Yugoslavia: Care for people fleeing Kosovo

  • International staff: 7
  • National staff: 23 In the wake of the war in Kosovo and the consequent entrance of KFOR (the NATO-led international military force) and the UCK (Kosovo Liberation Army) into the region, many thousands of people fled the area because they were threatened, feared violence, or had experienced direct attacks - and felt that that they were not being protected. They fled Kosovo for other parts of Serbia, the largest republic in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Others fled to Montenegro, the country's other republic. Most of those fleeing were Serbs, with a significant number of Roma (Gypsies), and some Goranci, Muslim and other non-Albanian populations. The several hundred thousand people flooding into Serbia increased pressure on an infrastructure and economy already severely damaged by sanctions, mismanagement and war - and overloaded by more than half a million refugees from the Bosnian and Croatian wars in the early 1990s. Beginning in July 1999, MSF began to help meet the needs of these displaced people, with a focus on those housed in community buildings, such as schools, which had been converted to shelters. MSF distributed basic relief items, such as hygiene materials, extra food, clothes, shoes, baby diapers, milk and school items. This program centered on the Belgrade area and Kraljevo and Kragujevac, the two towns with the highest concentration of displaced people. After this initial phase of work, in December 1999 MSF started a project in central Serbia and, soon after, in southern Serbia near the Kosovo border. The focus is on displaced people living in both collective buildings and private homes. In close collaboration with the local authorities, MSF ensures that these people have decent shelter, heating, water, sanitation and hygiene conditions. MSF also plans to work in both areas to revitalize local health facilities and supply diagnostic material. MSF began working in Yugoslavia in 1991.