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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-04-06
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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: email@example.com
Tuesday, 6 April, 1999
This daily news round-up is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information. The latest update is posted at approximately 6:00 PM New York time.
A high-level emergency meeting convened by the United Nations to address humanitarian issues in Kosovo on Tuesday called for an international commitment to ensure the safety of those fleeing the province as well as a tough stance against human rights abuses committed during the conflict.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Sadako Ogata, called a meeting in Geneva of the Humanitarian Issues Working Group (HIWG) to address the fast-evolving Kosovo refugee crisis and its implications for countries in and outside the region.
More than 50 countries, including Albania, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as well as the heads of humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations, attended the one-day session.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who left New York Tuesday for Europe, told reporters he would review the situation in Kosovo with the heads of the humanitarian agencies upon his arrival in Geneva.
In her opening statement, Mrs. Ogata warned that the dramatic events in Kosovo were an attempt to "destroy its collective identity," and said that the dramatic increase in violence and human rights abuses in Kosovo created an unrelenting flow which has overwhelmed aid workers.
The refugee flood-tide is "forced, planned and directed", Mrs. Ogata said, adding that this makes it "all the more unmanageable and destabilizing."
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), Mary Robinson, told the meeting she would submit a report to the Commission on Human Rights -- which was currently holding its fifty-fifth session in Geneva -- documenting facts and figures of human rights abuses. She urged governments attending the session to provide information on rights violations so that "the world may know and the world may be able to respond appropriately."
In her statement to the meeting, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Carol Bellamy said her agency was focusing on providing clothing and shelter materials to children and women, protecting their health through essential drugs, food supplements and immunization and ensuring the safety of drinking water supplies.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it had committed its resources to provide public health assistance to the refugees and warned that communicable diseases were the main health threat facing them.
As the Kosovo humanitarian crisis deepened on Tuesday, many of the tens of thousands of refugees pouring into Albania told of widespread atrocities, including summary executions and torture by Serbian para- military forces.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), some 40,000 new arrivals poured across the border into Albania at the main point at Morina and at the mountain frontier of Qafe Prushit between Monday and Tuesday mornings.
At Qafe Prushit, there were few men among the 15,000 refugees who arrived on foot in "very, very bad shape", UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said in Geneva on Tuesday. The new arrivals spoke of men being tortured and even executed in front of their families. The refugees said para- military groups were unleashing a wave of terror in the Djakovica area of Kosovo.
The situation at the Qafe Prushit crossing was extremely tense, according to UNHCR reports. Serbian police stationed just across the Albanian border warned journalists they would be shot at if they approached and told aid officials to withdraw 500 metres from the crossing.
In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the situation at the border was still critical, with at least 65,000 people trapped in muddy, open fields in dismal conditions while nearby centres remained partially empty. About 14,000 people have been transferred from the chaotic no man's land at the border to transit centres built with NATO's help. UNHCR has urged the Government to speed up the transfer of refugees away from the border.
More than 430,000 refugees have left Kosovo since 24 March. There are at least 262,000 in Albania, 120,000 in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 36,700 in Montenegro, 7,900 in Bosnia and Herzegovina and 6,000 in Turkey.
Communicable diseases such as measles and cholera are the main health threat to Kosovo refugees, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Tuesday.
Initial concerns include vaccine-preventable diseases such as cholera and other water-borne diseases, as well as acute respiratory and gastro- intestinal infections, particularly in children, and the exacerbation of pre-existing conditions in the elderly. The UN health agency said refugees will also need psychological counselling.
"I have committed WHO to play a full role in the international and United Nations response to this continuing ongoing crisis in the Balkans," said WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland.
WHO estimates it will need $2.5 million over the next three months for operations in countries hosting the Kosovo refugees. It is also appealing for drug kits -- for hygiene, emergency, surgical, anaesthesia, tuberculosis and mental health needs.
Ted Turner, Chair of the United Nations Foundation, announced on Tuesday a grant of $1 million to support relief efforts in the Kosovo region.
The grant by the United Nations Foundation will support efforts by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is the lead agency for UN humanitarian activities in the region. The funds will help provide basics, including shelter, blankets and other necessities.
"United Nations relief workers are playing a leading role in addressing the massive humanitarian tragedy unfolding in the Kosovo region. The United Nations Foundation is providing $1 million to support the UN relief efforts and applauds the tremendous sacrifices and efforts that are being made by UN staff." Mr. Turner said.
United Nations experts estimate that more than $70 million are urgently needed to meet humanitarian requirements. The UN is appealing to government and private sector donors, as well as the general public for assistance.
