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ICRC, Red Cross and Red Crescent activities in Kosovo

31-12-2001 Operational Update






 I. Introduction  


The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is engaged in a wide-ranging operation to provide emergency and longer-term help for victims of the conflict in Kosovo. National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from 10 different countries are involved, along with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The activities are coordinated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

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 II. Missing persons and detainees  


The ICRC continues its efforts to shed light on the fate and whereabouts of the 3,786 persons still missing in connection with the Kosovo conflict. It submits the names of missing persons and details on the circumstances of their disappearance to representatives of all the former parties to the conflict and all the authorities concerned, stressing the families'right to know the fate of their missing relatives. In close cooperation with the UNMIK Police/Missing Persons Unit (MPU), the ICRC is also collecting ante-mortem data from close relatives of the missing.

In order to coordinate the activities of the different authorities and humanitarian agencies, the ICRC continues to chair the Working Group on Missing Persons which, every two weeks, brings together representatives of the UNMIK Police/Missing Persons Unit, the UNMIK Bureau f or Detainees and Missing Persons, KFOR Main, OSCE, the International Commission for Missing Persons, and the Forensic Institute in Pristina.

In the first months of 2001, the ICRC organized 40 family reunifications, mainly transferring family members from Kosovo to Serbia proper. It also arranged for 180 family members to visit their detained relatives in Serbia proper. Nearly 4'900 Red Cross messages were exchanged between detainees and their families. In Kosovo, the ICRC paid 34 visits to persons deprived of their freedom and held under the responsibility of KFOR or UNMIK; 341 detainees were registered and 208 were seen on more than one occasion.

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 III. Mine awareness  


Since 1999, the ICRC has been systematically collecting information about the presence of mines and details of mine incidents in villages under threat from mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). In the last two months of 2001, staff visited 150 villages in order to consider, together with the community, how the presence of mines/UXO affects the inhabitants'daily lives and how they can avoid risks. On the basis of information provided by the inhabitants, mine-awareness presentations were given to adults and children. In 2002, the ICRC will assist the Institute of Public Health by providing personnel involved in mine/UXO data collection w ith training and support. 

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 IV. Promoting humanitarian law  


In December 2001, the ICRC held a five-day pilot workshop on human rights law for police instructors. A total of 18 international and national staff attended the course, which was conducted by two specialized ICRC trainers, at the Kosovo Police Service (KPS) school in Vushtrri/Vucitrn. International humanitarian law (IHL) was also included in the programme. In addition, the ICRC gave various presentations on its work and mandate to contingents of KFOR as well as to Penal Management staff of UNMIK.

In September 2001, the ICRC published a study on the impact of armed conflict on women. The study " Women Facing War " examines the plight and needs of women in wartime, provides an overview of the ICRC's work relating to women and draws attention to the protection afforded by IHL. In Pristina a round table was organized in December to mark the launch of a campaign based on the study. The theme chosen was " Women as positive actors in defusing violence and preventing armed conflict " . Eleven key personalities representing different communities –Kosovo Albanian, Serb, Bosniac and Ashkali– expressed their views and exchanged their experiences. The message that emerged from this round table was that women can pl ay a crucial role in building peace.

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 V. Health care  


The Red Cross has long experience in conducting health support programmes. The ICRC   recently completed its renovation work on Mitrovica hospital, which centred on repairs to the electrical, heating and sanitation systems. The ICRC also purchased and installed a new incinerator in the hospital to dispose of clinical waste.

 Mother and child care  

The Italian Red Cross provided support for mother and child care projects in an effort to decrease morbidity and mortality. The first project, at Pejë/Pec hospital, covered obstetrics, gynaecology and paediatric services, which have been functioning since September 2000 following renovation work. Preventive medicine and vaccinations were also an integral part of the project. The Italian RC continues to provide logistic support for the WHO immunization programme in the region.

In 2001, the Italian RC rebuilt a seriously damaged building (1,000 sq.m) for outpatients requiring specialized medical care. Ten outpatient units were completed on the first floor of the building and provided with appropriate material and equipment. Installations such as heating , ventilation and electricity are to a high standard. A training course was held to upgrade the skills of personnel. The Italian RC also donated an ambulance to the Pejë/Pec Maternal and Child Dispensary.

