Kosovo: humanitarian situation deteriorating rapidly

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The humanitarian situation in Kosovo is deteriorating rapidly as fighting causes new displacement virtually every day. A government offensive against the Kosovo Liberation Army in the Podujevo region went into its second straight day on Thursday, prompting residents to flee villages engulfed in the conflict.

A UNHCR team visiting the area yesterday was told that 1,600 people had fled at least half a dozen more small villages south-west of Podujevo. Most of them were sheltered in houses - some filled with as many as 80 to a small house. UNHCR saw small groups of 8-10 IDPs on foot at Velika Reka and Gornje Ljupce seeking shelter in villages away from the fighting. Another 400 IDPs were reported to be at Donji Dubnica in Vucitrn. UNHCR is arranging delivery of food and blankets for the IDPs scattered at Gornje Ljupce about 15 kilometres north of Pristina..

Some 17,000 new IDPs have been reported in Podujevo since Christmas. They are among 30,000 people who have been on the move since the government went on the offensive in late December in the municipalities of Podujevo, Mitrovica, Stimlje, Suva Reka and Decani. Most of the 5,000 people displaced in Mitrovica returned over the weekend. Several hundred returns also were reported in Decani.