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Crisis in the Balkans -Situation Report No. 56

03-08-1999 Operational Update

 Joint Federation / ICRC Situation Report  


 This report is published weekly as a general update on Red Cross Red Crescent activities during the Balkans crisis, primarily for the Movement's components and supporters.  


UNHCR now gives the total number of returnees to Kosovo as 743,300, and the first repatriation flight direct into Pristina (from Switzerland) was scheduled for 2 August; such flights will be daily thereafter. A further 30,000 Kosovars have returned from third countries, according to IOM.

The number of non-Albanians from Kosovo seeking refuge in Serbia (mainly Serb and Roma but also ethnic Serbs who fled earlier conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia), meanwhile, has risen to 155,000, according to UNHCR.

The Movement’s Balkans logisti cs cell reports that the in-kind appeal has received a very high level of support and thanks to this it has been able to respond effectively to the needs in the field. Due to the substantial support already received from National Societies in terms of in-kind donations, it is in a position to be able to implement immediately the assistance programmes outlined in the revised appeal.

This week saw the release by UNHCR of the second draft of the Kosovo Rapid Village Assessment -- a compilation of data collected by various organisations and KFOR representatives between 19 and 26 July. The assessment indicates that approximately 76,000 homes (40%) in the villages visited have been completely destroyed, with only 25% remaining undamaged.

 Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia)  

Overview: Internaly Displaced Persons (IDPs) continue to arrive from Kosovo. In the area covered by the Belgrade Joint Office, the influx last week was 30-40 persons per day, and the region is currently hosting close to 54,000 IDPs. Even in Vojvodina, where the number of IDPs had been stable at over 5,000, an increase has been registered and the area now has close to 6,600 IDPs. The pressure in the south is even stronger and the Kraljevo Joint Office, which covers the region with 37,000 IDPs, reports a daily increase of 100 displaced people.

Heavy rains struck Serbia again, causing more floods in the central regions, where one person is reported missing.

Relief: The July deliveries for the cooked meals part of the soup kitchen programme in Serbia have been completed, while the lunch parcel section (for those who cannot access soup kitchens) has just started. In the last week of July, 29 trucks transported 540 MT of food (bulk food for soup kitchens and individual parcels for IDPs) to six regional warehouses in Serbi a and to Podgorica. In some of the regions, like the one covered by the Kraljevo Joint Field Office, all the food supplies for the soup kitchen programme have reached the relevant local branches. In that particular area, some 200 MT were last week distributed at the local level. In the same period, over 671 MT of food items and 3,410 mattresses arrived in the country.

In response to the needs that emerged from recent floods in central Serbia affecting some 60,000 people, a surplus of 78 MT of sugar and 78,000 litres of vegetable oil from the current International Federation refugee food programme funded by ECHO are being distributed to victims in Kragujevac and Pozarevac regions through Red Cross branches. In addition to this, 17,000 ECHO-funded hygiene parcels were also dispatched to the same regions.

Health: Meetings were held last week with representatives of water boards in the southern Serbian towns of Nis, Leskovac and Lebane. The discussion focused on the problem of water quality control, especially in Nis which is the reference for southern Serbia and for which 60,000 USD worth of equipment and disposable material have been budgeted. Similar assistance for the Public Health Institute in Novi Sad is in the pipeline.

The medical teams supplied the rehabilitation hospital in Stari Slankamen (Novi Sad area) with drugs and the clinic of the Krusik factory in Valjevo with dressing sets. They also visited Joint Field teams in Nis, Kraljevo and Novi Sad to discuss particular health needs in their respective areas. In Nis, the problem of some 50 patients of a psychiatric hospital, originally from Kosovo, and their possible transfer, was discussed. In Novi Sad, the project of expanding and equipping the Maternity Ward was the subject of particular attention.

A medical team took part in the visit of Belgrade prison hospital.

Assessment of the IDP and Roma health situ ation has been completed and proposals are being made.

The supply of essential drugs to humanitarian pharmacies has been completed for the month of July.

Protection: The ICRC detention teams have completed the first round of visits to 12 places of detention in Serbia in which people detained in relation to the conflicts in Kosovo are held. Last week places of detention in Novi Pazar and Krusevac, as well as the central prison and prison hospital in Belgrade, were visited. A census has been made of a total of 1,925 detainees in this first round of visits.

On 1 August, the ICRC facilitated a family visit to four people detained in relation to the conflict in Croatia in the early 1990s. Eight family members visited their relatives in the place of detention in Sremska Mitrovica.

The tracing agency in Belgrade received from the ICRC in Pristina 441 Red Cross messages to be delivered to detainees and 98 such messages to be delivered to various destinations, including 17 collected from detainees for their families.

Participating National Society (PNS): Last week, Danish and Canadian Red Cross representatives visited Serbia, the former concentrating on the Kraljevo region and the latter expressing strong interest in the Vojvodina soup kitchens and Roma health programme. The Swedish Red Cross has requested a detailed programme for the assessment of a comprehensive public health project for water quality control.


