Update 03.08.01 - Crisis in fYROM : ICRC-led Red Cross Response
03-08-2001 Operational Update
Main operational highlights of the last four days:
Vulnerable people from the Tetovo area continued to be reunited with their families
Emergency evacuation of 16 women and children carried out from Lipkovo
Distributions continued to newly displaced from the Tetovo area, now around 9000 registered, including those in collective centres
On Monday, two ICRC teams travelled to Odri, Glodji and Dobroste and Tearce in the Tetovo area - the purpose of which was to continue to assess the situation for the remaining villagers and the process of putting families back in touch with each other. Eventually, 17 people from Glodji and Tearce were transported by the ICRC to be reunited with their relatives. This brings the total number of people transported to join their families since the recent Tetovo events to 108.
The villages are still virtually empty except for those who were too old or sick to make the journey. So me local representatives say the communities are facing some difficulties of supplies whilst the situation remains unstable in the area. A trip that had been planned for later in the week in Vratnica to bring relief distribution was postponed by the ICRC upon hearing that the Macedonian Government had provided the village with relief and medical assistance, so as not to unnecessarily duplicate efforts.
The number of requests from newly displaced from the Tetovo area anxious to have news of relatives who remained behind decreased over the last days. The gradual re-establishment of phone lines may have contributed to this. The ICRC, whilst actively helping families to be reunited or to make first contact by phone, will continue to gather concrete information about people who are still unaccounted for and those who are reportedly held by the ethnic Albanian armed group (EAAG) in order to request immediate access to them.
The same day, a separate team went to Umin Dol, in the Kumanovo area, to follow up on concerns from some residents that they were encountering difficulties getting access to medical care, partly because of reported supply problems and because the ambulanta had been relocated to a temporary site after Macedonian security forces occupied their existing building. The ICRC plans to follow up soon with medical supplies.
Meanwhile, deliveries of relief aid were ongoing to the branches of the Macedonian Red Cross who continued to register newly-displaced from the Tetovo area.. Follow-up relief deliveries of items such as blankets and more hygiene parcels were made to the collective centres in Skopje, as well as to the village of Zilce. A new collective centre set up in Nikulic, on the border with Greece, was also sent urgently requested food rations for around 150 people.
At the time of writing, around 9,000 newly-displaced from the Tetovo area have been registered, of which around 350 ar e in temporary collective centres. The ICRC has provided assistance to all the concerned branches of the Macedonian Red Cross and distributions are ongoing.
On Wednesday, following an urgent request from the civilian representatives in Lipkovo, the ICRC evacuated 16 women and children to Kumanovo where they were met by relatives. It was the first time in many weeks that the ICRC had been requested to perform such an operation and is indicative of the fact that the situation for the civilian population, who have been cut off now for several weeks from their usual supply lines, are still in a precarious situation.
During the trip, concerns were expressed by the civilian representatives to the ICRC that they were extremely short of food and medical stocks; a situation which is exacerbated by the fact that the village is still hosting a number of displaced from nearby villages. Although it was impossible to confirm the number independently, the ICRC was informed that more than 10,000 people could still be in Lipkovo.
Unfortunately, a planned relief distribution of food and other items this week had to be postponed when the Macedonian Government failed to give the ICRC permission to undertake the trip. A similar request later in the week to bring assistance to civilians in Sipkovica, north of Tetovo, where the civilian population has been similarly isolated now for around four months, was also refused. Efforts will continue by the ICRC to bring much-needed assistance to these areas.
* The ICRC is leading the Red Cross Movement response to the conflict in Macedonia, supported by the Macedonian Red Cross who register and help distribute relief which is provided by the ICRC, with occasional donations from national Red Cross societies, such as the American Red Cross. The International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies supports and strengthens the MRC and provides logistical and occasional material support to the present operation.
At the same time, the ICRC has a specific and exclusive role in assisting and protecting people in the directly affected villages and in supporting medical structures with supplies for treating war-wounded as well as in reuniting separated families, following up on cases of people unaccounted for, and in visiting people arrested or held.