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Declaring Kosovo’s food emergency over, UN agency ends operations there

Declaring Kosovo’s food emergency over, UN agency ends operations there

Declaring that Kosovo’s urgent need for food aid has subsided, a United Nations relief agency today announced plans to close its Pristina office later this month.

“The emergency is over and our phase-down operation is completed,” said Saeed Malik, an official with the UN World Food Programme (WFP). “We leave with the conviction that Kosovo and its people have moved towards a better future.”

When the conflict erupted in March 1999, WFP responded immediately by distributing food rations to thousands of refugees who fled to Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. As the refugees flooded back to Kosovo eight weeks later, the agency started a blanket emergency operation, which at its peak was feeding over 900,000 people, or nearly half the population of Kosovo.

The socio-economic situation in Kosovo has changed dramatically since then. In announcing its decision, WFP pointed out that most people from Kosovo have returned to their homes, schools and businesses have reopened, land is being cultivated, and buildings and streets are under repair.

Meanwhile in Kosovo, Michael Steiner, who heads the UN Interim Administration Mission in the province (UNMIK), today met with associations representing missing Albanians. He stressed that efforts were being made to address their concerns. “There are now more than 40 people dedicated exclusively to resolving the problem of Kosovo’s missing, and with the opening of the new morgue facility in Orahovec in May, we now have a team of international pathologists and anthropologists working on this,” he said.

Mr. Steiner also urged the associations to work not only with UNMIK and the international community in solving the problem, but also with their counterpart Serbian organizations. “The feeling of not knowing what happened to a loved one knows no ethnicity,” he said. “The best way to advance your cause is to have your representatives talk with these families who share the same feelings.”