11. Afghanistan Region
13. Refugees from Rakhine State, Myanmar in Bangladesh
14. Indonesia/East Timor Region
15. Balkans Region
The most recent overview of the numbers of refugees and displaced people in Asia (as of end of 1998) estimates that there are 4.7 million refugees on the continent. Over 1.2 million of these were Afghans in Pakistan and Iran (1.4 million). There are reported to be approximately 500,000 Iraqis in Iran. Accurate estimates of the number of displaced people in Asia are unavailable.
This section of the report gives updated information on some of these situations. The current nutritional situation of the Afghan refugees/displaced persons is described. Information on the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal and refugees is included. There is also information on the nutritional situation of the population in East Timor, the refugees in West Timor and displaced people in other parts of Indonesia although this section is not comprehensive.
Islamic Republic of Iran
The conflict in Afghanistan has been ongoing for more than twenty years, leading to massive displacement both within the country and, as refugee movements, into Iran and Pakistan. An estimated 300,000 people are internally displaced in Kabul, the Panjsheer Valley, Hazajarat, Darri Souf, Khoja Ghar and Khunduz (OCHA - 11/05/00).
Afghanistan is facing a very serious food crisis due to a second year of severe nationwide drought, shortages of irrigation water as a result of the mildest winter for 40 years, combined with its continuing political and economic problems. Initial assessments showed the southwest of the country to be the most affected area, but recent reports confirm the whole country has been severely affected. Preliminary estimates suggest that until June 2001 at least half of the country's population will be affected; 3 to 4 million people severely and a further 8 to 12 million more moderately. Those most affected are rain-fed wheat producers whose crop, normally harvested between May and June, has almost totally failed. Livestock owners are also affected (FAO/WFP - 08/06/00; OCHA - 06/06/00).
About 85% of Afghanistan's estimated 21.9 million people are directly dependent on agriculture. The most vulnerable people in these communities are those with weak links to the land and livestock (for example, the landless, sharecroppers and wage labourers). Urban populations are primarily dependent on cereals purchased from the market with income earned. Hence the most vulnerable groups are those that have weak links to labour markets (for example, female-headed households). 1998/9 was not a normal year for Afghanistan, with a reduction in the amount of grain produced. This eroded traditional social security systems, forced the distress sale of assets and, critically, reduced the ability of households to cope with this year's drought (FAO/WFP - 08/06/00).
Most households who are able to do so have sent able-bodied males to Pakistan to earn what they can in the casual labour markets. Emigration of entire families has not been widely reported, but it is reasonable to expect that some households will have no choice but to move as a matter of survival (FAO/WFP - 08/06/00; UNHCR - 06/07/00).
Three thousand families (approximately 16,000 people) displaced from Shamalle since August continue to be housed in the ex-Soviet Embassy compound. WFP, other UN agencies and NGOs, continue to provide assistance to this group. A further 65,000 IDPs in Kabul are housed by relatives, who are often poor and vulnerable themselves. No reports on the nutritional situation of the IDPs in Kabul are currently available to the RNIS. WFP supports soup kitchens in the city (OCHA - 11/05/00).
IDPs in Panjshir Valley
Displacement from the Shamalle Plain into the Panjshir Valley and Kabul began in August 1999 as a result of fighting between the Taliban Government and opposition forces in the area. Panjshir is one of the main strongholds of the government opposition within Afghanistan. A WFP assessment in February identified some 7,600 displaced families in the valley. IDPs sheltered in Gulbahar City, Jabal-Seraj and Charikar were not included in the assessment. There is some concern that, should another offensive occur, new IDPs and people displaced previously will once again be forced to flee to the valley (OCHA - 12/07/00).
The IDPs are living in either official or unofficial camps, public buildings or with host families. New shelters have been constructed for some families. Some of the IDPs are reported to have moved back to their land, if it was not mined or too close to the frontline, to farm this summer. The assistance provided to the IDPs is minimal, but is reported to be adequate. The most recent nutritional survey estimated the prevalence of acute malnutrition at between 7.5 and 12%. A further survey is planned for August (OCHA - 12/07/00).
Mazarajat comprises Bamiyan province and parts of adjacent provinces. It is one of the poorest parts of Afghanistan with some of the coldest, most mountainous and least productive agricultural land. An estimated 22% of the population is landless. Conflict and poor food security have lead to population movement, both temporary and permanent. Population movements include emigration to find employment; returnees from Iran (usually forced); and internal displacements. There are an estimated 100,000 IDPs in Hazarajat (OCHA - 11/05/00, 23/05/00).
