Update 05.09.01 - Crisis in fYROM
05-09-2001 Operational Update
ICRC Skopje - 5 september 2001
Main operational highlights:
Distributions continue to vulnerable communities in the Tetovo area
Food delivered again in Lipkovo
Food distributed in Aracinovo
UXO programme launched in Macedonia and Kosovo
ICRC meets again with NLA to clarify cases of people reportedly held
Efforts continue to gain access to people arrested by the Macedonian authorities
A relief programme is underway in the Tetovo area to target both economically and conflict-relate d vulnerable communities in the Tetovo-Jazince village chain where the situation remains volatile and where both ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanian populations remain in a precarious predicament.
The prevailing security vacuum in this area has given rise to a series of problems which means that the whole population is affected to different degrees; the main ones being:
The supply route from Tetovo remains disrupted - this particularly affects the non-farming communities, such as in the Vratnica municipality, which rely on supplies coming from the city
Pensioners and social welfare cases are not receiving their normal financial state assistance
Those that relied on employment in Tetovo are not able to travel to work
Some members of both communities are facing severe isolation because they fear either to come into contact with the NLA or the Macedonian security forces respectively - for example villagers from Neprosteno and Orasje.
Some isolated pockets of ethnic Macedonians remained behind when the rest of the village fled the NLA advance at the end of July and are deprived of their traditional family and community support structure.
The ICRC's current approach is to target those villages where the restrictions of movement are most acute, and in others where the situation is less problematic to target the most vulnerable among the community - especially those that had previously relied on state assistance which is currently not reaching them.
Last week (August 30), more than 3000 people in the Tearce municipality received ass istance of family or individual food parcels, wheat flour and baby kits, which were distributed among the most vulnerable people - both ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians - in the villages of Tearce, Neprosteno and Slatino.
On September 4, ICRC teams distributed food parcels (a donation from the American Red Cross) to around 4700 people in the Vratnica municipalities ( Vratnica, Beloviste, St. Selo, Rogacevo, Jazince and Orasje ), where the situation remains difficult for both communities - either because of restricted movement or disruptions in supplies.
In Aracinovo, distributions of food were carried out to around 3000 returnees from Kosovo. ICRC decided to target this group because they are currently not part of any food assistance programme and because of the significant level of destruction in Aracinovo which is hampering many from restarting their lives, and the restrictions of movement for the returning population linked to the presence of police checkpoints in the village. Meanwhile, the ICRC maintains ongoing dialogue with the displaced community from Aracinovo in order to follow their needs. Food was also distributed in nearby Orlance for around 250 returnees.
In Lipkovo , food assistance was again delivered by the ICRC in order to ease the continuing difficulties faced by the population who have been cut off now for many months.
In the hills above Tetovo, the ICRC is continuing to respond to needs emerging as people gradually return to villages which puts a burden on the already fragile coping mechanisms of those who remained behind. A distribution was carried out on Monday in Germo for around 150 families. This traditionally poor community relied almost exclusively on state support before the conflict, which is now disrupted. Those that could have previously found work in Tetovo or surrounding farms have been unable to do so either because they are unwilling to move or because the work opportunities are currently depleted.
A second assessment trip was made to Lljuboten in order to continue to follow up on any emerging humanitarian needs in the village. A number of people have returned and the tension seems to have eased a little, although many still express fear of moving freely due to the police presence. The village still has no electricity, which also disrupts the water supply and the ICRC has requested assistance in this matter from the Macedonian authorities.
In Umin Dol , medical instruments and furniture donated by the American Red Cross, along with ICRC-donated surgical supplies were delivered to the clinic, which has been recently forced to re-locate into a temporary building because the existing structure was temporarily inhabited by the Macedonian security forces.
UXO/Mine awareness programme launched
(UXO : Unexploded ordnance)
Following a recent assessment mission carried out by the ICRC's regional UXO/mine awareness specialist, the ICRC decided to launch a project in order to sensitise the communities most affected by this problem to the dangers posed by unexploded ordnance which is an unfortunate dangerous legacy left by the recent fighting between the Macedonian security forces and the NLA.
The assessment revealed that the biggest threat is the significant amount of unexplod ed ordnance which is scattered around the towns and villages which were most heavily affected by the fighting between the NLA and Macedonian security forces. Whilst no evidence has yet emerged of the existence of antipersonnel mines having been laid in the country, this cannot be entirely excluded and the mobile teams will also be ready to respond to questions about this possible risk.
It was felt that a community-based, carefully targeted approach aimed at those most at risk - that is resident and displaced populations from directly affected villages - was preferable to a blanket coverage which could lead to generating unnecessary alarm among the population.
Drawing upon the expertise accumulated through having worked in this field in the Balkans for nearly a decade, ICRC Skopje has mobilised specialists from the delegations of Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo to train nationally-employed staff in ICRC and the Macedonian Red Cross on how to develop and deliver appropriate messages directly to the concerned populations through UXO/mines awareness seminars.
The programme, which started this week for the resident and displaced population from Aracinovo will consist of regular awareness sessions around the country, complemented by a leaflet and poster campaign aimed at a range of age groups. The ICRC will also work closely with community leaders and officials in order to build a solid network and encourage a grass-roots ownership of the project.
At the same time, leaflets and posters produced in fYROM have begun to be distributed by the ICRC and the local Red Cross to refugees in Kosovo in anticipation of the return to their homes.
Efforts continue on the issue of people either arrested by the Macedonian authorities or reportedly held by the NLA
The ICRC met again this week with the NLA in order to request that they provide any information they may have regarding the fate of 12 people whose family members believe were captured by NLA fighters at the end of July in the Tetovo area. These people are among a list of 26 individuals which the ICRC has previously submitted to the NLA - 14 of which have recently been released. The NLA committed themselves to quickly responding with any information they may have regarding the fate of these people.
At the same time, the ICRC continues to pursue efforts to gain access to all people arrested by the Macedonian authorities in relation to the conflict. A series of high-level meetings have been held in order to broaden the scope of the ICRC's existing agreement with the Macedonian government to include both sentenced and pre-trial detainees.
* 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.