplishments:
- In coordination with Caritas Austria, Catholic Relief Services has successfully completed repairs to 19 schools in villages in southwest Kosovo. Over 1750 children now have a safe, warm and dry environment in which to learn.
- With agency funds and local labor, a new bridge was recently completed in Savrove. Assistance for a new bridge was a special request of the community and a council representative commented that, "This is the first time we felt that as a group we had power to make decisions and the ability to realize our dreams."
- Catholic Relief Services staff together with the villagers of Mushnikove designed and installed a greatly needed new water system for the village. CRS provided the funding, the equipment, and the pipes and the villagers themselves built the system. The village now has a new water system.
- The villages of Gjonaj and Savrove were provided with electric transformers for the first time. Both of those communities now have electricity.
Although the Kosovo emergency is off the front pages of the newspaper, conditions in the province remain serious due to lingering effects from the recent crisis. Despite the KFOR military presence, ethnic tensions between Albanians and Serbs remain high. The town of Prizren - the site of the CRS/Kosovo headquarters - still witnesses the regular burning of houses of ethnic Serbs.
As winter bears down the lack of a reliable power source makes life in Kosovo difficult and challenging. Many villages are without electricity altogether and the rest of the country receives power intermittently. Despite earlier moods of determination and optimism when families began building their homes, colder temperatures and shorter days chip away at that determination and yield feelings of defeat and despair. Catholic Relief Services aims to prevent winter depression in the area by engaging them in community activities that encourage communication and collaboration. Aspiring toward peace, these activities will contribute to a stable society.