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Update No. 97/06 on ICRC activities in Albania

11-04-1997 Operational Update

Tensions decreased somewhat in Albania over the past week, in the south as well as in Tirana, which experienced its quietest weekend since the crisis began. However, the situation remains insecure as opportunist crime escalates and hijacking by armed bandits continues to be a threat on the country's roads.

Attention is now being focused on the imminent arrival of the multinational protection force, which was accepted by the Albanian parliament in a vote last week. The idea of such a force has been generally well received by the Albanian people, although there is still uncertainty over the exact mandate and deployment of the participating countries'forces. It is likely that the force will mainly act to secure ports, main roads and Tirana airport.

 ICRC convoys and surveys  

Following a delay at customs, the third ICRC aid convoy left Ioannina on 9 April, en route to the north, where 20 tonnes of relief and medical supplies are to be distributed to social and medical institutions in the following towns: Skhoder, Burrel, Bulquize, Peshkopi, Puka, Kukes, Krume, Bajram Curri, Kruja, Lac, Lesha and Reshen. The distribution will take place over three days and will benefit a total of 17 institutions.

 Survey south-east  

On April 3 and 4, the delegation carried out surveys in the towns of Korce, Bilisht, Pogradec and Perrenjas. The situation around the border areas with Greece and Macedonia remained precarious, with hijacking and looting still rife. In Korce, where the security situation is very poor, the delegation visited hospitals, an orphanage and a centre for handicapped children. The orphanage had been completely looted, such that the children had to be accommodated by the staff in their own homes.

Medical institutions in the other three towns were also visited, and medical supplies were distributed to the hospitals in Pogrodec and Korce. Shortages of food and adequate medical supplies were again the main issues in all the places visited, the problem being the lack of a secure route to Tirana, where supplies are usually purchased. The hospitals are currently buying supplies on a daily basis from local businesses, but money is running out and prices are continuing to rise. Consequently, the ICRC is planning to make distributions to the area.

 Survey - Peshkopi  

A second survey, to the northern town of Peshkopi, was carried out on 7 and 8 April. Again, the situation remains tense but there is hope that things will improve, as the local authorities seems to be getting matters back in hand. The ICRC delegates visited the hospital in Peshkopi, which had received a consignment of medical supplies from Tirana ten days previously.

The ICRC, together with the Albanian Red Cross (ARC), provided further surgical supplies, including antibiotics and infusion material, to enable the hospital to cope with a recent increase in the number of surgical cases. As the hospital was out of both food and funds with which to buy more, the ICRC and ARC also supplied one lot of food, which was purchased locally.

 International Federation/Albanian Red Cross activities  

The International Federation is currently working with the Albanian Red Cross (ARC) on identifying suitable premises for re-establishing branches in five distr icts. As the branches are to be located in the most affected areas, they will act as regional headquarters in terms of logistics.

One hundred first-aid kits have arrived at the Red Cross warehouse in Montenegro, from where they will be delivered to the ARC for distribution to the branches. In addition, three landcruisers and three trucks have been purchased and are due to be transported from Italy to Tirana via the port of Durres next week.

A memorandum has been sent from ARC headquarters in Tirana to all Red Cross branches throughout the country to inform them of plans for the distribution of family parcels to the most vulnerable. The branches have been given guidelines on identifying beneficiaries for the food programme, which is slated to last three months.