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The Balkans: Thousands remain in urgent need

26-07-1999 News Release 99/44

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Geneva - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies appealed today for a further 120 million Swiss francs (76.5 million US dollars) to meet the needs of thousands of people in the Balkans. Wrecked homes, landmines and unexploded bombs, severe economic hardship, the problem of missing persons and the lingering trauma of war are among the major difficulties affecting the region. 

The situation in Kosovo remains extremely precarious for returning refugees and many others. A second exodus from the province is under way, this time involving Serbs, Montenegrins and Romany people who now face a difficult and uncertain future in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Civilians in Serbia and Montenegro, meanwhile, are still enduring the hardships resulting from NATO bombing.

In Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the repercussions from the huge refugee influx will continue to be felt for a long time. Thousands of people who did not have much to begin with are now left even more bereft, having shared the little they had with refugees from Kosovo. In addition, both the ethnic Albanians who do not return to Kosovo and their hosts will need assistance throughout the winter months.

The appeal lists the following priorities for Red Cross action:

  • assisting internally displaced persons, refugees, returnees and other particularly vulnerable people throughout the region;

  • visiting prisoners;

  • helping to resolve the issue o f missing persons and providing support for their families;

  • protecting people at risk;

  • rehabilitating medical facilities and social welfare institutions;

  • strengthening local Red Cross organizations.