Overview:   The security of the civilian population, particularly Kosovo's minority groups, is still a major concern. Violence aimed mainly at members of the Serb and Roma communities is continuing. Shootings, beatings, kidnappings, house-burning and threats occur on a daily basis, with the resu lt that the victims are either too frightened to leave their homes or are compelled to move out of the area altogether. Very few towns can now be called ethnically mixed, and in those that are tensions are high.

Spontaneous returns are petering out while return operations organised by UNHCR are now down to three convoys a week (mostly from Albania and Montenegro). On the other hand, the number coming back from other countries has increased. (See also Latest Events.)

Relief: The ICRC delivered 400 MT of food to some 223,000 beneficiaries in 11 different towns and villages. In some areas, the distributions were made with the help of the local branches of the Mother Theresa Society and the local Red Cross. In response to requests received during field trips, 22 MT of hygiene parcels were also distributed.

Health: The ICRC agreed with the Pristina Blood Centre to begin supplying blood transfusion bags and reagents for testing blood. The centre, which previously received its supplies from Belgrade, had not had any deliveries in six months and was on the point of running out of stocks. The ICRC is to provide 3,000 blood bags and 12,000 testing kits (for HIV, hepatitis B and C) per month, which is sufficient to cover the needs of the centre plus five other major hospitals.

All branches of the Institute of Public Health in Kosovo received basic water analysis kits from the ICRC this week. The kits, which contain laboratory equipment and chemical reagents, will enable technicians to test the quality of drinking water in both mains systems and in wells. Almost half the population in Kosovo get their water from wells, many of which have been contaminated or become stagnant through lack of use. To date, the ICRC has cleaned and disinfected 325 wells, serving some 7,600 people in two municipalities.

Protection: Five teams, each with two or three satellite telephones, travelled t o 35 different towns and villages, offering members of both communities the opportunity to get in touch with their relatives. If callers were unable to get through or their call was not answered, staff collected the phone numbers and called from the office at a later time. In all, over 8,600 calls were made this week.

As well as providing the phone service, the tracing teams collected allegations of arrest, requests for family reunifications, Red Cross messages and details of unaccompanied children. Relatives of missing persons were also able to consult lists of detainees (drawn up as a result of visits to places of detention in Serbia last week) for information on their loved ones. So far, the names of almost 600 missing people have been identified on these lists.

An ICRC psychiatrist has drawn up a plan of action to train local employees to carry out activities in family link centres, to spread knowledge of international humanitarian law and to work on a Remnants of War programme.

Operating National Society (ONS): Meetings concerning the future structure of the Red Cross in Kosovo are ongoing in Pristina and Belgrade.

Participating National Society (PNS): The British Red Cross has begun its year-long project to rehabilitate some 70 schools in Kosovo. So far, around 30 schools in five areas have been identified and a target of three months has been set for completion of this first round of the project. Much of the work is being contracted out to local firms. The German Red Cross commenced its mobile kitchen programme on 26 July. At present, meals are being delivered daily to 6,000 beneficiaries in 25 towns and villages in and around Pec. The American Red Cross has identified a town on the border with Macedonia where they would like to tap a spring and build a pipeline to serve the area. The 10,000-strong population of Jankovic is currently taking water from the nearby river. The Finnish Red C ross signed a contract to rehabilitate the water and heating systems of the health centre in the town of Viti. The Japanese Red Cross is rehabilitating nine dispensaries and has already started emergency repairs on the smaller premises.

 Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Montenegro)  

Overview: The number of people returning to Kosovo continued to drop, with less than 1,000 IDPs returning last week. Between 21 June and 31 July a total of 54,445 persons were registered as having returned to Kosovo.

Serb, Roma and a few Albanian IDPs arrived in Montenegro, but in smaller numbers than before. Additionally, Serb IDPs continued to arrive from Kosovo via Serbia. The exact number, however, is hard to establish since no registration is taking place between Serbia and Montenegro. 

The Red Cross branches in the north are reporting a daily increase of IDPs. The main entry is no longer the Pec-Rozaje road, but via Serbia. Berane, Plav and Andrijevica in the north and Bar in the south were the most common destinations for the new arrivals. The RC branch in Berane registered 100 IDPs per day over the last three days.

In total, 23,195 new arrivals from Kosovo have been registered since 9 June.

Relief: Direct distribution of 2.5 MT of fresh food, 3,000 litres of milk and fresh fruit was made to eight collective centres (1,010 beneficiaries) in Berane, Andrijevica and Rozaje.

Health: The medical team spent two days in the north assessing IDPs'access to drugs and transport to Podgorica for medical treatment. Visits were made to the local Red Cross, state and private pharmacies and collective centres to gather information from all sources.

The assessment of the health situation in the Roma settlements (1,441 per sons) in Niksic continued. The health situation is under control, but assistance with reinforcing houses (especially the roofs) would be beneficial.

Protection: Visits made to collective centres and IDPs in private accommodation in the north of Montenegro and in Bar, which is hosting the largest Serb IDP community in the south, indicate that tracing needs of these people are not excessive as most IDPs came with their entire family. Still, a number of requests concerning loss of contact and family reunions, as well as allegations of arrest, were collected. In order to process such requests faster, a regular shuttle between Podgorica and Pec has been set up.

 Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia  

Overview: Some refugee camps will remain open in Macedonia throughout the winter to provide help for thousands of Kosovo refugees unable to return, according to UNHCR. About 8,200 refugees are now living in camps and 14,600 in host families. The majority of remaining refugees are ethnic Albanians unable to return immediately because of damage to their homes. There are also an estimated 5,000 Roma refugees. Most live with their ethnic kin in Macedonia, with about 650 in camps and collective centres. There are an estimated 3,500 ethnic Serbs who fled Kosovo and about 3,000 Gorani (ethnic Slavs who practise Islam). The Macedonian government has given special status to over 3,000 Macedonian passport holders who were living in Kosovo, allowing them to receive refugee relief and aid. There are about 900 Bosnian refugees remaining from the 1992 conflict.


Logistics and Relief Distributions (25-29 July)



 Distributed to refugees  

 Distributed to Social Cases  

Blankets (Kuwait RC)




Hygiene parcels (American RC)




Hygiene parcels (French RC)




Food parcels (French RC)




Hygiene parcels (IFRC)




Food parcels




Baby parcels (Swedish RC)




Clothing (Kuwait RC)








Recreational kits (British RC)




Student kits (British RC)




Paper sketching pads (British RC)




Flour (kg) (Kuwait RC)




Sugar (kg) (Kuwait RC)




Sugar (kg)




Mineral water (1.5 litres)




Flour (kg) (Bulgarian RC)




Flour (kg) (WFP)




Cooking oil (litres) (WFP)




Salt (kg) (WFP)




Also, 76,226 high protein biscuits were transferred from the Federation warehouse to the ICRC warehouse for relief operations in Kosovo.

Protection: Since the beginning of the crisis, the ICRC has registered 1,800 vulnerable people. To 29 July, 484 family reunion requests were closed and there were 147 family reunions carried out. For the week ending 27 July, tracing offices have received 445 visitors and 281 phone calls. There were 99 Red Cross messages received for distribution and nine were distributed; 58 were returned to sender.

Participating National Society (PNS): Within the framework of a bilateral health programme, the American Red Cross is funding a public health survey to be conducted by Macedonian Red Cross (MRC) staff among families who have become social cases as a direct result of hosting refugees from Kosovo. The survey will provide a base for developing health information programmes (general or reproductive health), implemented by the MRC.


Overview: The number of Kosovo refugees remaining in Albania remains unclear, but UNHCR will be monitoring Red Cross relief distributions beginning this week, and this should help provide a more conclusive set of figures.

The security situation remains tense, particularly south of Fier, north of Kukes, at Shkoder and in the Burrel-Peshkopi area. Local press reports say the large amount of aid being stored in warehouses throughout Albania is at risk of looting and abuse.

The Emergency Management Group is now focusing its attention on rehabilitation and aims to coordinate the various rehabilitation activities in order to prevent duplication.

The delegation is continuing to downsize, with six delegates finishing their missions last week.

Relief: WFP indicated last week that it would not make food available for distribution to refugees in Albania under the terms of its agreement with the Red Cross until the completion and verification of a UNHCR registration process, scheduled for mid-month. Meanwhile, the Red Cross will continue using its own stocks of food parcels through August.

Relief despatch over the last week included 4,500 Swedish Red Cross food parcels and 1,000 buckets to the Elbasan region, and 10 army stretchers to Kukes. Twenty ECHO hygiene parcels were distributed by the Japanese Red Cross as part of its medical programme.

The helicopter under contract to the Movement has stopped operations and negotiations are underway with UNHCR for shared use of a helicopter to access Kukes two days a week.

Two Land Cruisers were transferred to Pristina last week, after an urgent appeal for vehicles from the International Federation there. Three further vehicles are also likely to be transferred.

Health:   A health workshop is planned for 3-5 September to review the Kosovar refugee operation in Albania and to give an outline of future health activities in Albania. It will be open to all PNS and the Albanian Red Cross.

An assessment of the food, medical, nursing and recreational needs of social institutions, psychiatric clinics and centres for street children began last week in Shkoder, Tirana and Lezhe. The assessment will look at the quality of care rather than broader structural needs, and will continue through August.

Participating National Society (PNS): The French Red Cross are investigating a new medical project involving the rehabilitation of the Elbasan psychiatric hospital. The British Red Cross are discussing the provision of education and recreation kits to refugees remaining in Albania. The Hellenic, Japanese, Austrian and Danish Red Cross are due to finish their Albanian operations in August.


The number of refugees from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) is decreasing from day to day. According to UNHCR the total number of FRY refugees still accommodated in refugee camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina is 2,493. A total of 1,180 FRY refugees have been repatriated since the beginning of July. That includes 71 non-Kosovars and 565 Kosovars accommodated in collective centres, 114 non-Kosovars and 430 Kosovars accommodated with host families. The Red Cross of the Bosnian Serb entity still operates with the same figure of 20,000 FRY refugees accommodated within this entity, while the Red Cross of t he Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina operates with the figure of 37,000 FRY refugees in this entity. Both figures are estimates.

 Ref. LG-1999-127-ENG