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OCHA Belgrade: Weekly Situation Report 14 - 20 Jan 2000

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HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE
UN Consolidated Appeal:

The latest figures indicate that as of 30 December 1999 the overall coverage for the 1999 Consolidated Appeal for FRY (excluding Kosovo) was 87.1%, with USD 106.8 million having been allocated, for the total requirements of USD 122.5 million (83.8% covered for UNHCR, 80.4% for UNICEF, 95.5% for WFP, 26.6% for WHO, and 100% for OCHA).

Coordination:

The appointment of Mr. Steven Allen, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for FRY (excluding Kosovo) and the UN Resident Coordinator ad interim, has been extended by another six months, effective February 2000.

In Montenegro, the first Heads of UN Agencies Meeting was held on 14 January, chaired by OCHA Podgorica. Such meeting is held in Belgrade on a regular basis, chaired by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator.

Operations:

The Montenegrin authorities lifted the tax levied on humanitarian aid transiting through Montenegro to Kosovo, following the provision by the U.S. and Norway of technical assistance in road clearing.

Progress is being made in OCHA's Humanitarian Operations Database, with the development of the software having been completed. While thankful for cooperation so far, OCHA requests those humanitarian actors that have not yet submitted their inputs to kindly do so as soon as possible.

Refugees/IDPs:

The registration exercise of IDPs in Serbia is now expected to start in February. UNHCR will monitor the whole process and control the database, while the Swiss Government will be observers.

In Montenegro, an additional 411 IDPs have been added to the UNHCR registration which ended on 18 December. This brings the total thus far to 30,700. A further 183 applications were received and are pending decision. This follow-up is designed to allow IDPs who were unable to register before the deadline. The process is being tightly controlled in an effort to prevent the potential migration of IDPs from Serbia.

Food Assistance:

In Montenegro, a joint CRS/MCI "Host Family Program" has been launched to distribute food parcels for 4-5,000 IDP host families during the period December 1999-March 2000. Food aid programming for the year 2000 increasingly takes into account vulnerable categories of the Montenegrin population: pensioners with low pensions, social cases, and workers from bankrupt companies. This is illustrative of the shift from emergency projects towards more long-term community initiatives among aid organizations in Montenegro.

Energy:

OCHA issued its third update on the energy situation, which reported concerns about shortages of heating fuels throughout FRY affecting important institutions (including hospitals and schools) and district heating plants.

On 14 January, OCHA visited Bor (an environmental "hot spot" identified by the UNEP/UCHS (Habitat) Joint Balkans Task Force) to assess power supply problems. Bor 3 was destroyed during NATO air strikes, with the exception of a single transformer which was our for repair. This transformer, which provides 50% of the original capacity of Bor 3, is providing electricity to the copper mine (currently operating at the levels significantly lower than normal), the heating plant (which heats 97% of the town), and the sanitation pumps. This improvised solution, however, poses two key problems: 1) sulfur emissions from the copper mine are being directly discharged into the atmosphere, as there is not sufficient electricity to operate the sulfuric acid and oxygen plants attached to the mine; and 2) There is no back-up in the case of a major failure. In response to OCHA's queries over continued operation of the mine with high pollutant emissions, local authorities cited economic priorities prevailing among the 40,000 citizens of Bor, many of whose livelihoods depend on the mine.

Health:

According to WHO, the influenza like illness increased in FRY since late December, caused by "Sydney" like virus. The number of registered cases, almost half of who are adult in working age, was 183,528 in Serbia (as of 14 January) and 39,412 in Montenegro (as of 12 January), while the real figure is estimated to be at least three times higher.

The main concern is the excessive mortality due to complications, such as pneumonia, that regularly follows the epidemic. Particularly at risk are the elderly in areas with lower accessibility to the health services and the chronically ill for whom necessary drugs are in short supply.

Influenza vaccination campaign in October-December 1999, supported by WHO with ECHO funding, covered about 300,000 persons (elderly, patients with chronic diseases, and health workers).

The winter holiday for primary and secondary schools has been extended for an additional week (until 30 January), to mitigate further circulation of the influenza virus.

UPDATE ON MONTENEGRO

Some 10-15,000 people attended a celebration of the Orthodox New Year organized by (pro-Milosevic) Socialist National Party on the night of 13 January, in the midst of heavy police presence at all strategic points in Podgorica. Despite tensions and sharp political discourses prior to the event, no incidents were reported. The presence of the large crowd was interpreted by SNP leaders as a clear sign of the strength of their party and as an indication of the overall support of Montenegrin population to remain part of FRY. Independent political polls do not confirm this interpretation, however.

OTHER MATTERS

Serbian opposition leaders met with EU and US representatives on 19 January in the Montenegrin town of Budva. They requested donor assistance to provide heating oil to another 23 cities (expanding the "Energy for Democracy" initiative) and financial aid to the poorest households in 13 Serbian cities as well as to some 40 percent of pensioners whose income is below average. The opposition leaders also pointed out the impact of sanctions on vulnerable groups in FRY.

At the meeting organized by ICVA on 14 January, the NGO community re-stressed the importance of the principle of non-conditionality of humanitarian aid. Concern was raised over the lack of progress in the passage of the NGO legislation. The UN community in Belgrade continues to urge its swift introduction, as well as the resolution of the issue of NGO car registration.

Local media is dominated by various reports (speculative at this point) surrounding the murder on 15 January of Zelliko "Arkan" Raznatovic, the founder of the Serb Volunteer Guard and president of the Party of Serb Unity who was indited by the ICTY for crimes against humanity.

For comments and questions, please contact:
Ms. Kayo Gotoh, HAO/Analysis, OCHA Belgrade (Tel/Fax 381-11-682963; Email: ocha@eunet.yu)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.