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Kosovo Humanitarian Update No. 22

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HIGHLIGHTS
Lack of access in tense areas continues to impede targeted relief

Threatened minorities ask for secure houses, UNHCR reports

WHO says Pristina's primary health facilities have been neglected

1. GENERAL DEVELOPMENTS

Situation in Mitrovica remains tense. The second half of February has been characterised by continued tension in Kosovo, particularly in the northern city of Mitrovica. On Sunday 13, following an clash between the Kosovo Force (KFOR) and local fighters, two French soldiers were hit by snipers firing from the northern, Serb-controlled part of the city. A suspected Albanian sniper was hit, when KFOR soldiers returned fire, and died later in the hospital. Since the start of the violence and attacks in Mitrovica on 3 February, nine people were killed and several injured.

A number of demonstrations of Albanians concerning Mitrovica took place in various cities. The most visible of these demonstrations was the rally from Pristina to Mitrovica on Monday 21, which is reported to have gathered between 25,000 and 60,000 protesters, depending on the source. The tension created in the area by the rally, which entailed minor clashes with the French and the British KFOR troops, was released at night, when the 6 pm-6am curfew started and the demonstrators went back home. A demonstration of Serbians in Mitrovica took place on Friday 25, and a counter-demonstration of ethnic Albanians has been announced for Monday 28.

Humanitarian assistance hindered by lack of access. The security situation in Mitrovica severely affected the delivery of humanitarian assistance in the northern part of the city and other minority enclaves on both sides as most beneficiaries were afraid to go out and collect assistance packages. Humanitarian activities in Mitrovica and other critical areas, when made possible through increased security and access to minority areas, will continue to focus on breaking the isolation of people that cannot enjoy of services available to the majority of the population. The bus lines organised by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which had to be suspended for security reasons, could restart some of their services soon, if KFOR gives its green light following a security assessment.

Reinforcement of KFOR presence. French forces in Mitrovica, increasingly contested by the Albanians who accuse them of being pro-Serbs, have been reinforced by troops from a number of other countries, to quickly respond to potential disorders and ensure a presence at vehicle check points, homes and businesses in minority neighbourhoods.

A major operation (called "Ibar/Ibër operation", from the name of the river that divides the city) was launched by KFOR on Sunday 20 in Mitrovica, when KFOR started conducting house to house searches for weapons and criminals.

IAC emergency measures endorsed by all parties. A package of emergency measures for Mitrovica has been approved by the Interim Administrative Council (where Serbs do not participate yet), including a regulation by the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) on the appointment of international judges and prosecutors to investigate ethnically-motivated crime.

The new regulation follows a previous one, issued on 14 February, based on which persons who commit ethnic hate crimes will be sanctioned and risk detainment up to five years. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General met in Gracanica with Bishop Artemije and Mr. Trajkovic, leaders of the Serb National Council, who voiced their endorsement of the plan.

The special measures also call for a reinforcement of UNMIK police in Mitrovica. A total of approximately 300 additional officers are expected. Once they are fully deployed, their total number in the Mitrovica region, consisting of six municipalities, will reach almost 600 officers.

Security Council alerted on financial needs of Kosovo operation. Mr. Hédi Annabi, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed in a private meeting the Security Council on the latest developments in Kosovo. Mr. Annabi, said the UN spokesperson, praised the humanitarian effort in the region, which averted a humanitarian crisis during the winter period.

He alerted the Security Council members that substantial funding was needed, since the cash available for Kosovo's consolidated budget would be exhausted by early March 2000.

NGO vehicles may be searched for security. On Tuesday 15, the UN police stopped an ambulance, donated by an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) to a public health authority, on its way to Mitrovica. Inside, the police found 14 anti-tank rocket launchers, more than 180 high-explosive grenades and over 3,000 cartridges for guns.

Following the incident, which highlights the need for preventing improper use of vehicles and assets of international NGOs, all NGO vehicles from now on may be searched by the KFOR and the UN police.

Towards a multi-ethnic civil police? A second group of 176 students graduated on 19 February from the Kosovo Police Service School, created by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vucitrn in September 1999, bringing the number of cadets to 350.

This second generation of police forces is composed of 136 Albanians, 28 Serbs, eight Turks, three Bosnians and one Gorani. Of them, 47 are former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), whereas 94 have police or military experience. 31 trainees are women, while 36 persons have university education.

On Tuesday 22, the Academy of the Kosovo Protection Corps, which is expected to train future officers involved in civil protection and development works, including support to NGOs, was officially inaugurated in Pristina by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.

