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Crisis in the Balkans - Situation Report No. 57

11-08-1999 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.  


Around 750,000 Kosovar refugees and displaced people have now returned to Kosovo since 15 June -- 33,500 from third countries.   In Albania, a survey is underway to verify the number of remaining refugees, which is put by the government at 11,000. A bout 1,000 of these refugees are in 30 collective centers in Durres and Tirana, according to UNHCR. The rest are in private accommodation.

 Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia)  

 Overview : IDPs (internally Displaced Persons) continue to arrive from Kosovo. In the area covered by the Belgrade Joint Office, the total number of IDPs is 62,000. Red Cross branches have reported that these are not all new arrivals but include those who arrived earlier but failed to register with the Red Cross. The number of IDPs in Vojvodina has also gone up to almost 7,000 people. The Joint Office in Nis has reported that the daily influx of IDPs from Kosovo into this region has gone down slightly. The number of IDPs in this region is 28,000.

 Relief : Between 31 July and 6 August, 34 trucks transported 563 MT of food and non-food assistance to six regional Red Cross warehouses in Serbia (including Pristina). From 30 July to 6 August, 1,100 MT of food items arrived in the country. The warehouses in Nis/Zajecar and Kragujevac regions have been facing problems with the distribution of relief goods. A task force consisting of the International Federation, ICRC and Yugoslav Red Cross has been formed to deal with this issue. The Task Force had its first meeting last week.

 Health : The water and sanitation team conducted a series of follow-up visits to Novi Sad and Sremski Karlovci in Vojvodina to check on water projects: construction of a new water system for the hospital in Novi Sad; construction of a small reservoir for Sremski Karlovci; distribution of potable water for 50,000 people on the right bank of Danube. Assessment visits were paid to a primary school in Novi Sad regarding a programme f or the replacement of broken windows and the Blood Transfusion Centre in Novi Sad regarding a generator donation to be carried out this week. The Mother and Child Institute and blood transfusion centre in Belgrade were also visited to check on the need for generators. Follow-up visits were made to the southern Serbian towns of Lebane, Leskovac, Bela Palanka and Bujanovac regarding supply and maintenance of emergency spare parts for water systems.

Medical assistance was delivered to hospitals in Kragujevac, Nis and Vranje, consisting of one surgery kit for each place. The Belgrade blood institute received a small donation of blood bags.

Protection: The tracing agency in Belgrade received 1,152 Red Cross messages to be distributed.

 PNS (Participating National Societies) : The Danish Red Cross completed an assessment mission in Serbia last week, focusing on the soup kitchen programme for Kraljevo region.


 Overview : When darkness falls in Kosovo, tensions rise. The nights are marked by violence and in the morning the catalogue of attacks, killings and threats makes grim reading in the press and KFOR security reports. Many of the victims are elderly people, targeted in their own homes. In ethnically mixed towns and villages, demonstrations are held regularly by the different communities, protesting at the lack of security.

 Relief : The ICRC was able to deliver food to vulnerable beneficiaries this week, despite the interruption of the pipeline from Skopje. In total, 160 MT of food and 113 MT of hygiene parcels were distributed to 146,750 beneficiaries this week.

 Health : Six medical transfers were facilitated. Two patients were transferred from Skopje to Kosovo, two from Serbia to Kosovo and two from Pristina hospital to other locations within the province. The ICRC's well-cleaning project is progressing: 130 rural wells serving over 2,500 people were cleaned and disinfected this week in two municipalities in central Kosovo. Two more basic water analysis kits were provided to the Institute of Public Health in the main towns of Peja and Prizren.

 Protection : Over 50 villages and towns were visited by ICRC mobile teams and around 6,500 calls were made -- 3,500 of which got through successfully. In addition, 715 Red Cross messages were collected and distributed. The tracing department also received 127 allegations of arrest.

 ONS (Operating National Societies) : The first Red Cross field assessment is now complete, 21 local structures having been visited altogether. A second, more detailed assessment will be carried out this month to determine the level of support needed by the branches to get them up and running.

 PNS : The German Red Cross public kitchen serving the Peja area is now providing a daily meal for 7,000 beneficiaries.

The British Red Cross schools repair team aims to rehabilitate 70 such schools as part of its year-long project in Kosovo. Work has now started on six schools, while plans for a further 21 have been finalised. In some cases, the work will be carried out in conjunction with the local community. Local staff and contractors have been hired and training is being provided. Rehabilitation should be finis hed in four weeks -- in time for the start of the new school year.

The Finnish Red Cross has registered all medical staff at Viti health centre and work is about to begin on the centre's heating and water systems.

The Belgian Red Cross (French section) is distributing food to the vulnerable in Suhareke, while the Japanese Red Cross are now awaiting medical equipment as part of their project to rehabilitate clinics in the Decan area.