The French Red Cross, with the support of the ICRC, recently completed the construction of a 24-bed Paediatric and Internal Medicine Health Facility in Lapje Selo. This will improve access to health services for some 37,000 people living in Gracanica, Lipjan/Lipljan, Obiliq/c and Fushe Kosovo/Kosovo Polje. The facility consists of 20 beds, with a pharmacy and a laboratory. There is also an emergency ward with a four-bed intensive-care unit, X-ray and ultrasound equipment. The Italian RC provided a number of prefabricated units used for the construction and additional medical material and equipment.

 Care for the mentally and physically disabled  

In August 1999, the Norwegian Red Cross began working at Shtime Special Institute for the mentally and physically disabled. In the immediate post-conflict period there was a need to provide a minimum level of care and to meet basic requirements such as food and hygiene.

The Norwegian RC made major improvements in the Institute's administration and in the care provided for the residents. Staff training was an important component of the programme. The standard of care was greatly enhanced by the production of a handbook containing comprehensive guidelines. Currently 100 staff are working with more than 230 patients, both children and adults with special needs. A rehabilitation unit has also been established to help residents learn about life outside the Institute.

Construction work was undertaken to improve living conditions, and the technical infrastructure of the Institute was renovated. This included a new electrical system, painting of the wards, sanitation/drainage , and the installation of an incinerator. The Danish RC and the Italian RC contributed to the renovation of floors, toilets and bathrooms.

In November, the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent donated a new ambulanta (health post) to the Health Directorate of Vushtrri/Vucitrn. The ambulanta , located in Oshlan/Osljane, offers paediatrics, general medical and first-aid services for outpatients. The Turkish Red Crescent continues to provide health care for the inhabitants of remote villages in the Prizren area through a mobile clinic.

Training is an important part of health-support projects. The Swiss Red Cross   is helping to develop the professional skills of doctors and nurses through a training centre in Pejë/Pec. The Belgian Red Cross provides training in maternal and child care for all the medical staff of rural family health centres in the Municipality of Suharekë/Suva Reka.

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 VI. Children affected by armed conflict  


War has a particularly severe effect on children, and the trauma it leaves can have a negative impact on their development. It is of great importance that children receive psycho-social support in order to restore their trust and self-esteem, rebuild identity and, very often, break the silence within the family. The Danish RC has set up a programme aimed at promoting peaceful coexistence between the different communities living in Kosovo.

The project targets school classes, considering that reintegration and acceptance by classmates is essential to avoid stigmatization and for reorientation towards the future. Around 6,000 children and 350 teachers have been involved in the project since 1999. The municipalities involved are Vushtrii/Vucitrn, Senderaj/Srbica, Mitrovica, Zubin Potok, Leposavic and Zvecan.

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 VII. Agricultural  assistance  


In the aftermath of the Kosovo crisis, assessments revealed widespread destruction in the farming sector which had a particularly adverse effect on the economy of Kosovo. By initiating various activities such as tractor repairs, support for educational programmes, construction work in schools and income-generating projects, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement was able to contribute to the restoration of economic security for farmers.

The Norwegian RC h as just ended a two-year project to support farmers: 3,500 agricultural machines were rehabilitated and second-hand farming equipment was distributed, including 30 tractors, 13 combine harvesters, 400 ploughs, 650 harrows and 50 seed drills.

In the Ulpiana Agricultural High School in Lipjan/Lipljan, the Norwegian RC built classrooms and a workshop. An annex is under renovation and is due to be completed in January 2002. The goal is to offer practical training to both students and farmers and make farming methods more efficient. This school gives agricultural training to around 200 students per year and provides regular secondary-level education for 2,200 students.

In the last two months of 2001 , the   Spanish Red Cross   repaired 109 tractors in Malishevë/Malisevo, distributed irrigation equipment, tractors, agricultural implements and power cultivators and rehabilitated 66 stables. Practical training began for technical school students, and in Suharekë/Suva Reka, Prizren and Pejë/Pec the   Spanish RC gave 298 cows to needy families.

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 VIII. Water and sanitation  


In December 20 01, the German Red Cross completed a water-supply system for the town of Shtime/Stimlje. Some 12,000 inhabitants will benefit from this project, which includes a field well, 1,800 m of pressure mains, a 500-sq.m reservoir, a distribution network with a total length of 17.5 km and a pumping station.

At the same time, the   ICRC donated three water tanks, two Tomos pumps and a second-hand sewerage truck to various water boards in Kosovo. In addition, HTH (calcium hypochlorite) and well-cleaning materials were supplied to the Institute of Public Health.