Serbia + 1 more

Kosovo Humanitarian Update No. 21

Situation Report
Originally published


1.1 Ethnic violence flares: The beginning of February has been marred by ethnic violence, which left 10 dead and up to 30 wounded in a rocket attack on a UNHCR bus and subsequent rioting in Mitrovica.

UNHCR High Commissioner Mrs. Ogata said, "it is deeply alarming that one of UNHCR's most important initiative in Kosovo to promote freedom of movement and to improve the situation for minority communities was directly targeted by those who wish to foster ethnic separation and hatred." Mrs Ogata stressed that "the violence against Serbs and Albanians must be brought to a halt and the humanitarian mission of UNHCR and its partners must be respected on the ground in Kosovo."

UNMIK also condemned the extraordinary outbreak of violence against civilians and appealed to local leaders and all people of Kosovo to end the cycle of violence. An UNMIK spokesperson said "such hatred threatens to derail the progress that the people of Kosovo have made in so many areas of their lives since the recent conflict."

UNHCR have been forced to suspend operations in north Mitrovica as a result of the violence. UNHCR Special Envoy and Deputy SRSG, Mr. Dennis McNamara, urged restraint and called upon leaders in the community to help ensure the security of humanitarian operations throughout Kosovo, but in particular to minority groups.

Investigations are ongoing into the events in Mitrovica and attack on the UNHCR bus.

Further details are in the Security and Protection sections below.

1.2 UNHCR evaluation report published: An independent report evaluating UNHCR's preparedness and response to the Kosovo crisis during the 11-week period from late March to mid-June 1999 has been published. The report was commissioned by UNHCR to offer objective advice and help understand the challenges of refugee protection and assistance in a politically charged complex emergency.

The report concludes that although refugees generally received adequate assistance, UNHCR needs to strengthen its strategic planning and leadership capacity whist also speeding up the response time to emergencies. The need for improvement in these areas was recognised by the agency in an earlier internal evaluation of the same period.

The report: "The Kosovo refugee crisis: an independent evaluation of UNHCR's emergency preparedness and response" is available on the UNHCR website at the following address;

1.3 Civil and electoral registration to commence in April: UNMIK and OSCE are to commence joint civil and electoral registration on 3rd April. The Joint Registration Task Force conducted a pilot registration of approximately 50 Kosovars late in January to test registration procedures and identify areas for improvement. The process also gave some indication of the documentation that is currently held by Kosovars.

Registration is planned to take place in over 400 sites around Kosovo during a period of three months.

1.4 100th NGO certificate awarded: On 4 February, Albrecht Conze, Director of Civil Documents presented the 100th UNMIK NGO certificate to Kosovar NGO, HandiKos. HandiKos is one of the oldest and most respected NGOs in Kosovo who work with disabled persons focusing on their integration into society.

A total of 200 agencies have submitted applications for registration. To date, 125 NGOs have registered with UNMIK of which 31 are Kosovar NGOs. The remaining applications are pending.

Forms and guidelines for registration are available from the UNMIK NGO Liaison Unit (Room N408 at the UNMIK Government Building; tel: 500-223 ext. 5540) and from the Humanitarian Community Information Centre in Pristina. NGOs based outside of Pristina can obtain forms and information at UNMIK regional centers located in Mitrovica, Pec, Djakovica, and Prizren.

1.5 Vehicle registration resumes: After a break of five weeks, vehicle registration resumed in Pristina, 1 February. With the fully operational Kosovo Fiscal Authority Customs Department, NGOs are advised to present their Public Benefit Status Certificate to the Customs House in Pristina to avoid customs duties on vehicles during registration.

As yet there are still no UNMIK recognised vehicle insurance companies in Kosovo. Currently, the vehicle registration document is retained by the Registration Centre pending presentation of insurance documentation at a later stage. It is hoped that recognised insurance will be available in February.

NGOs who have not yet registered with UNMIK and obtained Public Benefit Status are urged to do so. As of mid- February, customs duties will be levied on all goods imported into Kosovo irrespective of their humanitarian nature if the importing agency does not have Public Benefit Status.


