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BACKGROUNDER: March 13, 2000

[Note to Editors: As news organizations are preparing stories on the one-year anniversary of the launching of NATO’s bombing in Kosovo March 24, World Vision, one of the largest relief and development organizations in the world, invites you to consider the impact of aid organizations on people’s lives in the former Yugoslav province.]

In March 1999, World Vision – along with other humanitarian organizations – was forced to close its program in Kosovo, which was assisting 75,000 people. Its expatriate staff were among the last foreigners out of the province; the agency’s national staff also fled – or went into hiding. World Vision continued its operations in the neighboring Yugoslav Republic of Montenegro, assisting families fleeing Kosovo, and established operations in Albania, helping at least 35,000 Kosovar refugees.

When the NATO attacks ended in June, World Vision returned when KFOR troops entered Kosovo, and launched a $20 million relief-and-recovery effort to provide livable structures before the onset of winter, help farmers harvest their crops, bring trauma care and counseling to people and attempt to promote peace and reconciliation between Serbs and Albanian Kosovars. Today, the aid agency has a staff of 410 in Kosovo, 33 of them expatriates, who are helping 300,000 formerly displaced people.

Among the possible story angles:

  • After the repair of tractors and combines, some 500 Kosovar last year harvested nearly 3,500 hectares, yielding 68,021 tons of wheat – enough for more than 46 million loaves of bread – feeding half a million people for three months;
  • In Kosovo, more than 10,000 families, totaling 65,000 people, have clean, dry and warm temporary shelters, which, for the foreseeable future, they are calling “home;”
  • Pristina’s psychiatric hospital – vandalized and stripped bare by fleeing Serbs – has been rehabilitated and currently is serving local residents;
  • Some 1,400 leaders of 120 communities have been trained in trauma and grief counseling and are now assisting their neighbors in coming to grips with the horror of the Balkan conflict; and
  • Despite these gains, peace remains an elusive goal. Violence in Mitrovica has set reconciliation efforts “ten steps back,” according to staff, despite the strong interest of a local Orthodox priest and others in peacebuilding.

    For more information on these and other potential stories or anecdotes for “one year later” coverage of Kosovo, please contact:


    Contacts:


    Sheryl Watkins


    1-253-815-2246, 1-206-918-8505 (pager)



    Dean Owen


    1-253-815-2103, 1-800-605-9475 (pager)

    Donations to World Vision’s Kosovo Rebuilding Efforts can be made by clicking here or by calling toll-free 1-888-511-6565.
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      Copyright 2001 World Vision Inc., all rights reserved.