2. SECTORAL HUMANITARIAN SUMMARY

2.1 REPATRIATION

Organised returns as of 24 February 2000

From
Number of Returns
Albania
12,932
FYROM
5,528
Montenego
3,311
Other coutnries
110,621
Total
132,392

Source: UNHCR

Conditions of returnees assessed by former hosting countries. Repatriation flights for February continue to arrive almost daily but with very small numbers of passengers. 1,722 Kosovars are expected to return in March.

A number of hosting countries are organising missions to Kosovo to assess the current conditions of families who have returned home. Information gathered during these visits will most likely influence the decisions these countries make with regard to return policies for refugees from Kosovo. Efforts are also underway to improve communication links and information sharing with refugees remaining in hosting countries.

2.2 IDPS

More than 5,000 IDPs in the last seven months. Since August, approximately 4500 ethnic Albanians have arrived in Gjilan/ Gnjilane from Southern Serbia, while another 730 registered from Dobrosin and surrounding villages since the end of January. The number of Albanians from Southern Serbia arriving in Ferizaj/Urosevac during the reporting period has now reached over 60 persons.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Urosevac are mainly young couples with small children, and mostly come from the boundary villages of Bukovac and Susaja. Those interviewed by UNHCR allege harassment and violence by Serb forces in Presevo during the search for KLA fighters. They appear well informed about available assistance and conditions in Urosevac, which they believe are more hospitable than those in Gnjilane, especially as concerns UNHCR accommodation assistance.

The small but steady influx of Serbian IDPs continues, and more IDPs may return and need accommodation. As a result, the Yugoslavian Red Cross has requested UNHCR to assist in opening a new collective centre in Strpce, which can accommodate 250 persons.

2.3 PROTECTION OF MINORITIES

Minorities request assistance to secure houses. Incidents against minorities continue. The situation of Albanians in north Mitrovica remains perilous. UNHCR, in co-operation with OSCE and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), initiated an identification exercise of the remaining Albanians for security and assistance purposes. Arrangements had also been made with KFOR to provide protection in particular areas. An initiative to provide remaining and returning Albanians with reinforced doors and secure locks is being considered.

Attacks against Serbian minorities have also continued in Mitrovica South, Gnjilane, Gojbula, Grace, Lipljan/Lipjan, Novo Brdo/Novo Berde, Orahovac/Rahovec, Pones, Suva Grlo, Vitina/Viti. UNHCR is following up on requests by ethnic Serbs in Urosevac town to have their telephone lines repaired, since working lines, in a situation where they do not enjoy of any freedom of movement, may enhance their sense of security.

Aggressions have been recorded against the Roma (in Prizren, Stimlje/Shtime and Urosevac), Ashkalija (near Urosevac town), Gorani (in Prizren), and Torbesh minorities (in Prizren). Several requests have been made to UNHCR for secure doors and locks.

2.4 FOOD SECURITY

Re-routing and phasing down of food aid. The violence and tension in the area of Mitrovica have forced WFP to re-route commodities arriving from the port of Bar, in Montenegro, through Pec/Peje. Mitrovica is now receiving commodities from the warehousing facilities in Pristina.

As a result of the phasing down of food aid activities, the World Food Programme (WFP), UNHCR and NGOs have planned an intensive information campaign to promote the de-registration process. In the same time, WFP is working closely with UNMIK to address the integration of food aid and social welfare assistance in Kosovo.

2.5 SHELTER AND HOUSING RECONSTRUCTION

Transition starts. UNMIK's Pillar IV is now becoming the focal point for all reconstruction requests and coordination. Levels of handover vary locally: some are progressing quickly and effectively, while others still lack coordination mechanisms and structures.

In the Pec area, one of the most positive examples, UNMIK is working closely with UNHCR. The shelter coordination meeting is now also the reconstruction meeting, while UNHCR is helping to implement a database network to assist in this effort. The system will register all requests for support at the level of municipalities, to be then matched up with the capacities of the assisting agencies. Training for representatives from the five UNMIK municipal offices in the area will be organised.

Informal field consultations with NGOs, promoted by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), within the framework of its activities in support of the Office of the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, show that involved players understand the rationale of the transition, know the guidelines for the housing reconstruction sector and are willing to collaborate. However, several NGOs express concerns as to the criteria for the selection of the beneficiaries and to the capacity of the system, particularly at the municipal level, to speed up the process.

The USAID warehouse in Urosevac has closed down its premises. All goods (roofing materials and warm dry room kits) have been passed to KFOR for distribution.

