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UNHCR assistance for the winter well ahead of schedule

Specials, 23 November 2001

SKOPJE UNHCR continues to intensify its various programmes of assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons returning to their homes, fulfilling the organisation's commitment for return, stabilisation and confidence building measures as outlined in the Framework Agreement. Some 55,000 persons have so far benefited from UNHCR's assistance.

"The humanitarian community has established a robust presence throughout the conflict affected areas, assisting the most vulnerable in a bid to overcome winter", said Amin Awad, UNHCR Representative in Skopje.

Close to 8,000 family return kits, containing mattresses, blankets, tools, plastic sheeting for roofs and windows and hygienic items like soap and detergents, have been distributed. Distribution continues in order to reach the target of 10,000 kits, which is the total need identified for 2001. Further, distribution of firewood has started and an identified need of 26,000 cubic metres of firewood will be covered in the coming weeks, to assist returnees, vulnerable families, schools and clinics in the affected areas during these harsh winter months.

UNHCR is assisting the Government in implementing its plan 'Strategy for the Repair and Reconstruction of Damaged Buildings and Roads in the Crisis Areas' by co-ordinating the programme to facilitate self-help repairs for 3,162 houses in category 1 and 2. UNHCR itself has funded and is managing such self-help repairs for 1,686 of the houses. "About 80% of the shelter materials have already been delivered to beneficiaries and UNHCR will complete its shelter repair programme ahead of schedule and before 31 December", said Mr.Awad. The UNHCR's shelter programme is now fully underway. Over 25 truckloads of shelter materials are departing daily from UNHCR's warehouses.

Funds for the UNHCR Quick Impact Project (QIP) for this year have all been allocated. 24 projects are approved and implementation has started. The projects are located throughout the crisis region and in other affected communities. The approved projects consist primarily of the rehabilitation of schools, but also include water and sanitation projects, repair of ambulantas and rehabilitation of community civic centres. All QIP activities will be completed by 31 December 2001.

To facilitate freedom of movement, UNHCR is continuing its nine bus lines, providing needed transport to students, teachers, doctors and workers. The bus lines are currently operating in the Skopje, Tetovo and Kumanovo areas. UNHCR will continue operating bus lines to facilitate freedom of movement wherever there are obstacles or restrictions of people movement and access to services.

"There remain some obstacles for return and security, freedom of movement and the threat of mines and unexploded ordnance are on the top of the list, for which concerted efforts are still needed to find solutions", warned Mr. Awad.

The seven months long conflict displaced some 140,000 persons. Over 90,000 refugees and internally persons have returned to their homes. 12,000 refugees still remain in Kosovo, while some 40,000 persons remain internally displaced according to the Red Cross' figures for October.




Ingushetia: Internally Displaced Chechens

When fighting broke out between government troops and rebel forces in Chechnya in 1999, over 200,000 people fled the republic, most of them to the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia. Today, tens of thousands of Chechens remain displaced in Ingushetia, unwilling to go home because of continuing security concerns.

As of early December 2003, some 62,000 displaced Chechens were living in temporary settlements or in private accommodation. Those living in settlements face constant threats of eviction, often by owners who wish to use their buildings again.

Another 7,900 displaced Chechens live in tents in three remaining camps – Satsita, Sputnik, and Bart.

The authorities have repeatedly called for the closure of tent camps and the return of the displaced people to Chechnya. Three camps have been closed in the past year – Iman camp at Aki Yurt, "Bella" or B camp, and "Alina" or A camp. Chechens from the latter two camps who did not wish to go home were allowed to move to Satsita camp or other existing temporary settlements in Ingushetia.

Ingushetia: Internally Displaced Chechens

Serbia: Overstretched BordersPlay video

Serbia: Overstretched Borders

As Hungary builds a fence on its border with Serbia, the situation at the border between the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece is increasingly precarious. Refugees in Serbia on their way to Hungry fear the tighter measures and say they wouldn't have fled home had they not been forced to do it by the war.