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UN seeks US$ 54.3 million for Kosovo

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UN seeks US$ 54.3 million for Kosovo

8 September 1998

Racing against time, international humanitarian agencies today asked donor nations for US$ 54.3 million to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in the coming winter in Kosovo.

"We have to act very quickly since time is running out. Humanitarian assistance alone will not be an answer to the Kosovo conflict but it will alleviate human suffering until a political solution has been found," said Sadako Ogata, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Nearly 270 thousand people have been displaced by the conflict which left hundreds of people dead and more than one hundred villages destroyed. Up to 50 thousand people are camping out in the open, too fearful to go back to their homes. The conflict has also affected hundreds of thousands who have been hosting those displaced by the fighting.

"The civilians caught up in this war should be given hope and reassurance. Not only the uprooted but also local populations hosting them must be protected and provided with life-saving assistance with the winter just around the corner," said Sergio Vieira de Mello, UN Under-Secretary General who heads the Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The UNHCR, the United Nations Children's Fund, the World Food Programme, the World Health Organisation, the United Nations Development Programme, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the International Organisation for Migration are part of the appeal.

"Adequate funding is critical to avert further tragedy in the freezing hills where tens of thousands of displaced people are huddling. We cannot rebuild all the destroyed property, but we can at least make a room or two inhabitable so that the people who decide to return have a roof over their heads", said Ogata. whose organisation leads the Kosovo relief effort.

In August, UNHCR-led multi-agency aid convoys reached more than 250,000 displaced people and affected villagers in Kosovo. In addition to basic food supplies, winter-stoves, shelter and reconstruction material are urgently needed to protect people in over-crowded or destroyed villages.

The UN funding appeal seeks financial resources to help more than 400,000 persons affected by the conflict in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and those forced to seek refuge in Albania and other neighbouring countries. Unless these funds are pledged immediately, thousands of people will be placed at grave risk this winter.