The food security situation is poor. Diets are reported to be limited to bread and tea: meat is only consumed for religious events. Land-holdings are usually very small. Environmental degradation, land loss and the consequent reduction in the food supply are serious problem. Cash labour opportunities are also limited. In addition, access to health care services is very restricted (OCHA - 23/05/00).
Return of Refugees
Since the UNHCR programme to assist Afghans to repatriate started in April, some 41,400 refugees have crossed the Islam-Qala border between Iran and Afghanistan with UNHCR's assistance. Rehabilitation and monitoring projects have been initiated in various districts of Heart and Kabul (OCHA - 05/07/00). Refugees also continue to return from Pakistan.
The drought, however, is affecting the rate of return of the refugees. UNHCR advises against return to drought-affected areas (OCHA - 23/05/00; UNHCR - 06/07/00).
Pakistan hosts 1.2 million refugees in 203 villages in the northwest frontier, Baluchistan, and Punjab provinces. The RNIS has not received any new reports on a change in the adequate nutritional status of the approximately 320,000 Afghan refugees who receive food assistance in Pakistan. The remaining refugees are considered self-sufficient and receive no food assistance, although UNHCR helps to sustain government activities in health and education in the villages where they live.
UNHCR is making plans to consolidate refugee villages in the province of Baluchistan, which is considered one of the most affected by the drought, to other areas within the province where adequate water and other services are available (OCHA - 23/05/00; UNHCR - 06/07/00).
An estimated 1.4 million Afghan refugees and some 500,000 Iraqi refugees remain in the Islamic Republic of Iran. UNHCR and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran have reached an agreement to allow unregistered refugees a choice to return home or to normalise their presence in Iran. Afghans who opt for voluntary repatriation will receive assistance. Those who are unable to return will have their claims examined jointly by UNHCR and the Government (OCHA - 22/05/00).
There is no new information on the nutritional situation of these refugees, the most recent reports indicated that the situation was not critical (see RNIS 28).
Overall, the IDPs in Afghanistan are considered nutritionally vulnerable (category III); however this may change given the severity of the drought situation, and the scale of the required humanitarian assistance. The nutritional situation of the refugees in Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran remains uncritical (category IV), but may also be affected by the drought.
Recommendations and priorities:
For the drought-affected populations (FAO/WFP - 08/06/00):
· Provide assistance to the drought-affected populations in Afghanistan to prevent a deterioration of the nutritional situation and large-scale migration to Pakistan or over-crowded cities within Afghanistan.For the IDPs in Afghanistan:
· Continue to monitor the nutritional situation of the IDPs.For the refugees in Iran and Pakistan:
· Obtain information on the nutritional and health status of the refugees in Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Bhutanese refugees started to enter eastern Nepal towards the end of 1990 following the Bhutanese authorities' enforcement of restrictive immigration and citizenship laws. The total population registered in the seven camps in March 2000 was 97,940.
The most significant change for this refugee population since the last RNIS report has been new developments with regard to the resolution of their plight. Definite commitments have now been given by both His Majesty's Government of Nepal and the Bhutanese Government to begin the process of establishing a basis for repatriation. Bhutan is committed to relaxing its citizenship definitions and has given a general agreement to repatriate those refugees who can meet the requirements. It is hoped that a joint verification of the refugees will begin within the next few months (WFP/UNHCR - 05/00).
WFP/UNHCR Joint Food Assessment Mission
WFP/UNHCR undertook a Joint Food Assessment Mission to the Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal in May, the following points were noted (WFP/UNHCR - 05/00):
General nutritional and health situation
· The overall situation of the refugees in the seven camps continues to be adequate. Health indicators show a satisfactory situation. CMR for January to March 2000 was estimated at 0.09/10,000/day and under-five mortality at 0.07/10,000/day (UNHCR - 04/00).Angular Stomatitis and anaemia
· Regular reports from SC (UK) show a low and constant level of wasting among children aged 6-59 months (RNIS 28).