2.1 UNHCR bus attacked: Preceding the violence in Mitrovica, a rocket was fired at a UNHCR bus transporting Serbs from Banja to Mitrovica on 2 February. Two elderly Serbs, one man and one woman, were killed instantly and three others were wounded when the anti-tank rocket struck the clearly marked UNHCR bus, near Cubrelj, 15 kilometers south west of Mitrovica. The bus, carrying 49 passengers, was driven by a Danish Refugee Council driver and had a KFOR escort.

UNHCR, UNMIK and Secretary General Kofi Annan all deplored the "heinous" attack, which has led to the suspension of all eight UNHCR buslines, which were operating in Kosovo.

2.2 Events in Mitrovica dominate: Violence in Mitrovica erupted on 3 February killing eight civilians of Serb, Albanian and Turkish ethnicity and wounding 21. Violence appears to have begun with a hand grenade thrown into a Serb café and escalated into attacks on Albanian individuals and properties as well as KFOR soldiers, UNMIK police officers and other international staff. Nine UN and international agency vehicles and offices were damaged or destroyed.

Additional KFOR troops have been sent to Mitrovica, which falls under the responsibility of KFOR Multi-National Brigade North troops, to reinforce KFOR's capacity to react. Additional UN Police Officers have also been temporarily reassigned. A curfew is currently in place from 22.00 - 05.00 hours.


3.1 Repatriation continues: Refuges continue to return to Kosovo although at a slower rate than in January. Over 4,000 refugees returned in the third and fourth weeks of January despite cold weather. In the two weeks since then, 1,300 have returned. Although there has been a rise in temperatures and much of the snow has melted in Kosovo, many IOM returnee flights to Slatina airport in Pristina have been unable to land due to fog.

Diverted flights land in Skopje airport, FYRoM from where returnees travel on buses to their final destination. If necessary, returnees can overnight in the transit centre in Urosevac, 30 km from the border.

Organised Returns as of 9 February
From Total organised return
Third countries*

*The number includes non-HEP.
Source: UNHCR


4.1 UNHCR and OSCE minorities report released: The fourth joint UNHCR/OSCE assessment of the situation of ethnic minorities in Kosovo, covering the three-month period November 1999 - January 2000, was released on 11 February. The report concludes that regrettably the situation for minorities has not improved since the previous report published 3 November that concluded; "the overall situation of ethnic minorities remains precarious."

The report catalogues the unacceptable level of violence against minorities across the province. It highlights the current lawlessness and culture of impunity as one of the most crucial gaps in Kosovo today that needs to be addressed. As a result the report notes that the return of minorities to Kosovo cannot be promoted or facilitated by UNHCR at this time.

The report concludes that, "the present cycle of violence and discrimination against minorities has to be stemmed if the longer-term rebuilding and reconstruction process in Kosovo is to be effective." This requires the sustained involvement and support of the international community but the report continues, it cannot succeed without more direct, active and responsible engagement of all Kosovars in the whole process of re-establishing law and order, tolerance and a pluralistic society.

UNHCR Special Envoy and Deputy SRSG, Mr. McNamara said, "it is a pity to be here (at the press launch of the report) repeating ourselves." He urged for "restraint and improved security to allow humanitarian operations to continue."

Copies of the report are available from UNHCR and OSCE offices and are on both agencies web sites.

4.2 UNHCR bus lines suspended: All eight weekly UNHCR buslines operating in Kosovo were suspended on 3 February until improved security prevails or can be assured. UNHCR buslines began in Kosovo in October 1999 and provide a vital link for many of the isolated minority communities living in Kosovo. The suspension of services has created anxiety among minority communities and increased fear of insecurity and isolation.

4.3 Albanians leave north Mitrovica: Over 630 Albanians, approximately half the Albanian Kosovar population in Mitrovica city itself, have left their homes and registered with UNHCR. It is estimated a further 50-100 may have left without registering with the agency.

As a result of the violence in north Mitrovica, UNHCR was forced to suspend operations there. Therefore, those ethnic Albanian communities remaining have not received assistance since 3 February. UNHCR is assessing ways in which to resume operations and offer both protection and humanitarian assistance where necessary.

