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Kosovo was one of the most dramatic and complex humanitarian crises in history.  Not because of the sheer number of refugees but because almost all of the one million refugees who fled the province within hours of the commencement of the NATO bombing campaign, which was to last 78 days, returned in less than 3 months.

It was a refugee crisis which involved big power politics and a military campaign by the world's most powerful military alliance.  The aftershock was equally dramatic as the return of the ethnic Albanians triggered a rapid exodus of 200,000 Serbs & Romanies as revenge killings swept the province.   kosovosort3.jpg
kosovosorting1.jpg According to Carl Bildt, former Swedish Prime Minister and who had run an international resettlement operation in Bosnia, "Kosovo will be the most challenging, the most complex peace implementation operation ever undertaken by the UN system and the international community in modern times."   
The UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has said putting Kosovo together again could take at least 10 years and the estimated cost may run as high as $30 billion.
The brutality inflicted upon ethnic Albanians in the Kosovo province had led to an exodus in 1998 of tens of thousands into neighbouring Albania.  In September 1998, the UN High Commission, Sadako Ogata, reported that "Kosovo is a political problem with devastating consequences, for which there is only a political solution."  The crux of the problem were the long-standing abuses of human rights

WomenAid International thanks all those individuals and companies who so generously contributed to the appeal and a special thanks to all the hard-working volunteers who sorted and packed the aid for Kosovar refugees.

By Autumn 1998 more than 350,000 persons has been displaced both within the province and externally.  In late October 1998, the UN Security Council's Special Resolution 1199 demanded the withdrawal of security forces from Kosovo and that withdrawal began in late October.  However, by December, the ceasefire was collapsing and the violence and displacement intensified following the failure of the Rambouillet negotiating process.

WOMENAID SUPPORT
It was at this point in Autumn 1998 that WomenAid first began highlighting the growing crisis and launched Operation Provide Warmth an Appeal for funds, aid, clothing, and hygienic items for delivery to the refugees. However WomenAid found there was an unwillingness to acknowledge the fact that Europe was once again witnessing ethnic cleansing - although the British public later responded generously to the subsequent Disaster Emergencies Committee (DEC) joint appeal on behalf of the larger agencies.

Thanks to the generous support of companies, individuals and dedicated volunteers, WomenAid was 'on the spot' and able to provide urgently needed assistance to desperate refugee families during the first days of the massive influx of refugees into Albania.  In partnership with the Albanian Womens' Federation, WomenAid provided aid to the traumatised refugees.

THE AFTERMATH: PICKING UP THE PIECES
The world's memory will never erase the sight of tens of thousands of fleeing Kosovars corralled at Blace, an open field at a border crossing into the former Yugoslavic Republic of Macedonia.

Now the assistance required is different.  The key question is how to assist the re-integration of a shattered society.   Once again thousands are racing against time to secure adequate shelter against the harsh Balkan winter and once again there is an amazing demonstration of resilience and strength of purpose of refugees as they rebuild their lives.

Serbia is crippled by the effects of the bombing campaign and is virtually an international pariah state .  The political situation in both Macedonia and Montenegro remains fragile.  Albania remains the poorest country in Europe. 

A LAST WORD
"Thanks to Milosevic's policies there are no more Serbs in Krajina (Croatia), there are no more Serbs in Slavonia, there are no more Serbs in western Bosnia and Serbia has received about 600,000 refugees who are not being well cared for."

Serbian Orthodox Bishop Artemiji of Kosovo, 
condemning the policies of Belgrade in the last few years.

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