· There has been a substantial decrease in the incidence of Angular Stomatitis (AS) (deficiency of vitamin B2) over the dry season this year compared to 1999 (<20 cases/1,000 people/month, SC(UK) - 13/07/00) (see graph). Possible explanations for the decrease include: the refugees' increased awareness of the deficiency, improved and regular supply of fresh vegetables by UNHCR and the WFP-supported home gardening project, which was started in April 1999. In addition, the availability of fresh vegetables on local markets (with marked price reductions) is also seen as a main factor in increasing refugee access to these foods this year.Incidence of reported angular stomatitis among Bhutanese refugees of all ages
· During the mission the population was offered several options to improve the food basket so as to provide additional micronutrients, by replacing part of the rice and/or sugar ration with fortified wheat or com flour. The refugees clearly stated their preference for keeping the current food basket unchanged as they consider AS a minor problem that can be treated on a case-by-case basis with vitamin tablets. They also felt that the situation had improved as a result of the above factors.
· In order to respond to the increased requirements for micronutrients of adolescents, a school feeding programme distributing fortified foods was proposed. This programme will be implemented instead of a blanket general distribution of fortified food to the whole population. An estimated 38,000 children will receive 25g of fortified UNILITO (locally-produced fortified blended food) during the three dry season months (March-May) when the availability of fresh foods is low and the incidence of AS tends to be highest. Additionally, SC(UK) will conduct active screenings of all school-going children to detect and treat AS.
· Approximately one-third of all adolescent girls were found to be anaemic. SC(UK) will provide all girls aged 14 to 18 years in schools with routine iron folate/vitamin tablets to treat and prevent anaemia.
· SC(UK) will also continue with the de-worming programmes in schools as these parasites compete actively for micronutrients with the body.
· Part of the pulses ration (currently all split lentils) will be supplied as whole beans to allow sprouting, which increases the micronutrient content of the pulses. Sprouting whole pulses and fermentation of leafy vegetables are both indigenous food preparation practices.
· Food basket monitoring shows, that for most commodities, the average requirements received were within +/- 5% of the entitlement. However, calculations of the nutritional value of the food commodities received show that households are receiving inadequate amounts of calcium and vitamin B2, when compared to the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA).Recommendations and priorities:
· The supply of vegetables was regular and sufficient from April 1999 to March 2000, which is a major improvement over 1999 when there were long periods of supply shortfalls. The vegetable basket includes potato, onion, green chili cabbage or pumpkin or green banana (depending on seasonal availability) and also dry garlic and turmeric. Given that the refugees are not permitted to work outside the camps and have no access to agricultural land, further reductions in the ration are not considered an option in the foreseeable future. Current rations are in line with the minimum level of requirements for this population.
Note that most of these recommendations will not be implemented until 2001 as there is no budget provision for them this year (UNHCR - 20/07/00).
From the WFP/UNHCR assessment Mission (WFP/ UNHCR - 05/00).
· Maintain the basic food basket composition and general ration scale at the current level. The support should cover a period of 24 months during which time it is expected that there will be agreement on the movement of refugees out of the camps and this food support will be converted into a repatriation or reintegration package.WFP to continue to purchase food commodities on the local or regional markets in order to provide a cost-effective and reliable supply.
· Partially substitute the pulse ration for whole peas to improve micronutrient availability.
· Introduce a targeted school-feeding programme to provide 25 grams of UNILITO to each school child to help address AS during the dry season.
· Provide all girls aged 14 to 18 years in schools with routine iron folate/vitamin tablets to prevent and treat anaemia.
· Screen all school-age children for AS and treatment.
· Conduct a bi-annual de-worming campaign for children through the school system.
· Revise camp rules to allow the refugees more opportunity and flexibility to undertake supplementary activities. For instance the home garden project should be incorporated in all the camps.
An estimated 22,260 Muslim refugees from Rakhine state in Myanmar live in two camps in southern Bangladesh. They were among the 250,000 people who originally fled Myanmar in 1992, claiming widespread human rights abuses. Repatriation began in 1992, and by April 1997 some 230,000 refugees had been repatriated. The repatriation programme was suspended in mid-1997 and resumed only in November 1998. Since then almost 1,000 refugees have repatriated, out of a list of 7,000 the Government of Myanmar has cleared for repatriation (UNHCR - 12/12/99).
These refugees are not allowed to undertake employment or income-generating activities and hence are completely dependent on WFP and UNHCR for their survival.
The RNIS has not received any new information on the nutritional situation of these refugees. The most recent information from UNHCR suggested that their nutritional status was not critical (RNIS 29).
Before the crisis last year, the population of East Timor was estimated at 890,000 people. Almost the entire population was either internally displaced or sought refuge in West Timor as a result of the violent conflict. At least 750,000 people have now returned (FAO/WFP - 19/04/00).