4.4 Community Centre Staff threatened: IRC staff who run a community centre in the Serb quarter of Gnjilan town, received death threats from a group of Albanians who gathered outside the office on 1 February. IRC staff who also run a community centre in the Albanian sector of town, have requested additional protection from KFOR in order to continue their support to the community


5.1 Agriculture

5.1.1 Winter wheat seed programme conclusions: FAO estimates that agencies distributed wheat seed and fertiliser for some 50,000 hectares in 1999. Combined with commercial activity and planting of seeds from the 1999 harvest, the total area planted with winter wheat is estimated to be 79,000 hectares. The bulk of this is expected to be harvested in 2000 given the current level of security and internal stability. The total area planted in 1999 represents almost 80 percent of the pre-1990 planting area. Although the distribution of some wheat seeds was late due to various procurement and logistical problems (not least delays at the Blace border) milder than usual temperatures enabled planting beyond the latest optimal sowing date of 25 October. In addition, the mild weather assisted a rapid recovery by Kosovo's cereal farmers.

5.1.2 Recovery in agriculture sector: Further details on the winter wheat seed programme, crops and livestock are available in an FAO special report, which outlines positive trends in agricultural recovery. Other main findings include: a slightly lower than average yield expected for the harvest of winter wheat, the need for herbicides in spring to avoid continued yield loss, farmers planning maize and extensive vegetable gardens in early summer and the need for continued international assistance in 2000 to ensure the promising momentum of recovery in the agriculture sector does not stall.

Copies of the Special Report, "FAO Crop Assessment Mission to the Kosovo Province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, 27 January 2000" can be found on the FAO website at the following address:

5.2 Community Services

5.2.1 Woman's Wellness Centre opens in Pec: IRC opened a woman's wellness centre, 7 February, combining its sexual and gender based violence project and reproductive health programme. The centre provides counseling and referral services to women who have been victims of violence, promotes the general welfare of women as well as offering cultural and educational services to women in need.

5.3 Education

5.3 Education for minorities: A school for minorities in the municipality of Lipjan, Pristina region, started classes for the first time during the current school year on 2 February. In addition, UNICEF, with UNHCR support, has facilitated access to education for some 600 children belonging to the Ashkalija minority who have not been enrolled in formal education for the past 10 years.

5.4 Food

5.4.1 Food and social welfare: WFP is working closely with UNMIK's Social Welfare Department to address the integration of food aid and social welfare assistance in Kosovo in 2000. By mid-2000 it is estimated that the number of people in need of food aid will have reduced significantly with the wheat harvest and increased economic activity. At the same time UNMIK Civil Administration (Pillar II) will become fully responsible for the provision of social welfare with the phase out of Pillar I and many humanitarian relief programmes in Kosovo.

UNMIK and WFP are working together to define beneficiary selection criteria, define food and cash assistance and identify social welfare beneficiaries. Integrating food aid and social welfare assistance will provide greater resources for social welfare cases in the latter half of this year. WFP, international implementing partners and local distribution partners will remain responsible for the delivery of food aid in 2000.

Since mid June 1999, a total of 15,733 MT of food aid has been distributed from all known sources in Kosovo. Approximately 80 percent was distributed by WFP, CRS and MCI.

5.4.2 Food aid needs of minorities: The joint WFP/UNHCR food aid needs assessment of minorities in Kosovo report has been published. The report looks at food security and food aid needs of minorities by area and minority group, and makes recommendations for the delivery of food aid. The report notes that in urban areas limited freedom of movement means that many minorities are dependent on food aid. In rural areas, incomes have reduced and access to mills has been a significant problem for wheat farmers. In the Mitrovica region, agricultural potential is low, there is an elderly population and an increasing social caseload linked to progressive economic decline.

The report concludes that in addition to ongoing food aid programmes to minorities food security could be improved by increasing protection at times of planting cultivation, harvesting, milling and access to markets, as well as continued support in the agricultural sector and affirmative action to ensure equality of employment opportunities for minorities. Copies of the report are available from WFP offices.

5.5 Health

5.5.1 No need for new hospitals: WHO and UNMIK are concerned at the numbers of agencies wishing to build new hospitals in various locations around Kosovo. The UNMIK health policy guidelines for Kosovo, adopted October 1999, state that there is no need for new hospitals to be opened. Instead, attention should be focused on developing family health centres and primary health care. Focusing on this policy uses human and material resources most effectively, is more sustainable and will have the greatest impact on the health of Kosovars.