The national societies of Austria, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA are currently carrying out assessments and/or drafting proposals for projects in the fields of water and habitat, food assistance, reconstruction and rehabilitation, health and psycho-social care.

 Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Montenegro)  

 Overview : Movements of IDPs to and from Kosovo continued to drop last week with 10-20 persons per day in each direction. The government has provided four hectares of land near the existing Konik (Roma) camp in Podgorica in order to set up a proper camp with water and sanitation facilities. In addition wooden barracks will be built to replace the existing tents. UNHCR is the coordinating body for the new camp site and 10 NGOs are involved in different areas of work.

 Relief : Distribution of fresh food continued to eight collective centres in the north for 1,089 beneficiaries. A visit was made to the village of Bandzov, close to the Kosovo border, to assess the relief/shelter situation for remaining 80 Kosovo Albanian IDPs who will most probably spend the winter there. More IDPs are expected to arrive in October to stay for the winter.

 Health : A meeting was held with the deputy mayor of Berane on shelter issues. The municipality was asked to identify properties which could be rehabilitated to be used as collective centres, and land where prefabricated houses could be constructed.

 Protection : A number of requests for help, mainly from Serb IDPs from Kosovo, have been received. These requests involve reported arrests, loss of contact and family reunions for Serb/Roma/Montenegrin people remaining in Kosovo. In the south, 25 Red Cross messages have been sent for distribution, 10 messages were received for distribution and four were distributed last week.

 Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia  

 Overview : The Macedonian government agreed on to drop a (640 DEM) customs inspection fee on aid shipments into Kosovo after protests by international humanitarian organisations, which had suspended aid shipments from Macedonia to Kosovo.

As humanitarian aid is reduced in FYRO Macedonia, the Red Cross, other international organisations and NGOs are orientating their programmes towards the new post-emergency phase, to focus on the needs of all Macedonian citizens. The Federation, American Red Cross, German Red Cross and Spanish Red Cross are working with Macedonian Red Cross to identify needs and implement development-oriented programmes.

UNHCR is making arrangements for the repair of at least four collective centres in Macedonia for use during the winter. Five out of the original eight camps in the country have been closed. Three remain operational: Cegrane and Neprosteno (for Kosovar Albanians) and Stenkovec II, temporarily accommodating Roma refugees. Rehabilitation of former camp sites is proceeding.

According to UNHCR, there is a steady trickle of new refugee arrivals, some claiming to be ethnic Albanians from the Presevo and Bujanovac areas of southern Serbia, and some Roma arrivals are also reported. The Macedonian Red Cross is working with Serb community centres to assist an estimated 3,000 ethnic Serb refugees from Kosovo.

 Relief : Donors participating in the relief programme for social cases met with Federation and Macedonian Red Cross representatives on 6 August. Problems related to distribution were discussed including the need for better communication of delivery times; standardised packages of flour, sugar, oil; communication with the local Centres for Social Work. For the future, Mercy Corps and CRS are committed to the programme through the end of 1999; the American Red Cross is committed to June 2000 and the French Red Cross can support through September and InterSOS through October. 

In July, a total of over 289,000 people received Red Cross relief distributions. The beneficiaries include 16,138 refugees and 4,100 host families, 66,033 social case families, and 1,072 persons in hospitals and other institutions. July distributions will continue in the first week of August. Through June and part of July the total number of refugees declined rapidly, as ethnic Albanians returned to Kosovo. However, the number has been increasing recently as other groups, including Serbs and Roma, have been leaving Kosovo. Consequently, the Red Cross planning figures for August are 25,000 refugees living in 6,000 host families.

July relief distribution by Macedonian Red Cross through Federation warehouses:


Hygiene parcels*






Baby parcels


Food parcels (German RC)


Wheat flour (kg)


Beans (kg)


Sugar (kg)


Rice (kg)


Pasta (kg)


Canned vegetables


*International Federation 18,846; French Red Cross 22,320; American Red Cross 27,896.

The ICRC dispatched the following relief goods to Kosovo from the Skopje warehouse:



 Relief goods  


 4-31 July  

Individual food parcels



Hygiene parcels



Wheat flour ( MT)



Meals Ready to Eat



Water (1.5 litre bottles)




 Health : During July, the Norwegian Red Cross (NRC) hospital at Cegrane refugee camp was scaling down activities and preparing to close, since the camp population was reduced rapidly from 45,000 to less than 5,000. Admissions dropped steadily throughout the month, except for a temporary rise in activity during the latter part of the month when UNHCR transferred 2,300 additional refugees to Cegrane. The average number of admissions was 18 per week. The average number of in-patients was 17 and the average number of out-patients was 381. There were three major and 22 minor operations during the period, and eight births. A total of 22 critically ill patients were taken to Pristina Hospital with the NRC ambulance, running daily from Cegrane to Pristina.