The UN Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) and humanitarian organisations continue to implement projects based on six main priorities: facilitating the voluntary return of East Timorese from West Timor and other locations; ensuring food security through the provision of daily rations, seeds and tools; providing a basic health-care network; ensuring potable water where the water system has been damaged or destroyed; revitalising communities through education programmes, counselling and micro-credit schemes; and repairing and reconstructing approximately 35,000 residential shelters.
The RNIS has not received any new nutritional surveys from East Timor. The most recent data did not indicate an elevated level of malnutrition. ACF has recently initiated a nutritional surveillance system that should provide more information.
An FAO/WFP crop and food supply assessment mission to the country in April observed that East Timor's agricultural operations have suffered less disruption than at first predicted. The territory's infrastructure was badly damaged, food and seed stocks were destroyed, and most of the population was displaced during the violence. The rate of return to farms to commence planting was a major concern, but although maize planting was later this season, compared to the optimum planting date, the delay itself did not matter as overall rainfall has been favourable and extended. In spite of the obvious difficulties, maize and rice yields are expected to be satisfactory, and certainly better than the severely reduced crop in 1997/8 due to the El Nino drought. The mission estimated that, from July, 285,000 people will remain vulnerable and need to be targeted for food aid (FAO/WFP - 19/04/00).
Normal economic activity in the territory continues to be hampered in many areas due to the disruption of internal markets, absence of small traders and merchants, poor roads and decimated commercial and private transport systems. The situation is compounded by the sudden cessation of access to trading, distribution and supply routes to West Timor and the rest of Indonesia. Previously, these were essential for a wide range of economic functions such as wage labour, input supply and trading. Income-generating possibilities are limited and formal employment has been greatly reduced by the lack of public sector jobs. Following Indonesia's withdrawal last September, various government support measures, such as the sale of subsidised rice to poor rural households, no longer exist. Market surveys conducted in several locations indicate that prices are higher than they were at the same time last year (FAO/WFP - 19/04/00).
Since their return from West Timor or within East Timor, many households have had, and are continuing to rely heavily on the production of kitchen gardens rather than on farming. The gathering of wild forest foods, particularly tubers of various types, has provided substantial amounts of food. In the absence of rice (the preferred staple) or maize in rural areas there is reported to be an increased reliance on tubers (cassava, sweet potato, yam and taro). In some western areas close to the border with West Timor, fear of militia activity remains pervasive and people are reluctant to clear land to farm. The most vulnerable households are those that rely primarily on cash income from non-export crops, for which the internal market has collapsed due to unemployment and the lack of effective purchasing power, while no trade exists across the border with West Timor. The most vulnerable area is the Oecussi enclave (FAO/WFP - 19/04/00).
As the political situation has stabilised, WFP and its partners have tried to provide emergency aid towards reconstruction and development. Food aid agencies have begun distributing food through a variety of programmes including: seed for food exchanges; food for work; food for training; school feeding and vulnerable group feeding (FAO/WFP - 19/04/00). Clearly the objectives of such programmes reflect a dramatic shift from relief to rehabilitation and reconstruction.
Overall, given the wide array of food sources available to the population, the nutritional situation of the returnees to East Timor is not considered to be critical (category IV).
Recommendations and priorities:
From the FAO/WFP mission to East Timor (FAO/WFP - 19/04/00):
· Continue to closely monitor the situation and improve vulnerability mapping in order to better define food insecure areas.
· Continue to utilize food as a catalyst for rehabilitation activities.
An estimated 120,000 East Timorese refugees remain in West Timor following the crisis in August 1999. UNHCR is currently undertaking a registration exercise, which has been repeatedly postponed because of insecurity, in order to obtain more precise population figures. The majority of the refugees are living in one of more than 200 sites in Belu or Kupang district (OCHA - 06/00; UNHCR - 11/07/00; WFP/UNHCR/UNICEF - 05/00).
The Government of Indonesia (GoI) is encouraging the refugees to return to East Timor. However, attempts will be made to settle those who do not wish to repatriate in West Timor and other parts of Indonesia. Resettlement plans are hampered by a lack of funds and suitable land. In May, repatriation movements had virtually come to a standstill, in part due to a reluctance of the refugees (the longer they stay in West Timor, the more likely they will be considered in East Timor as collaborators, or alternatively the more likely their homes will have been occupied or destroyed). It is therefore difficult to predict the rate of resettlement. UNHCR currently expects that 20,000 refugees will repatriate to East Timor by the end of the year and that a further 10,000 will be resettled within Indonesia (WFP/UNHCR/UNICEF - 05/00).
