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Serious deterioration in western Kosovo

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Paris - MSF mobile teams based in Pec, Kosovo, report of a serious deterioration in the situation in western regions, over the last weeks. Subjected to fierce military attacks, villages are systematically bombed, burnt and looted and the population chased from its land. "These increasingly violent attacks are being carried out openly, before us and international observers" says Tim Boucher, head of mission for MSF in Pristina.

The MSF team has recently visited many villages which have been partially or entirely destroyed and whose inhabitants have fled to take refuge in the nearby mountains. Some of them try to return to their homes but find that everything has been looted. Others are lodged by relatives in already overcrowded houses. Others have been displaced for months, going from village to village, or hiding in the forest. Many are suffering from bullet or grenade wounds and do not have access to medical aid.

The MSF team recently managed to reach the area surrounding Pornorsk, near Pec. Two days previously, continuous bombing had destroyed up to 90 per cent of housing. According to witness accounts, Serbian military forces pursued the population to the forest and men were arrested. There are reports of ìll treatment.

In Isniq, over 10,000 people who had fled the attack on the town of Brolic, on 9 September, had taken temporary refuge in a field. A few days later, tanks upheaved these displaced population forcing them on to the road.

In these regions, which are severly affected by war, health structures are often destroyed and medical staff are no longer able to work. Moreover, health problems (including diarrhoea, 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. The population of Kosovo is subjected to a campaign of terror and forced displacement. Systematic destruction prevents Kosovars from returning to their homes. MSF calls for an immediate stop to the violence perpetrated against civilians and for full access to the population in order to provide medical care.

MSF has been working in Kosovo since 1992 providing medical support to health structures. For the last six months, relief actions have been brought to the regions most affected by the conflict. Three mobile teams are working around Pec, in the Drenica and Prizren regions. 3-400 consultations are given every day, mainly to the displaced population.