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Update No. 97/08 on ICRC activities in Albania

07-05-1997 Operational Update

 General situation  

The first signs of a return to normality have appeared in Albania. In most cities schools have reopened under police guard. In the same areas the food requirements of institutions dependant on the Ministry for Social Affairs have been partially met by supplies provided by the Ministry and other organizations. Some institutions are now benefiting from new governmental budget allocations, which have enabled some hospitals and institutions to partially cover their needs. The allocations are not sufficient to cover all current needs, however, as buying power has been reduced by 30-50%, owing to escalating inflation.

Food prices have now levelled off and markets are becoming more active as seasonal products appear. In the north, which is traditionally the poorer part of the country, local authorities in the towns of Tropoje, Puka and Krume are describing the food situation of some villagers as extremely poor. The ICRC remains the only active international organization in the south. Food supplies sent by other international organizations arrived at the port of Durres and were distributed to various government warehouses. The Ministry for Social Affairs has identified some 180,000 families in need of assistance and will be responsible for distributing the food.

Security in the country is still a matter for serious concern. Authorities throughout the country are endeavouring to restore some level of security. Special police forces are being sent from Tirana to help restore order in several towns in the north and centre of the country, where it is agreed that tensions have decreased considera bly. In the south, there have also been efforts to restore order, with official checkpoints being set up in some towns. The multinational force is continuing to deploy troops, however.

Nevertheless thousands of weapons remain in circulation and accidents caused by mishandling them are still common. Clashes have been reported between various gangs, resulting in several casualties. Security on the roads is still hazardous as banditry remains a problem. Even the hospitals have not been spared. Armed bandits have looted food from the kitchens in some while, in another, a group of armed men roamed through the building, shooting and smashing windows in their search for the person who accidentally shot at a member of their family.

 ICRC activities  

 Relief assistance  

The ICRC now has a warehouse in Durres which took delivery of its first food shipment last week. The programme of small but regular distributions to institutions is continuing. The ICRC is using small, inconspicuous vehicles for the distributions, in order to avoid attracting attention to its convoys or its beneficiaries. Last week a total of 17 institutions in the north and centre of the country received nine tonnes of food. Since the beginning of the operation a total of 57 tonnes of food has been delivered to 63 institutions.

Preparations for the distribution of family parcels to the most vulnerable are going well: local authorities are drawing up lists of beneficiaries which will then be passed on to the Albanian Red Cross (see below). The first distribution is planned for the end of this month.

 Water and sanitation  

A water and sanitation engineer carried out a two-week survey in the country. The existing water structures in Albania are in rather poor condition and, over the past few years, disease caused by the inferior quality of the water has been common. In spite of the fact that some of their offices were looted, water authorities are continuing to work and water plants have not been damaged by the events of the last few months. Staff have received their salaries from the state and are keeping the system going. The main problem at the moment is the cut in supplies of chemicals for water purification. As a result the ICRC is to provide the central water authority with an initial delivery of 25 tonnes of chlorine to bridge the gap until normal supplies resume.

 Dissemination  

Considering the high number of casualties caused by accidents with weapons, the ICRC is planning to launch an information campaign to make the population, and particularly young people, aware of the danger of handling firearms.

 International Federation/Albanian Red Cross  

The Albanian Red Cross (ARC) is preparing for the implementation of the family parcel programme for the most vulnerable which is aimed at reaching some 10% of the population. Owing to the structure of the ARC, preparations are going smoothly in the north and centre of the country, while a special effort is being made to rehabilitate structures in the south. During the last two weeks of April the ARC intensified its research and, consequently, new premises were acquired for the most strategically important Red Cross branches.

Four new landcruisers were delivered to the National Society on 29 April and three eight-tonne trucks, to be used for the distribution of family food parcels, are expected to arrive in Tirana next week. The Federation's regional telecommunication s delegate will also arrive next week to install HF and VHF radios in the vehicles and to improve the ARC's current installations.

With the continuous assistance of the Federation delegate, the National Society headquarters is helping branches to plan and initiate Red Cross activities in the fields of health education, first aid and youth involvement in the community. In certain local committees the first aid teams are working in cooperation with the hospital centres. In other branches youth volunteers are spending time with orphaned children.

Owing to the substantial workload of the ARC the Federation is planning to bring a second expatriate delegate to Albania by the beginning of June in order provide further support to the National Society.