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OCHA Belgrade: Weekly Situation Report 18 - 24 Feb 2000

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HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE
Coordination:

OCHA's staff based in FRY (Serbia, excluding Kosovo, and Montenegro) and Bosnia &Herzegovina gathered in Belgrade this week, and discussed various issues of common concern, including recent developments in the region, further cooperation in addressing regional humanitarian issues, and the mid-term review of the UN Consolidated Appeal.

OCHA (from its HQ in New York) joined UNHCR and WFP on their mission to Washington, D.C. on 22-23 February, to discuss with the U.S. authorities humanitarian aid to Serbia.

The Heads of UN Agencies meeting in Belgrade, being held bi-weekly, is now expanded to include representatives from IFRC, ICRC, and the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (an NGO consortium). It is hoped that this forum will further strengthen coordination and cooperation in the wider humanitarian community in FRY.

Refugees/IDPs:

The registration of IDPs in Serbia would begin on 1 March and last six weeks. In Montenegro, the follow-up registration is continuing, with the total number now exceeding 31,200 persons.

In Montenegro, the Danish Refugee Council initiated on 18 February a sectoral working group on self-reliance, together with UNHCR and other NGOs working in the area. The importance of involving local communities/government was stressed, as was the need to carefully identify the needs of IDPs.

UNHCR in Kralijevo established a task force on Roma IDP issues with the participation of OXFAM, SDR, MSF, UNHCR, and ICS. The first meeting was devoted to accommodation issues of Roma IDPs.

In Montenegro, UNHCR is starting an information campaign on refugee repatriation, providing information on facilities and the situation in the countries of their origin.

Children/Women:

The Swiss Government announced the contribution of USD 500,000 to support UNICEF's effort to provide heating fuel to maternity wards. Further funding is urgently needed in this area.

Energy:

Temperatures in FRY dropped to around 0C during the reporting period; though there were moderate electricity reductions in some areas, overall supply remained stable.

On 23 February, OCHA visited Belgrade III sub-station to inspect a transformer commissioned with Swiss-provided surge arrestors which has stabilized power supply to many parts of Belgrade. In addition, small repair equipment was handed over to mobile repair units within EPS to enhance emergency repair capacity.

On 23 February, the official price of gasoline was raised from 10.5 to 18.5 dinars/liter, while the official price of diesel was raised from 7 to 16.5 dinars/liter. On the same day, these products became widely available at regular pumping stations.

Environment:

On 18 February, the Joint UNEP/UNCHS (Habitat) Balkans Task Force (BTF) completed its mission to FRY as part of clean-up feasibility studies at four identified "hot spots" (Bor, Kragujevac, Novi Sad and Pancevo).

On 18 February, the Chairman of the BTF, Mr. Pekka Haavisto, held a press conference in Belgrade to announce the results of tests on water samples which UNEP scientists have taken at 18 locations between Pancevo and the Iron Gate 1 Dam in the aftermath of the cyanide spill from the Baia-Mare gold mine in Romania. Tests showed that, in 17 of the 18 locations, levels of cyanide concentration on the river Danube in FRY were not an immediate threat to human health via drinking water supplies. The safety level was slightly exceeded at the Iron Gates 1 Dam, although scientists expected these levels to drop to below acceptable levels with the river flow. There was, however, evidence of cyanide that could be toxic for certain fish species.

A UNEP/OCHA assessment mission on the cyanide spill will visit FRY on 2-6 March as part of an assessment of the environmental impact of the spill in Romania, Hungary, and FRY.

HUMANITARIAN VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENT

OCHA, together with UNICEF, is proceeding with the preparation for an inter-agency rapid assessment mission on humanitarian vulnerability of social cases in Serbia (excluding Kosovo), tentatively scheduled for mid-March. WHO and the Red Cross agencies also plan to participate. Currently, questionnaires for various sectors (health/nutrition, education, social welfare/services, and water/sanitation) are being prepared, in consultation with participating agencies. (Interested humanitarian agencies are invited to contact OCHA.)

WFP is planning a household food security assessment in early March, in which the FRY Government is also expected to participate.

OCHA is undertaking preliminary negotiations with a private research firm on the possibility of implementing a survey on household incomes/expenditures and coping mechanisms in Montenegro.

UPDATE ON MONGENEGRO

On 14-16 February, the FRY Government closed the civilian airport in Tivat, Montenegro, reportedly in reaction to the violations of FRY airspace by NATO aircraft - the allegation denied by NATO. On 18 February, the FRY representative to the UN sent a letter to the President of the UN Security Council on this matter.

OTHER MATTERS

The Socialist Party of Serbia held its fourth congress on 17 February and re-elected Mr. Milosevic as the party president. The statement made included expressions of discontent with the Kosovo situation and UNMIK, as well as attacks against the opposition parties.

The humanitarian community in FRY is concerned about increasing tensions in the ethnically-divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica. On 21 February, tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians clashed with KFOR troops on the bridge over Ibar River which divides the two ethnic communities. Local media indicates that FRY officials are blaming the West and KFOR, while western officials are said to be holding Belgrade accountable for inciting tensions.

Following the assassination of Pavle Bulatovic (a prominent Montenegrin) on 7 February, General Ojdanic, Yugoslav Army Chief of Staff, was appointed as the new Federal Defense Minister - a non-Montenegrin and the first non-civilian to hold the post. General Pavkovic was promoted to replace him as the Army Chief. The appointments of these generals are seen both in Montenegro and among the Serbian opposition as unfavorable for the relations between the two republics. Montenegro also protested over the lack of consultation in appointing the Federal Minister.

For additional information, please contact: Ms. Kayo Gotoh, HAO/Analysis, OCHA Belgrade

Address: Kneza Milosa 68/II, 11000 Belgrade, FRY
Telephone: (381)(011) 3614-368; Fax: 682-963; 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/.