MSF Teams Alarmed by Escalating Humanitarian Crisis in Kosovo

Wounded Have No Access to Medical Care

Paris/New York, September 15, 1998 — Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams based in Pec, Kosovo, report a serious deterioration in the situation in western regions of the province over the past several weeks. Villages have been subjected to fierce military attacks and systematically bombed, burned and looted and residents chased from their homes. Many displaced persons are suffering from bullet or grenade wounds and do not have access to medical care. These increasingly violent attacks are being carried out openly, in front of us and other international observers," says Tim Boucher, head of mission for MSF in Pristina.

The MSF team recently visited villages that had been partially or entirely destroyed and whose inhabitants had fled to take refuge in the nearby mountains. When village residents try to return to their homes, they find their possessions looted and their houses destroyed. Some are forced to lodge with relatives in already overcrowded homes, and others have been displaced for months, moving from village to village, or hiding in the forest.

On September 6, 1998, a MSF team succeeded in reaching the area surrounding Pornorsk, near Pec, where two days previously, multiple bombing raids had destroyed up to 90 percent of the housing. According to eyewitness accounts, Serbian military forces pursued village residents into the surrounding forest where men were arrested. There are also reports of ill treatment at the hands of Serbian forces.

In Isniq, over 10,000 people who fled the September 9 attack on the town of Brolic, had taken temporary refuge in a field. A few days later, Serbian tanks uprooted these displaced persons, forcing them to move once again.

In the regions of Kosovo severely affected by war, health structures have been destroyed and medical staff are no longer able to work. Moreover, health problems (for example, diarrhea and respiratory infections) are worsened by the precarious living conditions. The health of these tens of thousands of displaced people is further threatened by the coming winter months.

MSF has been working in Kosovo since 1992 to provide medical support to the province's basic health care system. For the past six months, MSF has brought emergency relief aid to the regions most affected by the conflict. Three mobile teams are working around Pec, in the Drenica and Prizren regions, and 300 to 400 medical consultations are given every day, mainly to displaced persons.