The NRC field hospital closed on Saturday 31 July. MSF Holland was to handle health matters and patients were to be referred to Gostivar and Tetovo hospitals. Four ambulances were handed over to the Macedonian Red Cross and some other equipment was transferred to Norwegian Red Cross programmes in Kosovo.

 Protection : The ICRC has set up a regional tracing centre in Skopje for Macedonia, Albania, Serbia and Kosovo, where a database on missing people, detainees and prisoners will be maintained. Since the beginning of the crisis, the ICRC tracing agency in Macedonia has registered 1,841 vulnerable people, among them 884 unaccompanied children. 

Cumulative figures through 4 August are as follows. 916 family reunion requests opened, 542 family reunion requests closed. There were 251 family reunions done by ICRC, among which 110 were between unaccompanied minors and their families. Additionally, there were 213 family reunions done by ICRC where there was no family reunion request opened. For the week ending 4 August, the ICRC tracing offices have received 494 visitors and 369 phone calls. There were 20 Red Cross messages received for di stribution, 29 were sent back to sender and 15 sent out for distribution.

For the entire month of July there were 5,141 Red Cross messages collected, 5,496 distributed and 1,530 sent back to sender. There were 5,260 visitors and 2,079 phone calls at the tracing offices.

 PNS : The Kuwaiti Red Crescent is coordinating its Kosovo relief distribution programme from Skopje. On 4 August the following relief goods were sent to Kosovo: 92 boxes of blankets, 84 bundles of blankets, 392 boxes of clothing, 102 boxes of baby covers, 17 boxes of bed covers, 1,635 kg wheat flour, 60 boxes of detergent, 480 kg milk powder. Some of the relief goods were donated to local organisations. 


 Overview :   NATO announced on 3 August that its 5,500-strong AFOR force is leaving Albania during August. A 2,000-strong replacement force is to arrive in September, though its mandate is not yet clear.

UNHCR says an increasing number of Kosovar Albanians are travelling through Durres en route to Kosovo, thereby avoiding alternative travel routes through Serbia. As of 3 August, 2,611 refugees were registered as going through Durres on the way to Kosovo, and another 4,713 with permanent residence overseas were registered as going for visits to Kosovo. Some of these people have been targeted by bandits, particularly at night.

A new coordinating body is to be established to deal with mine and UXO issues in Albania, although its legal status has still to be established. Meanwhile, the Albanian armed forces have begun marking the minefields along the country’s northern border. Many of the posts and signs erected earlier had been stolen. In the last two months, nine people have been killed and 48 injured due to mines and UXOs in this area.

 Relief : The August distribution of food parcels got underway last week, with few problems. Given the changing refugee situation in Albania at present, beneficaries are now required to register with UNHCR to receive the food parcels. This should help clarify refugee numbers.

The Elbasan regional office has been closed, and it is expected that the Durres office will close at the end of this month. The Shkoder, Kukes and Tirana offices remain open.

Two Finnish Red Cross ERU hospitals were delivered to the Finnish Red Cross in Kosovo last week. Three Toyota Corollas were also handed over to the regional logistics centre, for use in the Kosovo operation.

 Health : Medicines and other goods were donated to Fier and Burrel hospitals last week. The on-going programme will see donations to Peshkopi, Bulqize and the military hospital at Tirana this week.

The Japanese Red Cross medical dispensary at Mamuras is due to close at the end of this week, as the number of Kosovar refugees using the service declines. The dispensary has also been well patronised by local Albanians.

 Protection : Most activity is now focused on the follow-up and closing of existing tracing requests and family reunion cases. The offices in Tirana and Kukes have also received requests from refugees who have already returned to Kosovo but not located family members.

 PNS : With its existing projects almost compl ete, the Hellenic Red Cross is investigating further water purification projects at some 13 locations throughout Albania. The American Red Cross have been discussing the development of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Federation and the Albanian Red Cross. A revison of the existing French Red Cross MoU will also be undertaken to incorporate the Elbasan psychiatric hospital rehabiliation.



The total number of refugees from FRY has decreased by approximately 30% since the NATO operation ended. The total number of FRY refugees in Bosnia and Herzegovina is 76,650, according to UNHCR. Besides some 13,000 Kosovars who remain in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as approximately the same number of Muslims from Sandzak, 40,000 Croatian Serbs are still accommodated in the Bosnian Serb entity. During the war in Croatia they fled to FRY, then fled to Republika Srpska during the NATO operation.

A total of 22,200 FRY refugees from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and 10,100 from the Republika Srpska have been repatriated since June 15. 26,650 FRY refugees remain in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and 50,000 in Republika Srpska.

The total of 2,219 FRY refugees are still accommodated in refugee camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including 2,049 refugees accommodated in refugee camps in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and 170 in Republika Srpska.

 LG 1999-128-ENG