As thousands of families flee fighting in Macedonia, Mercy Corps and its local partners are providing critical aid to refugees entering neighboring Kosovo.
Mercy Corps staff report today that a steady flow of refugees continues to cross into Kosovo from Macedonia, most at the Blace border crossing made infamous by the exodus of Kosovar Albanians in 1999. Mercy Corps' Global Emergency Operations team is in the region assessing emergency needs and determining contingency plans should the crisis escalate.
Mercy Corps’ local partners in western Kosovo, including the Mother Teresa Society, the Kosovo Red Cross and Helping Hand, are providing food to refugees and logistical support to connect them with host families. Mercy Corps is monitoring the distribution of food, which is obtained from the World Food Program.
Since the refugee crisis of 1999, Mercy Corps has worked steadily with local Kosovar aid organizations to develop their capacity to provide services to the needy. These services are being put to the test as local organizations are now registering up to 100 new refugees every day.
"The support we have given these organizations has enabled them to handle the situation on their own up to this point," says Mercy Corps' Kosovo Mission Director Jim White. "This is exactly the goal we have when we embark upon a capacity-building program." The capacity-building project continues with the support of the UN High Commission for Refugees and the World Food Program.
Mercy Corps has been working with Helping Hand since July 2000. The organization's volunteers are ethnic Albanian and Slav. Mercy Corps provided Helping Hand with extensive leadership training in management and information technology, as well as computer equipment. Helping Hand is currently assisting 3,300 refugees in Dragash, as well as distributing food to 4,500 vulnerable Kosovars.
Mercy Corps has worked in Kosovo and Macedonia since 1993, and played a lead role in assisting Kosovar refugees during the 1999 crisis. As Kosovar refugees and displaced families have returned home, Mercy Corps has focused on agricultural and economic development, health and local capacity building programs to help rebuild communities.