5.5.2 Tuberculosis underestimated: Doctors of the World released findings of their survey into knowledge, attitudes and practices relating to tuberculosis in Kosovo. Almost 1,300 people were interviewed including over 130 hospitalised tuberculosis patients as part of Doctors of the World's five-year tuberculosis control project.

The findings of the report, which include lack of knowledge of the contagious nature of the disease and delayed requests for medical assistance by patients, have been presented to the Institute of Public Health and will assist in the development of a Kosovo wide tuberculosis strategy.

5.6 Mine Action

5.6 First mine strike for several weeks: A 15 year old male accidentally detonated a land mine near the Macedonian border, 5 February, in the first mine strike since the heavy snow falls. The young man is in a stable condition.

The mine strike serves to warn people of the need to be aware of mines. UNMACC recommend that all new international staff attend mines awareness training and staff who have been in Kosovo for more than six months attend a refresher session. A variety of mines awareness training programmes are ongoing throughout the Province for the international and local communities and the school curriculum is being developed to include mines awareness for children.

5.7 Shelter

5.7.1 USAID materials still available: USAID have roofing materials and warm dry room kits available as part of their emergency response initiative policy. The programme was designed to follow the shelter programme with the explicit aim of plugging any gaps in Kosovo's overall shelter programme. In particular it aims to provide emergency warm dry rooms to vulnerable people who are cold but may not be immediately visible, as their homes are not destroyed.

USAID urges agencies to come forward if they are aware of such cases and encourages them to actually look for this potentially unassisted caseload. The warm dry room can be erected in any structure that has four walls. It has a ceiling and floor, doors and windows, carpet and a stove, and materials to fill holes in walls if necessary. The kits, which are easy to assemble, can be distributed in their entirety or in pieces depending on needs.

Agencies are encouraged to take advantage of the current mild spell and order supplies from USAID who will deliver from their warehouse in Urosevac.

Interested agencies should contact Chris Harvey, tel +873-683-141-610 or email. or one of the USAID field offices in Kosovo for further information and supplies.

5.7.2 House reconstruction framework distributed: The Housing Reconstruction Task Force, established 14 January, has distributed the draft housing reconstruction guidelines. Initial feedback has shown a broad consensus for the draft guidelines and as a result they can be regarded as a working document, especially as the building season will start presently in spring.

Comments on the framework are still welcomed and copies can be found on the HCIC page of Relief Web at the following address: See the focus section for further details on the guidelines

5.8 Winterisation

5.8 Update on utilities: The delivery of power in Kosovo is relatively stable with minimal cuts during peak times. As a result the utilities situation cell now meets thrice weekly rather than twice daily as it did in January. The situation remains precarious due to the lack of back up if currently operating Kosovo B Unit 1 should break down again.

Work has begun on Unit 2 of Kosovo B, which has not been operational since a serious fire 9-10 January. Electrical and mechanical equipment need both repair and replacement and as such there is no firm date for the conclusion of work. It is estimated that work will take between 6 - 8 weeks.

6. FOCUS: Draft Housing Reconstruction Framework

In this focus section, the draft framework for housing reconstruction in Kosovo 2000 is outlined.

Housing has been a key area in the emergency response to the Kosovo crisis. On re-entry to Kosovo, mid-June 1999, many agencies, UN and NGOs, were involved in a rapid village assessment survey, which included categorising the damage inflicted upon people's homes.

Houses were categorised between I no damage, to V totally destroyed. It is estimated that there is a housing stock of 290,000 units in Kosovo. The survey concluded over 100,000 of which fell into Categories III - V, that is to say they were uninhabitable without repair.

Houses falling into Categories III and IV were the focus of emergency shelter repair to date. Given the enormity of the problem, limited resources and the approach of winter, it was decided not to target Category V houses with emergency shelter but rather assist them with reconstruction in 2000. The total number of Category V houses is 50,000, half of the total houses deemed uninhabitable in 1999.

