Army Readies Kosovo Response
Sewell in Albania To Pave Way for Army Refugee Aid
With more than 912,000 ethnic Albanians fleeing Kosovo to surrounding countries, the demand for emergency assistance has become critical. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have poured into Albania, where Salvation Army relief workers are joining with local and international agencies to provide emergency assistance.
Major Roland Sewell, coordinator of emergencies and refugee services, IHQ, arrived in Tirana, Albania, on March 31. He has met with United Nations and government authorities, and has been assisting in relief efforts as well as assessing The Salvation Army’s role in meeting immediate and long-term needs. “There is no doubt in my mind that we are in the middle of a major emergency which is unlikely to be resolved quickly,” he stated.
Following a briefing meeting with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), The Salvation Army established contact with a representative of the Baptist Foundation, and is currently working with them. “These are the ones who have the local knowledge and contacts,” Sewell explained.
On Good Friday, Baptist colleagues helped The Salvation Army make local purchases of bread, water, cheese, pork free salami, diapers and hygiene items to distribute to 5,000 refugees. Sewell, Canadian Salvationist Stuart Cornie, and Mr. Bekim Beka of Baptist Fellowship were advised to take the goods immediately to Kruma, a small town close to the border where refugees were arriving on foot and in poor condition. Once there, it became apparent the highest priority would be to deliver the goods in Letaj, a point closer to the border where refugees were collecting. “They were predominantly town folk, many having already walked 20-30 kms in town clothes and footwear. They had been forced to take this route by the Serbs who were not allowing passage on the road to the conventional crossing point at Morina.” said Sewell. “Few carried possessions or supplies. Along the road we gave out bread and water to those tramping through the mud and sleet. We were the first to arrive with any aid, and supplies were exhausted in minutes. The refugees were desperate for help to continue their journey into Albania.”
Sewell notes that the movement of people to the south by bus and truck will result in the need for more and larger camps. All will need to be managed and resourced. “We see a real place for us in this and particularly with hot food preparation.”
An analysis of the situation indicates the Army might be most effective by: working in cooperation with local/church mission organizations–this maximizes the use of local knowledge and experience, gives new churches an opportunity to become effective in relief, and extends the efficacy of whatever inputs The Salvation Army can manage; assisting with emergency food provision to refugees in transit–having a small presence in the Kukes area liaison with non-governmental, United Nations and refugee groups and distributing aid as needed to refugees on the road or being transported to camps; providing a daily hot meal at selected camps–the Salvation Army will prepare hot food once a day for up to 3000 refugees at a disused Army barracks 20 km from Tirana; receiving and distributing gifts in kind–there is an urgent need for disposable diapers, tooth brushes, toothpaste, soap, detergent, blankets, used clothing (certified clean and disinfected).
–From a report by Roland Sewell