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Crisis in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:Humanitarian issues and ICRC response

24-08-2001 Operational Update

 

 

 Executive summary  

    

  •  The signing on 13 August 2001 of a peace agreement between Macedonian and ethnic Albanian political leaders, after six weeks of internationally brokered talks, has engendered great hope that six months of fighting in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are over. Despite sporadic incidents of violence on the ground, there is optimism that the ceasefire will hold.  

    

  •  Meanwhile, the suffering of the civilian population is not yet over. Even if the fighting stops entirely, it will be weeks or even months before the residents of villages and towns affected by the conflict, as well as those who fled to other, safer parts of the country or abroad and those who have decided to return home, see their lives return to normal. In addition, both sides are still holding people detained in connection with the crisis.  

    

  •  For this reason, the ICRC, which, since the beginning of the conflict in February, has been responding to the urgent needs of people affected by the fighting, will in the coming months continue with its activities more or less as in the last weeks, and as outlined in the ICRC update of 27 July, with the necessary adaptations to the current situation.  

    

  •  The ICRC's aim is to respond, at all times, to all the urgent and basic needs of all civilians living in areas affected by the fighting and, in a first, emergency phase, to the needs of all internally displaced persons (IDPs), until partner organizations are found to take over this responsibility. For planning purposes, it is assumed that 20,000 civilian residents will be assisted per month and, for a three-month emergency phase, 37,000 IDPs per month. Depending on how the situation evolves, assistance which was intended for IDPs will, as people return to their homes, be redirected towards residents, including returned IDPs.  

    

  •  So as to be prepared for a possible sudden increase in numbers of people needing assistance, two contingency stocks are planned: one for 60,000 IDPs and another for 30,000 residents.  

    

  •  This all means that the ICRC's 2001 budget for FYROM, which was set at 1.6 million CHF before the outbreak of violence, has had to be increased by 10.4 million SFr (6 million USD/ 6.9 million EUR), bringing the total budget for FYROM to 12,039,767 SFr/ 6,973,511 USD/ 7,967,024 EUR.  

    

  •  The ICRC is coordinating the response of the International Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement to the crisis in FYROM, supported by the Macedonian Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.  

    

    

It will be weeks before the people currently affected by the fighting (refugees, IDPs and residents) start to feel the effects of the peace agreement in their daily lives. Until September, the ICRC will thus continue to assist the IDPs and the residents in areas controlled by the National Liberation Army (NLA), as planned and outlined in the ICRC update of 27 July 2001. In September, October and November, if and when people start returning in large numbers to the areas and villages which were caught up in the fighting, a corresponding part of this emergency assistance will be redirected to cover the needs of the returnees. For planning purposes, it is assumed that the total number of people thus assisted will be at least 50,000. This assistance will make a vital difference to the daily lives of the beneficiaries and contribute to a normalization of the situation in their communities.

 
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 Internally displaced persons in FYROM  

    

Since the beginning of the crisis the ICRC, through the Macedonian Red Cross Society, has registered around 80,000 people as internally displaced within FYROM. Around 60,000 people are currently still registered as displaced; 32,000 of these are from the Tetovo area. Most of the displaced are living in host families, while around 3,500 are in collective centres established by the government, mainly in Skopje.

 Since the beginning of the conflict, the ICRC has :

  • provided relief aid to all displaced people registered with the Macedonian Red Cross as needing help (i.e. 80,000).

    

 Over the coming months, the ICRC plans to:  

  • continue to meet the urgent and basic needs of all IDPs during the first phase of their displacement. For planning purposes, this emergency phase is calculated as lasting three months, during which adapted food assistance will be provided to around 30,000 IDPs living in host families and up to 7,000 in collective centres each month. The ICRC will also distribute individual hygiene parcels and baby parcels on a quarterly basis.

In preparation for after the emergency phase, the ICRC has taken steps to ensure a smooth handover of beneficiaries to other organizations. The United Nations'World Food Programme (WFP) has been approached and has agreed to assist the IDPs with a monthly food ration, once their pipeline is ready.

The broader needs of the IDPs, such as schooling for children, psychosocial counselling, and leisure activities, are to be addressed by other national or international bodies. In parallel, UN agencies will be able to assess long-term rehabilitation needs and have time to initiate them without being under pressure to cover immediate basic needs.

 
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 Resident population affected by the conflict  

The civilians who remained in areas directly affected by the conflict are still living in very difficult conditions. These are mostly in the Albanian-populated areas along the border with Kosovo - in the Kumanovo, Tetovo and Skopska Crna Gora areas - which were caught up in the fighting between the National Liberation Army (NLA) and the Macedonian armed forces. Problems faced include the destruction of civilian housing and damage to other property, and injuries to civilians. Around 100,000 people have been affected to date, including those who fled their homes and were registered as internally displaced persons at some time since the beginning of the conflict. While the exact number of residents currently affected is not known, estimates vary between 60,000 and 80,000 (about 20,000 in Lipkovo, including returnees, 8-10,000 in Shipkovica, and around 40,000 in Tetovo/Jazince).

Even after the signing of a peace agreement, it will be some time before food, medical and energy supply lines are re-established and hygiene and other conditions return to normal. In the coming weeks therefore, the civilian population will thus continue to have the same urgent material needs as during the fighting.

The number of vulnerable residents requiring urgent assistance is likely to rise when people start returning to their villages, once they are confident that it is safe and that the ceasefire is holding (see below under returnees).  

