MSF Returns to Kosovo
June 14, 1999
MSF Returns to Kosovo
MSF medical teams returned to Kosovo on Saturday, June 12, to assess the health needs after 78 days of bombing. The UNHCR has asked MSF to lead medical humanitarian activities in the northwest and southwest of Pristina, including Prizren, Metrovica, Drenica, and Pec. "Our priority is to get into the countryside as soon as possible to investigate the health condition of the Internally Displaced Populations (IDPs)", says Christopher Stokes, Head of Mission in Pristina.
On its way towards Pristina, a NATO convoy flagged an MSF medical team to stop at a field hospital to attend to landmine victims. Another MSF medical team, traveling to Skopje, Macedonia, was asked by non-NATO soldiers to treat a person with a gunshot wound. Security remains precarious near the borders and in Kosovo. Refugees are concerned about landmines, unexploded NATO bombs, booby traps, and the kind and scale of security they will have upon their return.
In Pristina, former local staff greeted MSF medical teams and MSF found its previous office and warehouse intact. Pristina was heavily damaged but water, electricity and hospital facilities were still functional.
MSF activities will include an assessment of health facilities, setting up of out-patient dispensaries, disease prevention, and support of existing health structures with medicines and medical supplies. MSF is concerned about the refugees that remained in Kosovo during the bombing, especially those who have been hiding in the mountains and other places without food during the past month.
At the border camp in Kukes, Albania, MSF is also concerned about the needs of these refugees as those who were situated in the south of Albania make their way to the border. Bottlenecks are expected as thousands of Kosovars return home in their tractors and cars via Kukes.
At the MSF camp in Kukes, Albania, local and international staff are running an out-patient dispensary, psycho-social programs, six group kitchens with individual stoves, nursing home facilities, a school for 700 children, playgrounds with swings and volleyball nets, and two information centers for refugees to find information on tracing lost relatives and getting visas for going abroad. So far, midwives have delivered 10 babies.
Mine Awareness Campaign in Kosovo
According to KFOR troops in the province, there are five mine accidents a day in Kosovo. MSF expects this grim total to rise as refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) return to their homes. MSF staff report that many of the villagers in the central plateau around Vucitrn and Srbica have yet to return - partially for fear of mines. According to NATO, 10,000 to 20,000 mines, including cluster bombs, have been planted in Kosovo. The most heavily mined areas of Kosovo are around Pec, Gjakovica, Prizren, and the central districts.
At present there are no clear estimates of the total number of mine victims in Kosovo. The problem with collecting data on the numbers already killed or maimed is that many were injured in the mountains and woods and received no medical care. Only now are mobile clinics and MSF' hospital visits beginning to see amputees who stood on mines up to three months ago and have not received any treatment.
MSF has launched mine awareness campaigns throughout Kosovo aimed at warning IDPs and returning refugees of the danger posed by land mines, booby traps, and unexploded ordinance. The team has recruited volunteers in eight villages in the Vucitrn district and in three villages around Srbica. The mine awareness team distributed information in Dumnica clinic to waiting patients. Dumnica is heavily mined and the team has persuaded KFOR to come and clean the village of mines from next week. The area is so mine infested that experienced MSF predict that the job of de-mining could take 15 days. Mine awareness campaigns are also being run out of Prizren and Gjakovica, where MSF is distributing literature and posters to local clinics and hospitals, and placing audio on the radio.
One component of the MSF mine awareness campaign involves a game that is especially designed for children as they are particularly threatened by land mines whey they play in open fields and around unsafe buildings. The game is played with 25 children at a time and uses play to drive home the mine awareness message. The children's game is based on the French game of Jeu de lóie. Played with six teams from ages ranging from 7-13 years old, the game involves a fifteen-minute lesson in mine awareness. If the children answer each question correctly one member of the team advancing one square forward the safety of the `house' on the final square. Before the children get into the house they must answer some questions on land mines and how and where to play. Once all the team has made into the house, marked out on the colorful board, they all step into house and win the game.
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