2.6 HEALTH

Institute of Public Health sets priorities for a future health system in Kosovo. A number of projects are being funded by various donors to lay a framework for a national health policy and a future sustainable health system. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) has contributed ? 1 million for a project based in the Kosovo Institute of Public Health (IPH) aimed at meeting three main goals:

  • improving immunisation coverage by developing cold chain and monitoring systems, and eventually integrating the programme into primary care;
  • raising food and water quality control across Kosovo and implementing a cost-effective model for the management of microbiological laboratories;
  • developing guidelines and protocols on all areas of public health for professional training and public health promotion activities.
Other key activities, such as epidemiological surveillance, are funded by other donors, while the crucial re-establishment of a health information system, estimated to cost some US$ 4 million, is currently the subject of a proposal of the World Health Organization (WHO) to the European Union.

The IPH is reformulating, in line with the principles of the DFID-funded project, its structure and role, to become the technical and intellectual engine of public health policy, planning and standard-setting to the Government, including by making its current outposts the technical backbone of future regional health offices.

Selective rehabilitation of facilities hinders equitable access to health services. A WHO report recently issued has identified over 30 health facilities in the Pristina area in need of support, ranging from complete rehabilitation and equipping to minor repairs. Similar reports have been compiled by UNMIK regional health officers and WHO staff on the Pec, Gnjilane and Prizren regions, and are being used by the UNMIK Department of Health and Social Welfare to prepare a Kosovo-wide planning of primary care services.

Some facilities, thanks to various NGOs, are being rehabilitated and equipped. However, the report shows that a large number of facilities, despite their proximity to the international activities in the capital and their relevance for the future of family health policies, have not attracted so far any interest from donors and international NGOs.

The report provides details of the services currently functioning, while recommending which facilities have the potential to become family health centres and which should be developed as satellite surgeries for a comprehensive access.

Contact: WHO offices (Pristina and the regions), +38138 549216/218, or hbower26@hotmail.com; UNMIK Department of Health and Social Welfare, +38138 501400/398/397, or hvvuori@hotmail.com

What drugs for Kosovo? WHO has launched the Kosovo model hospital essential drugs list, a document which details the most important drugs recommended for use in the hospitals of Kosovo. It is intended to be the starting point for each hospital to develop its own list through its drugs and therapeutics committee, which can then be used as the basis to prioritise procurement.

Copies have been distributed to each hospital. Further copies are available from WHO, Pristina, and will soon be available at the Regional WHO and UNMIK Health Offices.

2.7 EDUCATION

Integration of minority children continues, but under increased threats. A sign of minorities' concerns with the mounting tension in Kosovo is the postponement of the planned survey on access to education of Roma/Ashkalija children in the Halit Ibishi neighborhood of Urosevac, due to the fear of families to send their children to school because of the current security situation.

In the Pec area, reports have been received from the OSCE Human Rights officer that KFOR had to start patrolling a local school road to allow Roma children, who had stopped going to school after being harassed by other children, to attend classes.

On a more positive note, teachers are being recruited for a project of catch-up classes for Ashkalija children in Fushe Kosovo/Kosovo Polje. Consultations are taking place between the Kosovar Albanian Education representative, qualified Ashkalija teachers and UNICEF to work out a curriculum.

In the meanwhile, after lengthy negotiations, the school in Janjevo finally includes Croat and Roma children, in addition to Kosovar Albanian pupils. The Croat teachers are teaching at the same time as the Kosovar Albanians, in different classrooms. The school has a small library that includes Kosovar Albanian, Serb and Croat books.

Improving standards for building schools. A mission of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), charged with designing common standards for school building construction in collaboration with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), has concluded its work. Draft Rehabilitation Guidelines (prepared by UNESCO) and Recommendations on Interim National Norms (prepared by UNICEF in consultation with education workers, architects and NGOs) were disseminated and discussed with education professionals, donors and NGOs at the Education Coordination Meeting chaired by UNMIK last week. The results from the meeting are now being translated by UNICEF into a new version of the Interim Normative Standards.

UNICEF has assessed the situation of 1058, out of a total 1200, schools in Kosovo. On 872 of these buildings there is a commitment to intervene. 132 schools are destroyed, and will need to be rebuilt from scratch.

3 IN FOCUS:

GENDER ISSUES IN TRANSITION

The conflict in Kosovo has had a different impact on men and women, and exacerbated the social disadvantages women had suffered, particularly in the last ten years, in Kosovo. The war resulted in a stream of gender-related social problems, from an increased number of female-headed households, sexual violence, to an erosion of social services critical to women, such as education and health. The war has also isolated women from the public sphere, political decision making and leadership roles.

Gender-sensitive activities are a critical area where the interrelation between relief to rehabilitation and development can show its potential. Emergency initiatives can only bring long-lasting results if matched with transitional interventions, aimed at establishing a reproductive health services' system accessible to all women and promoting economic opportunities which break the vicious circle of dependence and isolation.

