The senior United Nations envoy in Kosovo has welcomed the start of medical treatment to help internally displaced persons (IDPs) suffering from lead toxicity as a result of living in camps in the northern part of the disputed province.
Joachim Rücker, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said in a press statement today that the World Health Organization (WHO) has been able to begin the medical treatment programme now that IDPs have transferred to a safer UN-run camp.
Almost 600 IDPs from the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities have moved since the start of the year to Camp Osterode from the lead-contaminated camps in Cesmin Lug/Llugë, Žitkovac/Zitkovc, Kablare/Kablar, with the latter two camps now closed entirely. Some 148 people still remain in Cesmin Lug/Llugë.
Mr. Rücker congratulated those IDPs who agreed to relocate to Osterode for the sake of their children while permanent homes in the Mitrovica/Mitrovicë Roma Mahala are under construction.
“This has been a painful chapter in the lives of the IDPs concerned, whom circumstances connived to keep in extremely unhygienic and adverse living conditions in the camps,” he said, urging those people remaining in Cesmin Lug/Llugë to move to Osterode as soon as possible.
The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) arranged the move in cooperation with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), WHO and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Before it was opened this year, Osterode was cleaned and refurbished by UNMIK and tested by environmental engineers for lead contamination. Residents have been provided with household items to replace those tainted goods from the previous camps, and some job opportunities have also been created.
Most of the IDPs have been displaced from the Roma Mahala that was destroyed during the conflict in 1999, when NATO forces drove out Yugoslav troops amid human rights abuses in fighting between Serbs, Albanians and other ethnic communities. UNMIK was then created by the Security Council to administer the province.