Mercy Corps Kosovo is the lead United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) agency for the Prishtina/Pristina area of responsibility. Its thirteen multi-ethnic team members work from an office based in Gracanica/Graqanica. The main objectives of the lead agency program are to carry out protection monitoring of actual and potential minority return areas, as well as monitoring the security and living conditions of minorities in Kosovo. Mercy Corps provides self-reliance inputs for the most needy returnee families.
Following violent rioting throughout Kosovo in March 2004 and the displacement of approximately 4,500 people from minority communities, Mercy Corps played a key role in effectively meeting the needs of those minority families displaced within the Prishtinë/Pristina area of responsibility during March 2004. Over 1,200 minority internally-displaced persons (IDPs) were registered and assessed for immediate needs.
A coordinated and functioning food distribution mechanism has been established in the four Municipalities of Prishtinë/Pristina, Lipjan/Lipljan, Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje and Obiliq/Obilic. Mercy Corps and UNHCR are working together in close co-operation with Municipal officials to ensure that IDP families are assisted in a timely and effective manner.
As the lead agency, Mercy Corps maintains regular contact with international agencies, United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) structures, other non-governmental organizations and KFOR. The needs of vulnerable host families are also assessed and met: more than 1,000 of the March 2004 displaced persons in the Pristina area of responsibility are living with host families.
The overall impact of the March 2004 events on minority communities is also identified, documented and addressed by the lead agency as appropriate. Several hundred IDP families have expressed a desire to return home once reconstruction of their homes is complete.