The success of the shelter programmes, implemented by a variety of agencies and co-ordinated by UNHCR, meant that a humanitarian catastrophe was averted during the winter. The fruits of this combined effort are most visible in the form of reinforced plastic roofs throughout the Province.

The task of rehabilitating houses remains huge. Even with international assistance, local supply capacity has never exceeded 7,000 units annually, reconstruction will take a few years. The plan for 2000, is to reconstruct 20,000 units at an approximate cost of €100 million.

In January 2000, UNMIK and the donor community recognised the need to create a framework for agencies planning to reconstruct houses to work within. A housing reconstruction task force (HRTF) was created comprising of UN, NGO and donor representatives who met with stakeholders in the reconstruction process in Kosovo. It was split into four working groups to address the issues of:

1. Co-ordination of housing assistance

2. Criteria for selecting beneficiaries

3. Rehabilitation/reconstruction standards

4. Implementation strategies.

Consistency and co-ordination are critical to the success of the reconstruction programme. It is likely that there will be a large number of donors and agencies operating in reconstruction, many who were involved in shelter and also new players. Co-ordination will take place locally, involving regional and municipal UNMIK administrations in particular, and centrally with donors.

Beneficiary criteria are necessary since assistance and implementation capacity is limited. Criteria are based on need and vulnerability, combining the level of damage inflicted upon the house (Categories III - V) and the financial, material and human resources available to the household within it or wishing to live in it. Beneficiaries will be selected at the municipal level with those who have lived outside their homes due to damage (in temporary shelters, host families etc), in difficult circumstances within their homes and female-headed households will be prioritised. The selection committee will comprise of NGOs, implementing partners, social welfare and housing officials. Municipalities will be assigned 'quotas' based on the percentage of destruction in the municipality.

The level of assistance to households will differ from case to case but the minimum standards will include enclosure and weatherproofing and the provision of a secure living area (SLA) within the house, the size of which will be determined by the number of inhabitants. (SLA will be at least two rooms totaling 6m² per occupant, including a toilet and sink.) For those Category V houses that require building a new structure the minimum surface area will be 75m² based on average family size in Kosovo.

There are seven potential implementation strategies ranging from reconstruction by contractors, co-operatives or self-help to vouchers, cash or credit provision. The working group concluded that no single implementation strategy should be determined but rather set the parameters for donors and agencies to work within those strategies, the choice of which will be determined by the vulnerability indicators of the household.

The draft document draws heavily on the lessons learnt from the shelter programmes. It aims to produce guidelines for a housing reconstruction programme that will achieve the broadest possible coverage, including the reconstruction needs of minorities, IDPs and refugees wishing to return, taking into account the limits of available resources.

Initial feedback has been positive in all four areas and as such the draft can be seen as a working document. Nonetheless, consultations are ongoing and comments are still welcome for consideration. The final document is expected in March 2000.

With the completion of the draft document, the HRTF has been disbanded. To facilitate the smooth transition from a vast shelter programme to an ambitious reconstruction one, UNHCR has seconded one senior staff member to the UNMIK Joint Interim Administration Housing Team and two other staff members on a part time basis.

The draft guidelines (36 pages) are available on the HCIC page of ReliefWeb at the following address:, the Humanitarian Community Information Centre in Pristina (please bring a diskette) and UNHCR offices in Kosovo. Your comments on the draft should be directed to Thomas Ramsler, Head of UNMIK Housing Task Force, Pillar IV, UNMIK Government Building, Pristina

HCIC Kosovo Database CD available

The HCIC Kosovo Database CD, Version 1 is now available. The CD includes the Rapid Village Assessment database and a data viewer. This package allows the user to create customized reports using data collected in Kosovo from June through September of 1999. Additionally, the CD includes a number of reports and data sets.

The HCIC and UNHCR GIS units worked together to produce an Atlas of Kosovo that is included on the CD. The OSCE Human Rights report, Security Resolution 1244 and other 1999 UN reports on Kosovo, the WFP Food Aid Tracking System, UNICEF status of schools and WHO status of health facilities are just a few of the reports available.

If you are interested in learning more about the CD or in obtaining a copy, please stop by the HCIC.

For comments and further information, please contact:
Tanya Power-Stevens
Office of the United Nations Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (DSRSG) for Humanitarian Affairs in Kosovo