Reiterating that the primary responsibility for achieving lasting peace in Guinea Bissau rested with the parties, the Security Council on Tuesday strongly called upon them to implement fully the Abuja Agreement and subsequent undertakings. In unanimously adopting resolution 1233 (1999), the Council commended the parties for the steps taken so far towards the implementation of that Agreement, in particular the establishment of the new Government of National Unity.
It urged them to adopt and implement all measures to ensure the smooth functioning of the new Government and all other institutions, including in particular confidence-building measures and measures to encourage the early return of refugees and internally-displaced persons.
The Council strongly supported the decision of the Secretary-General to establish the Post-Conflict Peace Building Support Office in Guinea- Bissau (UNOGBIS), to be headed by a Representative of the Secretary- General. UNOGBIS, approved by the Council on 3 March, will guide the activities of the United Nations system during the transitional period leading up to general and presidential elections, as well as the implementation of the Abuja Agreement. Under the terms of that Agreement, which was signed on 1 November 1998, the leaders of the former opposing forces, President Joao Bernardo Vieira and General Ansumane Mane, personally committed themselves to restoring the country to peace and normalcy.
The Council called upon the parties to agree on a date for the holding of all-inclusive, free and fair elections as soon as possible, and for the United Nations and others to consider providing any needed electoral assistance. It also welcomed the round-table conference of donors on Guinea- Bissau planned for 4-5 May 1999, under the sponsorship of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
In his report to the Council dated 17 March, Secretary-General Kofi Annan had described the post-conflict situation in Guinea-Bissau as "very fragile", pointing out that the economy, basic social services and state institutions all needed to be rebuilt virtually from scratch.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan reiterated his serious concern over continuing reports of escalating violence in East Timor and stressed his commitment to a diplomatic solution to the territory's conflict, a UN spokesman said Tuesday.
"A high degree of political maturity and statesmanship is required at this time so that the opportunity now on the table can be seized," Spokesman Fred Eckhard said.
Mr. Eckhard said the Secretary-General urged the parties not to allow the diplomatic process towards the settlement of the East Timor question to be jeopardized by increasing armed conflict.
A UN team sent to Indonesia last month to sample opinions among the East Timorese on an autonomy proposal for the territory is scheduled to return to New York later this week and report to the Secretary-General, Mr. Eckhard said.
The UN Office of the Iraq Programme (OIP) said on Tuesday that the pumping of oil for humanitarian needs in Iraq had resumed following a brief interruption on Sunday.
According to the latest IOP weekly update, independent inspection agents stationed at the Mina Al Bakr loading platform in the Shat al-Arab waterway said that the ship currently alongside Mina Al Bakr is receiving oil at 50, 000 barrels per hour, the maximum it is able to receive.
In the week from 27 March to 2 April 1999 there were only five shipments of oil from Iraq totalling 8.7 million barrels with an estimated revenue of $ 111 million, according to the IOP. The UN Iraq Programme says that after 128 days of the current phase of the oil for food programme, Iraq has exported 240.9 million barrels for an estimated revenue of over $2.3 billion.
With regard to the implementation of oil-for-food programme, successive reports of the UN Secretary-General have expressed serious concern about the unacceptably high level of malnutrition in Iraq, and underlined the need to procure nutrition items. The IOP says that up to 23 per cent of children in the centre and south of Iraq suffer from some degree of malnutrition.
The head of the UN Office for the Coordination Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has welcomed the announcement of the Sudanese government's decision to declare a ceasefire to enable the UN to carry out humanitarian activities in southern Sudan.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Under-Secretary-General Sergio Vieira de Mello said that he was encouraged by the statement made on Monday by President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir that his government had decided to declare a comprehensive ceasefire in southern Sudan effective 15 April when the current partial ceasefire expires.
In his statement, President Al-Bashir affirmed that this decision was taken to enable the UN humanitarian agencies to carry out their activities of providing relief aid to the affected people in the country. Mr. Vieira de Mello said that this positive development came at a time when relief workers were increasingly being targeted by warring parties in conflict situations around the world.
The head of OCHA also announced that the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Humanitarian Assistance for the Sudan, Ambassador Tom Vraalsen, would shortly undertake a mission to the region. He expressed the hope that the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) would use this opportunity to reach an agreement with the Government of the Sudan on the comprehensive ceasefire throughout southern Sudan. Sergio Vieira de Mello called on the international community to contribute generously to the 1999 UN Inter- Agency Consolidated Appeal for the Sudan to assist some 2.3 million people in need in the country.
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