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Update 25.09.01 - Crisis infYROM

25-09-2001 Operational Update

    

 ICRC Skopje - 25.09.01     

    

 Main operational highlights:  

    

  •  Relief distributions ongoing to displaced and resident populations in isolated areas  

  •  Medical assessments continue in directly affected villages  

  •  Captured policeman released with the assistance of the ICRC  

  •  UXO/Mines awareness programme reaches more target populations  

    

 Relief activities  

    

Despite the decision to stop the registration process for any newly-displaced, the distributions to the existing caseload continue. Last week, more than 25,000 displaced in host families received ICRC food parcels, wheat flour and candles which was distributed by the Macedonian Red Cross (MRC) whilst almost 3,000 accommodated in collective centres were given hygiene parcels. This is part of ICRC's " rolling " policy to continue to exist the most recent displaced whilst gradually handing over the caseload, beginning with the longer-term displaced, to Intersos/ECHO.

 

At the same time, mobile ICRC teams maintained a constant presence in the collective centres in order to monitor more closely the gradual return of displaced to their homes, including, for example to Brnjaci and to some extent, the Tetovo area.

 

ICRC teams were present on the field in the last week in Drenovac, Dzepciste, Cerevo, Novo Selo, Rogle, Sipkovica, Lisec, Garje, Urvic, Jelovjane, Novo Selo, Vaksince, Lojane, Tearce, Neprosteno, Vratnica, Rugince, Matejce, Slupcane, Radusa, Dvorce and Umin Dol in order to continue to follow closely the developing humanitarian situation for the resident population, including new returnees.

 

Among these villages, more than 4,100 people received material assistance from the ICRC as part of its poli cy to assist people who are still isolated and deprived of their usual supplies of food or state financial assistance.

 

There is a slight improvement in some areas in terms of access to health care where, for instance, clinics are again staffed or families are better able to get drugs to relatives. However, many civilians in isolated areas still face considerable difficulties in getting hold of their essential drugs - a problem which particularly affects vulnerable groups such as the very young and the elderly. The ICRC continues to closely follow the situation, its health delegates making regular trips in the field. Last week assessments were carried out in the Sipkovica and the Tearce municipality, whilst a medical delivery was made in Lojane, in the Lipkova area.

 

Today, September 25, a joint delivery of ICRC and UNICEF medical material was made in the Jegunovce municipality as part of an approach aimed at bringing assistance from organisations who still face difficulties in accessing crisis regions.

 

It reiterates once again that these humanitarian problems are often directly linked to the continuing problem of lack of freedom of movement for civilians either because of the presence of police/army checkpoints or because of the fear of coming across NLA soldiers. Whilst incidences of actual harassment are rare, the perception of fear and mistrust which exists in both communities is deep-rooted and is a real obstacle in re-establishing the supply lines which would ease the shortages of food, medical supplies or state support which currently exist.

 

 UXO/Mines awareness programme  

    

Two regional meetings in Ohrid and Stip were organised by the ICRC in order to present the programme to the local Red Cross secretaries across the country. The Macedonian Red Cross (MRC) is supporting the ICRC in distributing leaflets and giving presentations to displaced people coming from the areas directly affected by the threat of UXO/mines.

 

At the same time, the community leaders in Neprosteno and Tearce were visited by the ICRC in order to solicit their support and help in identifying people from within the population who will eventually be trained by the ICRC to help spread the message among the community.

 

In Tearce, the programme was especially well-received; the community leader there explaining that the threat of unexploded ordnance and the fear of possible mines (although none have been so far discovered) has had a significant impact on the economy of the community, which derives the majority of its income from farming. Farmers, he said, have had to make a difficult choice between risking their lives or their livelihood.

 

To complement the community-based programme, around 5,500 leaflets have also been distributed among civilians most directly affected by the threat.

 

 Release of captured policeman  

    

On Sunday (Sept 23), the ICRC facilitated the release of a policeman who had been captured the previous day by the NLA in the Tetovo area.

 

The policeman was handed over to delegates on Sunday evening after the ICRC had offered its services to the NLA after hearing that they were willing to release him. The man was taken directly to be reunited with his family which lives near Tetovo. It brings the total number of people now released by the NLA through the ICRC to 16.

 

The ICRC is not directly involved in negotiations for release of detainees, unless it is requested by both sides, in its role as neutral intermediary, to arrange for dialogue between them to take place, which has not been the case in fYROM. It stands ready to facilitate releases once a decision has been taken, which means that the captors hand over liberated detainees to ICRC delegates who then transport them to safety.

 

 * 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. 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.