Approximately 40,000 refugees are known to be Indonesian National Armed Forces, police, civil servants and their families. This group are not currently eligible for UN assistance as the GoI continues to provide them with salaries and other benefits. The GoI is making plans to settle this group on other islands of NTT or elsewhere in Indonesia (WFP/UNHCR/UNICEF - 05/00).
A WFP/UNHCR/UNICEF mission to West Timor took place in mid-May in order to review the developments in the nutritional situation of the refugees since the last assessment mission conducted in January 2000 (see RNIS 30). The mission reported an improvement in the overall nutritional situation as evidenced by a decrease in the prevalence of malnutrition in Belu District and TTU (WFP/UNHCR/UNICEF - 05/00).
UNICEF undertook a nutritional survey of the refugees in Belu district in May. The prevalence of wasting was estimated at 8.8%, including 0.8% severe wasting. No oedema was reported. These prevalences are considerably lower than those reported in a survey conducted in December 1999 although the survey methodologies were not identical and therefore the data not strictly comparable (UNICEF - 05/00). The present survey results are likely to be more representative of the wider refugee community in Belu district than the former survey.
According to the mission report, the nutritional situation of the refugees in North Central Timor has also improved. A screening in mid-February had estimated the prevalence of acute malnutrition at 33%, but this has decreased to 8.2% (WFP/UNHCR/UNICEF - 05/00). This assessment is currently unavailable to the RNIS.
The improvement in the nutritional situation was attributed mainly to: (i) the distribution of general food rations in most areas (despite variable food baskets and ration scales), (ii) post-harvest season surpluses among local communities, (iii) access to employment during the harvesting season, (iv) successful supplementary feeding programmes, and (iv) improved water and sanitation. In addition some of the refugees were also able to benefit from living with or near by relatives. It is likely all these factors simultaneously contribute to nutritional improvements, although the report points out that some positive influences such as supplementary feeding have little impact if the general food ration is insufficient (WFP/UNHCR/UNICEF - 05/00).
More recently, however, reports have indicated that health and nutrition staff in West Timor are concerned that the refugees are not receiving an adequate diet. WFP provides only rice to the refugees and it is possible that the population will develop micronutrient deficiencies (UNHCR - 20/07/00).
Most of the refugees are not restricted to the environs of a refugee camp, and hence have access to employment opportunities, although these are limited because of high unemployment in West Timor. Opportunities also exist for small-scale agricultural activities such as livestock raising (pigs, chickens, goats), kitchen gardening and subsequent trade. These activities need to be expanded. Access to more productive farmland, however, is virtually nonexistent and this may limit the refugees' ability to become self-sufficient in the long-term (WFP/UNHCR/UNICEF - 05/00). While supporting the GoI in the care and maintenance of refugees, the UN agencies recommend a strategy for phasing out international assistance, including a systematic reduction in food aid (WFP/UNHCR/ UNICEF - 05/00).
The UN Consolidated Appeal for West Timor has outlined various strategies to improve the food security of the refugees, including the provision of seeds and tools for more vegetable gardens, the provision of chickens, and the provision of maize seeds (in locations where land is available). WFP, UNHCR, ICRC and other NGOs will continue to provide food assistance to the vulnerable section of the population (OCHA - 06/00).
The Maluku Crisis
Clashes between members of Christian and Muslim communities in the Moluccan island region of Indonesia have lead to more than 3,000 deaths since the conflict first broke out in January 1999. An estimated 500,000 people have been displaced either within Malaku, North Maluku or to provinces in Sulawesi, Irian Jaya and elsewhere in Indonesia. The violence escalated in late June resulting in a complete break down in law and order in some areas, particularly Ambon (HRW - 29/06/00).
The latest round of fighting has resulted in the destruction of property and infrastructure and further mass population movements. This has taken place in areas both previously affected and unaffected by the conflict. In many cases people are being displaced for the second or third time (ACF-F - 30/06/00).
Gaining access to the population is currently a crucial issue. Many international organisations have been forced to withdraw due to insecurity. A state of civil emergency has been declared by the GoI, but the population distrusts the security forces, in large part because some members of the military and police units have taken sides in the conflict. It is unclear how a humanitarian corridor can be established given the current security situation (ACF-F - 30/06/00; HRW - 29/06/00).
