Update 22.08.01 - Crisis in fYROM
22-08-2001 Operational Update
ICRC Skopje - 22.08.01
Main operational highlights:
Food delivered in Jancista, Jegunovce
Fresh water delivered to Zilce
Teams visit Lljuboten to assess the humanitarian situation
Family reunions continue from the Tetovo area
Assessment of needs in Aracinovo and in villages in the Tetovo area
Attempts continue to gain information and access to people arrested or held
The teams continue to make regular visits to the villages in and around Tetovo to respond to the prevai ling humanitarian needs.
Regular assessments of the situation for the resident populations in the chain of villages along the Tetovo-Jazince road reveal that people from both communities are, for different reasons, fearful of moving freely around and consequently don't dare to travel to Tetovo to pick up their regular supplies. A number of problems relating to security and ethnic tension are beginning to emerge - especially among the ethnic Macedonian communities who express worries for their safety.
The situation is compounded by the fact that the regular supply lines from Tetovo which would bring food and medical supplies, and even salaries and pensions have not yet been re-established. The situation is especially difficult for the handful of elderly people left in what had been predominantly ethnic Macedonian communities, such as Lesok, where only around 15 old people remain. These isolated people are left extremely vulnerable without the usual support structure provided to them by the community. They are currently not receiving their pension, sometimes trapped in their homes and face difficulties getting access to food and medicines.
The ICRC has already transported a number of such cases to be with their families and continues to respond to such requests, as well as closely monitor the situation of those remaining. In Neprosteno, where the phone lines are still not functioning, ICRC takes mobile phones to enable the villagers to call their relatives.
Following last week's distribution of food to Vratnica and Jazince, the ICRC plans a further delivery this week to Neprosteno and Lesok, which are in the same area.
Following last week's successful delivery of food supplies to civilians in Sipkovica, ICRC teams visited the surrounding villages such as Germo, Brodec and Vesala in order to assess the situation for the population there. These villages hav e been cut off now for several months and those villagers who did not flee to Kosovo have faced a struggle in getting hold of basic supplies.
In the last weeks, a significant number of people have returned from Kosovo to their homes in this area. This could present serious difficulties in the near future as the food stocks in the villages have already been used and cannot be fully replenished due to the continuing isolation from Tetovo. The area is also traditionally a poor one with a large proportion of the community previously relying totally on social welfare - additionally, the mountainous terrain is not suitable for farming and many returnees told the ICRC that their cattle had gone astray during their absence.
A relief team travelled Friday (Aug 17) to Jancista and Jegunovce to deliver food, wheat flour, hygiene parcels, baby parcels and blankets to the around 500 internally displaced people who have settled there from the Tetovo area.
Following an assessment carried out by the Red Cross of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in Zilce, where displaced people from the Tetovo area are also accommodated, that there was a water shortage problem in the village linked to the recent lack of rainfall, ICRC organised also on Friday for a water tanker to deliver 14,000 litres of fresh water to the village. A bladder has subsequently been installed by the Red Cross of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to enable the ICRC to make further deliveries this week.
Distributions continue to the now around 65,000 registered internally displaced. The relief aid is provided by the ICRC and distributed by the Red Cross of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The displaced, especially from the Tetovo area continue to express a reluctance to return to their homes until safety for their families can be guaranteed.
Two ICRC teams managed to access Lljuboten on Sunday with the specific aim of establishing if there were any outstanding humanitarian needs in terms of medical and relief issues following the events the previous weekend.
They found a small number of people still remaining in the village, predominantly males, all gathered in one small part of the village and seemingly afraid to move to other parts. There were no specific requests for medical assistance, although villagers did express concerns that there was a problem with the water supply due to the fact that there was no electricity in the village.
At the same time, ICRC teams have been gathering information directly from families about relatives still reportedly detained from the Lljuboten events. Once this important process has been completed, an approach will be made to the authorities to both official notify that the people are still in custody so that this information can be immediately transmitted to the families, and for ICRC access to any still detained, as is the case for all those still in custody after being arrested in connection with the conflict.
People arrested by the Macedonian authorities or held by the NLA
The ICRC continues, through its contact with the National Liberation Army (NLA) to urgently request information and subsequent access to people it is allegedly holding. It recently submitted to the NLA a list of individual names gathered directly from families in the Tetovo area. A first response confirming capture of some of the cases was quickly de livered by the NLA which was a positive first step. However, the ICRC hopes for the sake of the families, with whom it has constant contact and whose anxiety understandably grows, that further answers, as well as ICRC access to any held will follow.
At the same time, a formal request for access to people arrested by the Macedonian authorities was submitted by the ICRC; the purpose of which would be to ensure that detained persons are being treated humanely according to international humanitarian law, and to give them the opportunity to maintain contact with their relatives on the outside. Again, it hopes that for the sake of the arrested persons and their families that further access is quickly granted.
* The ICRC is leading the Red Cross Movement response to the conflict in fYROM, 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 Macedonian Red Cross 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.