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Update No. 97/05 on ICRC activities in Albania

03-04-1997 Operational Update

 Multinational protection force to ensure that aid reaches people in need  

Albania is still in the grip of unrest and lawlessness. On 27 March the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) decided to set up a mission with a view to restoring democratic institutions and organizing and monitoring elections in Albania. A further aim is to provide a coordinated framework enabling other international organizations to play their part in their respective areas of competence. A number of States, including Albania, requested that any armed forces to be sent to Albania be endorsed by the United Nations; on 28 March the UN Security Council therefore adopted resolution No. 1101 giving the multinational protection force a three-month mandate " to facilitate the safe and prompt delivery of humanitarian assistance, and to help create a secure environment for the missions of international organizations in Albania, including those providing humanitarian assistance " . The resolution includes a reference to Chapter VII of the UN Charter on the possible use of force in the framework of the mission.

 The ICRC's position: international efforts must go beyond emergency aid  

On 26 March the ICRC stated its position in a paper sent to all OSCE members: any international involvement in Albania should not be limited to the delivery of humanitarian aid. Rather, the primary objective must be to tackle the problems at their root by restoring law and order and enabling national administrative services and state and commercial distribu tion networks to resume functioning. The need for humanitarian aid would then decrease rapidly. At this stage, the priority is to secure the airport, seaports and other points of entry into Albania and make inland communication routes safe. The ICRC President relayed the message personally to the Danish, Swiss and Polish ambassadors in Geneva (the current, previous and future OSCE chairman in office, respectively).

Since the UN Security Council approved the dispatch of a multinational protection force the ICRC has drawn up a memorandum setting out the code of conduct provided by international humanitarian law for armed forces in operation. This has been sent to all governments seconding troops to the protection force and to all members of the UN Security Council, as well as the current EU presidency (the Netherlands). The ICRC will make direct contact with the commanders in chief as soon as the force has been set up.

 ICRC convoys  

On 28 March a first truck from Ioannina (Greece) arrived in Gjirokaster (southern Albania), carrying ten tonnes of food aid. Delegates distributed two tonnes to medical and social institutions there and in the towns of Tepelene and Permet. On 29 and 30 March the remaining five tonnes were distributed in Elbasan and Libradzh, in the central part, and to the orphanage in the coastal town of Durres. By establishing contact with the various groups controlling the road the ICRC was able to ensure the smooth progress of the convoy.

On 3 April another convoy left Ioannina, transporting five tonnes of food for distribution to medical and social institutions in the southern towns of Sarande and Delvine. A survey is planned in Gramsh (central Albania) for the end of the week. Some 20 tonnes of relief supplies, including 17 tonnes of food donated by the Hellenic Red Cross, are currently stored in Ioannin a, awaiting distribution over five days in central and northern Albania, starting in the next few days.

A further 72 tonnes of relief supplies are stored in Podgorica and Skopje, ready to be distributed in the north as soon as the situation permits.

 Medical assistance  

Since the beginning of the current crisis ICRC teams have visited 21 hospitals plus 22 other health facilities including psychiatric hospitals, health centres, orphanages and homes for the elderly and disabled. As a result of the disturbances, supply lines for medicines and medical materials have been disrupted. The ICRC has responded by distributing basic medicines and medical supplies to these institutions as needed. To date, some 18 tonnes have been mobilized for the operation in Albania.