The situation in North Maluku is less critical, where NGOs are still operational. ACF and MSF are providing assistance to approximately 3,500 IDPs on the island of Bacan (ACF-F - 30/06/00).
The displacement and destruction of property has profound implications for the population's food security. Coping mechanisms are severely hampered, particularly in areas that have suffered earlier in the crisis. Reports suggest that the cost of living has risen dramatically (some food items have more than doubled in cost), and widespread shortages of basic products (rice, noodles, fuel) are reported. ACF-F expects acute food insecurity and associated increases of malnutrition, morbidity and mortality to emerge in the area if a solution is not found soon (ACF-F - 30/06/00).
At an operational level, ACF-F was forced to abandon its food distribution in May for Ambon. Thus the beneficiaries in this area have not received any food aid for over a month (ACF-F - 30/06/00).
Other parts of Indonesia
Sectarian violence is also spreading to other parts of the country. Between 20-40,000 IDPs have been reported in Poso city and its surroundings in central Sulawesi. Others are present in Manadao, north Sulawesi. IDPs also remain in Aceh and west Kalimantan. Earthquakes have also caused displacement in Sulawesi and Sumatra (ACF-F - 30/06/00; WFP - 20/06/00). The RNIS has not received any new information on the nutritional situation of these groups.
Overall, the refugees in West Timor have a satisfactory nutritional status (category IV). There is no information on the nutritional situation of the IDPs in Maluku, but they are considered to be at moderate to high risk (category II and III). The IDPs elsewhere are at moderate risk (category III).
Recommendations and priorities:
From the WFP/UNHCR/UNICEF mission to West Timor (WFP/UNHCR/UNICEF- 05/00):
· Continue with the current distribution system of food distribution until the UNHCR registration exercise is completed. Then distribute a full ration to all eligible refugees on a family-based ration card system.Elsewhere:
· Improve the monitoring of food distributions.
· Implement a growth monitoring system in selected sentinel sites. Continue to undertake nutritional surveys regularly.
· Supply vegetable seeds and gardening tools to refugees who live in areas that can sustain kitchen gardens.
· Establish a system to phase out international assistance including a systematic reduction in ration size, increased dialogue with the GoI to better understand repatriation plans, promotion and support of local repatriation schemes and plans for repatriation food packages.
· Monitor the situation as closely as possible.
· Advocate the establishment of a humanitarian corridor to provide assistance to the population of Maluku.
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia
More than 850,000 Kosovo Albanians have returned to Kosovo, of which 150,000 were assisted by UNHCR or IOM. It is estimated that some 14,000 refugees from Kosovo, including Albanians, Serbs and Roma remain in neighbouring countries. Others, mainly Serbs and Roma, are internally displaced in Serbia and Montenegro (UNHCR - 15/06/00).
The emergency relief effort in Kosovo, which is led by the Humanitarian Affairs Pillar of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and UNHCR, has been one of the largest-ever per capita international relief operations. The programme is winding down as the emergency relief needs of Kosovo have been successfully met. UNMIK and other agencies are now focusing their efforts on the transition from emergency to rehabilitation and development (UNHCR - 15/06/00).
The most recent nutritional survey in Kosovo, conducted in January, found low levels of acute malnutrition (see RNIS 30).
The second set of food reductions have been implemented. Between April and June the beneficiary caseload was reduced by an average of 20% each month throughout Kosovo. At the end of June there were approximately 328,500 WFP food beneficiaries in the province (reduced from approximately 553,400 in March). A further 62,800 people from minority groups are receiving food through separate distribution points (UNHCR - 11/07/00).
Reductions are also being implemented in July, with a standard 35% reduction in each municipality. (WFP plans to distribute food to 189,300 people in July.) Further reductions for August and September are also being discussed. These reductions are being closely coordinated with the transition to UNMIK's permanent social assistance scheme (UNHCR - 11/07/00).
A new permanent social assistance scheme for all people in Kosovo began on 1 June 2000. The criteria for admission into this scheme, which are different from those of the emergency financial assistance programme, are as follows:
· Category I: families without resources, where there is no-one capable or work, or who is expected to make themselves available for work (for example, the disabled, men and women over the age of 65, children).The category I families will receive cash and food assistance from August. Category II households will be able to apply for social assistance from autumn, after which they will receive cash payments, but no food. Mechanisms to ensure minorities' access to the scheme are currently being discussed (UNHCR - 11/07/00; UNMIK - 07/07/00).
