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Crisis in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Update 24.03.01Red Cross/Red Crescent response

24-03-2001 Operational Update


The clashes between Macedonian security forces and ethnic Albanian armed groups in the north and north west of the country have forced thousands of people to flee their homes in fear of being caught up in the fighting.

As of 23.03.01, the ICRC, with the help of the Macedonian Red Cross, has registered around 16,000 internally displaced people from the Crna Gora and Tetovo areas. Around 10,400 of them have arrived in Skopje, with the rest scattered around the country. The majority are currently being accommodated in host families.

The conditions of the displaced vary from poor people fleeing villages in a rather poor condition to town-dwellers who were mainly able to leave with vehicles and personal belongings. Reports from displaced from Tetovo suggest that some people are returning to the city during the day to work and returning in the evening to their host families.

Whilst one cannot talk at this time of a humanitarian crisis, it is clear that the situation remains precariously balanced. The ICRC, together with the Macedonian Red Cross (MRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is continuing to closely monitor the situation as well as prepare a contingency plan to enable us to develop a flexible response to cope with any emerging needs. An emergency distribution programme for the displaced has already begun.

Following the tense situation currently prevailing in Tetovo, the ICRC field delegate based in the town will continue to assess the situation for any corresponding humanitarian needs. Eff orts are being made to travel to the affected villages surrounding Tetovo to assess the situation, particular in relation to any medical needs. The green light has been obtained by the authorities to access these villages, but the security situation prevailing in the region at the moment has not permitted the ICRC to travel there.

 Humanitarian response  

The ICRC, which is leading the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement's response to the crisis, in close co-operation with the MRC and the International Federation, immediately set up a plan of action to assist all those registered displaced people who were in need of help. Distributions organised by the MRC have already started in Skopje, with distributions in the rest of the branches with displaced due to start in the coming days. The current plan is to reach 2000 people per day in Skopje until the current caseload has been reached. So far, around 6,000 people have been assisted.

According to guidelines set up by the ICRC, MRC staff register displaced at fixed points, during which people are asked to express their main needs. The available assistance, provided mainly from existing ICRC stocks, but also by the International Federation, comprises food parcels, family parcels, baby kits, cooking utensils, mattresses and blankets.

The assistance is designed to meet the needs of a family for one month. If the situation continues to remain unstable and people do not return home, the displaced will continue to receive similar assistance.

MRC registration teams also offer displaced people the opportunity to write Red Cross messages if they have no means of contacting family members. No needs in this regard have emerged at this time.

Following an initial ICRC assessment mission to Tetovo Hospital, basic surgical materials enough to treat 200 wounded was delivered. There have been a number of wounded, mainly light injuries, including a small number of civilians. Monitoring of the hospital's needs is ongoing.

The ICRC has reinforced its team in fYROM with extra personnel, including specialists in relief, medical, water and sanitation who have been evaluating the needs among the displaced population. With its continuing presence in the Balkans region, it has the possibility to quickly mobilise additional personnel as well as reinforce its logistical capacity. It currently has stocks for 20,000 people which will be constantly replenished and increased if needed.

 International Federation/Macedonian Red Cross  

The International Federation is assisting the Macedonian Red Cross to strengthen its relief and logistics capacities. There is a heavy demand upon the two distributions points the MRC is using in Skopje, and a search is urgently ongoing to find more appropriate sites.

The International Federation is pooling its emergency supply stocks with those of the ICRC, to provide beneficiaries with a better package. Its transport fleet has also been merged with that of the ICRC to improve efficiency in terms of supplying the distribution points in Skopje and around the country. The International Federation has 35,000 hygiene parcels in country, enough for 175.000 people. It has made available 10,000 blankets and 2,500 mattresses.

The MRC's Communication Department is also being assisted by the Federation in order to enhance relations with the national media. Daily updates to inform the public on the MRC's plans and concerns will soon be distributed. The Federation will assist the MRC in longer term communication strategies.

The American and German Red Cross societies are also participating to the Red Cross res ponse to the crisis; the American Red Cross cross in helping in programme management and financial reporting, and the German Red Cross in disaster preparedness capacity.

Ref. LG 2001-016-ENG