Within the framework of the UNMIK structure, an important step has been the establishment, in September 1999 of the Gender Task Force, composed of all Pillars, local and international organisations, UN agencies, donors. Issues discussed so far have included trafficking of women and girls, Kosovo women in civil administration, women and economic development. The UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) plays a lead and advocacy role for the Task Force.

The UNHCR Kosovo Women Initiative (KWI) began mid-1999 to mobilise women throughout Kosovo, assist them and their families, and empower them to become agents of change and solidarity by raising awareness, fostering the development of women's network and disseminating the principles of gender equity at all levels of government and civil society. The initiative finances, through implementing partners/umbrella agencies, local projects, particularly in the areas of: immediate survival needs; psycho-social and community support; reproductive health and gender-based violence; empowerment; micro-credit, business training, economic empowerment and livelihood; legal rights and protection; NGO/women's group capacity building; participatory rural development.

The KWI will become a local initiative, and therefore active participation from Kosovo NGOs and organisations will be increasingly promoted. Grants for 68 projects have been approved as of January 2000, for total DM 1,564,069.

Several international organisations and NGOs have developed 'gender sensitive' components in their programmes, particularly in the crucial areas of violence, reproductive health and economic development.

Violence against Women

Reliable data on violence against women in Kosovo, such as domestic violence, rape, trafficking of women and girls, are scarce. Anecdotical information suggests that the lack of law enforcement, the rapid and traumatic change of the society, social tension, related to the high unemployment rates and poverty, have resulted in an increase in violence against women. To make recommendations on policies and projects to be implemented, UNIFEM started in January an assessment project aimed at gathering baseline information about the phenomenon, including perceptions of violence among women.

Discussions are also ongoing on how to best strengthen and broaden the impact of psychosocial support counselling and ensure legal protection to victims of war-related and domestic or criminal violence, particular in a context where the legal and judicial systems are still not operational. In the year 2000 NORMA, a local, legal NGO and KWI implementing partner, will study legal procedures and provide training on legal rights for women.

Reproductive health

Several NGOs, including the International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps International and Relief International, implement reproductive health and family planning programs throughout Kosovo. Components on sexual and gender-based violence and psychological support to war-affected men and women are regularly included in these programmes.

KWI-funded reproductive health programmes include the presence of medical professionals providing education and services for women groups' members. These focal points in the year 2000 will promote access to services and first line counselling for traumatised women.

A lot can be done to improve the lives of women and girls in the field of mental, physical and reproductive health, according to the results of a workshop organised last week by the National Committee for Healthy Families, supported by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). A total of 16 key areas and over 80 potential activities were identified. The recommendations that the group intend to present to the co-heads of the UNMIK Department of Health and Social Welfare include: development of reproductive health and premarital counselling skills, sensitisation of political, religious and NGO groups to health family issues, development of laws against domestic violence, and public campaigns to address, among other things, child spacing.

UNFPA has a number of projects in Kosovo in the area of reproductive health, for which it appeals donors through the UN inter-agency consolidated appeal. These activities range from support to community-based interventions, provision of equipment and supplies to maternity wards, activities to prevent the diffusion of AIDS, training of reproductive health professionals, development of a demographic database.

Economic empowerment of women

The most recent meeting of the Gender Task Force was co-chaired by UNIFEM and by the Gjakove Women's Business Association. For the fist time after the war, the issues of new economic opportunities in Kosovo and women's access to them, including needs for training and material support, were discussed.

In this context, UNIFEM developed a project for the assessment of women's economic status and opportunities, to be completed by March 2000. The initiative will develop, based on collection of baseline information and data, recommendations and policy suggestions to enhance women's role in the economy.

KWI has promoted projects in the areas of microcredit, business training, economic empowerment and livelihood on a loan basis. With a total available amount of DM 223,440 in 1999, 63 loans were disbursed. Most loans are for a period of six months.

To celebrate the 8 March International Women's Day, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and UNIFEM, in collaboration with the Office of Gender Affairs, will organise a reception at the Government Building. Invitees will include women's organisations, NGOs, representatives of the Interim Administrative Council and of the Kosovo Transitional Council, co-heads of the Joint Interim Administrative Structure, UNMIK, UN agencies, donors, other international and local organisations and civil society.

The next Kosovo Humanitarian Update will be issued on Friday 10 March 2000.

For comments and further information, please contact:

Silvia Ferazzi, OCHA
Office of the United Nations
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (DSRSG) for Humanitarian Affairs in Kosovo
Pristina

(phone) 381-38-501-509 ext. 2763
(fax) 871-761-843-891
e-mail:ferazzi@unhcr.ch

This report is also available from the Humanitarian Community Information Center (HCIC) in Pristina and on Internet (ReliefWeb) at: http://www.reliefweb.int

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