Kosovo Crisis


The Caritas-Albania telephone does not stop ringing. "We get calls from everywhere from people wanting to help," Sister Bianca said, from her post in a garage where she is boxing medicines for distribution. Here there is tangible proof of the mobilization of the Catholic world in favor of the Kosovo refugees.
    "Some say they already have trucks ready and they want to send them," she explained. "We ask them to wait until they receive our requests; we need very specific material, such as diapers for babies."
    Father Segundo Tejado, Spanish priest in charge of Caritas in his country, also advocates the organization of aid sent to the refugees. "Whoever wants to help can begin by sending contributions through Caritas. A private donation arriving on its own must be given special attention at customs; it is better that the aid follow a precise routine." Otherwise, "you run the risk of it ending up in hands of the unscrupulous who take advantage of the situation, a very real danger in the state of public disorder that exists in Albania."
    As he was making these statements, Father Segundo was preparing to leave for the camp at Kukes, a twelve-hour drive from Tirana, where the deported Albanians from Kosovo are crowding. In his pick-up he transports kilos of powdered milk for children. Sister Bianca bought the milk in the one and only factory in Tirana that produces it. "I have ordered another ten tons from Greece. I have asked Caritas-Italy for some fifteen thousand diapers for babies," she said.
    The nun was the first to realize that the mothers from Kosovo had no milk and the babies' bottoms were chafed. She wrote that "we do not want volunteers who come out of curiosity." "We do not have the time to pay attention to them."
    Disorganized volunteers are a hazard for the organizations which have been doing humanitarian work in Albania for a long time. The Catholic organizations are making a decisive contribution in the country. The Italian government has asked the Salesians, who direct the 280-pupil Don Bosco technical school, to provide for the collection and distribution of goods for the whole of Albania under the auspices of the Rainbow Project. In order to serve this emergency entity, the Salesians count on the help of the Italian NGO Volunteers for Development.
    For the time being, Salesian Father Matteo Di Fiori is not asking for volunteers from abroad. He wants the Kosovo refugees themselves to work on the school installations in the camp he is establishing. This way, he will be able to pay them a salary. The Salesian NGO is also organizing help for Albanian families who are housing Kosovo refugees. A center which they created for adolescents has been converted into a health unit for children from the refugee camps. They hope to distribute between 500 and 700 meals a day.
    Many Italian Catholic NGOs have contributed to the "Kosovo Children's Emergency." Fourteen Catholic centers will receive clothing for children 7 years of age and under, as well as foodstuffs (vitamins, fruit juices, baby food) and hygienic materials for newborns. Long-term plans are being made for psycho-social help, including pediatricians and psychologists for children suffering from the traumas of deportation.
    In addition, Italian Catholics are mobilizing to expand existing programs of long-distance adoption. "Whoever is interested could be of great help over a long period of time," Albanian bio-chemist Rada Ferat said. Members of Communion and Liberation have a program requesting "thirty dollars a month for the support of a child from Kosovo."

7/04/99 10:31:45 / Zenit


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