 Since the beginning of the conflict, the ICRC has :

  • been the only international humanitarian organization able to work in the villages directly affected by fighting. This has been achieved by constant dialogue with both sides in order to gain trust and secure the relevant security guarantees to work in the conflict zones

  • travelled extensively in directly affected areas to bring relief and medical material to the remaining population who have been cut off from their regular supplies. In recent weeks, it has delivered food and non-food items to around 10,000 people in the isolated villages of Shipkovica, Vratnica and Jazince

  • evacuated almost 1,000 vulnerable people from directly affected villages for medical care or to be reunited with their families; this includes the over 130 people reunited with their families from the Tetovo area after fighting affected their villages in July.

 Over the coming months, the ICRC plans to :

  • continue to respond to the urgent and basic needs of civilians living in areas which were affected by the fighting. This assistance will take the form of food, hygiene items and baby parcels (for babies up to 18 months old). The food will be provided in half rations per month. For planning purposes, the number of beneficiaries is estimated at 20,000 per month. The ICRC will closely monitor the situation in order to adapt the assistance provided, in particular according to the number of IDPs and refugees returning to their villages.

 
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 Returnees to areas affected by the conflict  

It will almost certainly be some weeks before IDPs and refugees feel confident enough to begin returning in large numbers to their villages, many of which have suffered heavy damage during the fighting.

 Over the coming months, the ICRC plans :

  • in the case of a massive return of people to their homes following an end of hostilities, to redirect the emergency assistance (food and non-food) planned for IDPs towards the returnees, in accordance with the results of a needs assessment in the field. For planning purposes, provision is being made for around 50,000 beneficiaries.

 
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 Wounded and sick  

Although the fighting in the Tetovo and Kumanovo districts and villages near Skopje has not caused huge numbers of war-wounded, the situation has put considerable strain on the health services available. This affects the ease with which both residents and IDPs can gain access to health services meeting their everyday needs.

 Since the beginning of the conflict, the ICRC has :

  • provided medical and surgical supplies to treat war-wounded to more than 17 different hospitals and clinics.

    

 Over the coming months, the ICRC plans to:  

  • distribute basic medicines to ambulantas caring for 60,000 IDPs living in host families and 7,000 in collective centres, covering their health needs for a period of 4-6 weeks

  • in the case of the return of these IDPs and of the 50,000 refugees (mostly from Kosovo), the ICRC will distribute these medicines, after an evaluation of the needs, to ambulantas taking care of the resident population and the returnees, until the Ministry of Health is able to re-establish the normal supply

  • provide hospitals and other medical facilities with sufficient first-aid ma terials and medical supplies, should there be further outbreaks of violence.

 
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 People deprived of their freedom  

Both sides are holding people in detention. The ICRC is working to obtain access to all detainees, including those in pre-trial detention.

 Since the beginning of the conflict, the ICRC has :

  • systematically collected information on people arrested by the Macedonian authorities as a result of the conflict and worked to obtain confirmation thereof, and to gain access to any still detained. The ICRC is currently working to gain access to around 100 people reportedly arrested and detained by the Macedonian authorities

  • collected information on people reportedly captured by the NLA as a result of the conflict and worked to obtain confirmation thereof, and to gain access to any still detained; visited one detained soldier held by the NLA, and requested access to others.

In addition to the eight confirmed cases of people held by the NLA, the ICRC has submitted a list of individual cases received from families from the Tetovo area to the NLA who indicated that they would confirm any they are still holding. They also received Red Cross messages from the families for delivery.

    

 Over the coming months, the ICRC plans to:  

  • continue working to gain access to people deprived of their freedom by the Macedonian authorities, including pre-trial detainees, in order to monitor their treatment and conditions of detention

  • continue working to gain access to people reportedly held by the NLA, in order to monitor their treatment and conditions of detention.

 
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 Mine/UXO awareness  

A wide range of ammunition has been extensively used by the parties. Despite all clearance efforts, UXO (unexploded ordnance) will pose a threat to the resident and returning population for some time, as well as to humanitarian agencies working in the area.

 Since the beginning of the conflict, the ICRC has:  

  • launched a mine/UXO-awareness programme , in cooperation with the Macedonian Red Cross. The programme is backed by three experienced mine-awareness field-officers from the ICRC's delegations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo, who are now on the spot and responsible for developing activities and training local trainers. A new mine-awareness brochure adapted to the context has been produced and field-tested, and is now being printed.

 Over the coming months, the ICRC plans to:  

  • continue the UXO-awareness programme, in cooperation with the Macedonian Red Cross, targeting the population of 50 villages (around 100,000 inhabitants), that have been affected by the fighting. The programme will also seek to target IDPs about to return to villages previously affected by the fighting. Methods used will include training and information sessions with the local community, supported by media tools.

 
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 Cooperation within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement  

The ICRC is coordinating the response of the International Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement to the crisis in FYROM, supported by the Macedonian Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The Macedonian Red Cross is the ICRC's main operational partner on the ground. Rigorous monitoring measures have been put in place in order to guarantee an efficient operation. There is scope for other National Societies wishing to assist IDPs, via in-kind donations of food and some non-food items. Most of the ICRC's relief pipelines to date were assured by the American, Austrian, Belgian, Danish, German, Netherlands and Swedish Red Cross Societies.

    

For further information, please contact the External Resources Division.

REX/OPS 01/39, Update Nr 17/2001, (Macedonia No 3)