· Category II: families without resources who are capable of work, and must make themselves available for work, but are unable to find work.
An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply assessment mission to Kosovo in June reported a sharp recovery in agricultural production in the province. Wheat production is forecast to double compared to last year's crop, although only 60% of the pre-1989 level has been achieved. This harvest will be sufficient to ensure access to food commodities required for consumption by a large part of the rural population over the next 12 months. Thus, a further phase-down of food aid in July-September period can continue as planned (FAO/WFP - 24/07/00).
The price of wheat flour has remained relatively stable throughout late 1999 and early 2000, probably reflecting the strong stabilising role of food aid distributions on the market. The outcome of the 2000 wheat harvest in the wider area of the Balkans and the rest of central and eastern Europe, where Kosovan traders buy wheat, is likely to have some influence on the eventual price of wheat/flour on the Kosovo market in the coming months. Although drought has affected several countries in the region, forecast outputs are still expected to cover the countries' domestic needs and leave some exportable surpluses within the region, albeit probably less than in a normal year (FAO/WFP - 24/07/00).
In the context of the planned reductions in food aid, continuing close monitoring of basic commodity prices in Kosovo will be necessary to give early warning of any unacceptable price increases that could adversely affect vulnerable groups' purchasing power (FAO/WFP - 24/07/00).
Based on the positive results of the harvest predictions, FAO is planning to scale down its emergency assistance in the coming months and the number of beneficiary rural families for agricultural inputs should decrease from 70,000 to about 40,000 by the end of the year (FAO/ WFP - 24/07/00).
The basic conditions for a safe and sustainable return of large numbers of minorities do not exist. Indeed, an outflow of minority households to Serbia has been recorded over the reporting period. The level of killings, violence and harassment against non-Albanians remains high. The adverse security situation restricts the minorities' freedom of movement and leads to difficulties in accessing basic public services, especially health care, education, social welfare and public utilities. UNHCR bus lines, with security escorts from KFOR, continue to provide a lifeline for many isolated ethnic communities across the province (UNHCR - 09/06/00, 15/06/00).
WFP will continue to monitor the special needs of minority communities who currently receive their food aid from separate distribution points (FAO/WFP - 24/07/00).
Overall, the nutritional situation of the returnees to Kosovo is not critical (category IV), although the minority groups are more vulnerable.
Recommendations and priorities:
· Continue to reduce the number of beneficiaries receiving food assistance.
· Monitor price changes in basic commodities and the population's nutritional situation as food aid is phased down.
· Continue to support minority groups.
A registration exercise in Serbia has led UNHCR to estimate that there are some 220,000 people from Kosovo in Serbia (188,000) and Montenegro (31,000). The IDPs are primarily Serbs, Roma and other minorities (UNHCR 15/06/00). There are currently some 9,444 refugees in Macedonia (WFP - 21/07/00).
In April 2000 the Centre for Policy Studies in Belgrade studied the effects of sanctions, hyperinflation and the bombings on the economy of FRY. The study estimated that $45 million of the country's foreign trade was lost and that $72 million was lost in industrial production. This study does not provide concrete, quantifiable evidence of the consequences for ordinary FRY citizens. Nevertheless, it makes a general conclusion that "sanctions inflict damage proportional to the disadvantage already suffered by certain groups and individuals in the division of income", while "the members of the ruling groups are the ones least affected by sanctions" (OCHA - 07/07/00).
WFP is providing food to an estimated 878,300 people in Serbia and 95,000 people in Montenegro (WFP - 27/06/00). The RNIS has received no new nutritional information on the IDP and refugee populations.
Between April and June the prices of food and basic hygiene items suffered a sharp rise in price. As a result the purchasing power of ordinary citizens has further decreased. The prices of wheat may soon increase further if the warnings about the harvest are correct (OCHA - 07/07/00).
Preliminary findings of the joint FAO/WFP Crop Assessment Mission to FRY indicate that the agricultural situation in FRY is more serious than expected (OCHA - 14/07/00).
Overall, the RNIS has not new nutritional information on the IDP populations in Serbia (category V).
Recommendations and priorities:
· Obtain information on the nutritional situation of IDPs in Serbia and Montenegro.
· Continue to monitor price changes in basic commodities.
· Assess the effects of sanctions on FRY's most vulnerable group further.