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Tirana Diary 12 May 1999

Tirana 12 Mai 1999

After I finished may diary yesterday, the remaining German (Mark, Goran went back to germany yesterday) returned from his trip to Burati (3400 in a refugee center and 3500 in host-families and no international agency working there), he brought a few tons of food to a camp there. On the way in the dark he was controlled at least 6 times, with a kind of body search as well. At the last post they pushed him to drink with him, the local Raki, with which we already made not the best experiences two days agao. After what has happened with the two from UNHCR yesterday we were luckly that he hadn't any other problems.
This morning I planned to do some paper work, but I got the possibility to drive with BJ and some other people from IRC to the refugee camp I was writing about yesterday and visit some others on the way back. Some no paperwork but field work. So we first went to a village, so small you can't find it on the map, about 60 km north of Tirana, Donja or so. There IRC is building the toilets and other things for a new camp (I wrote about it yesterday). The camp looks good, the barracks had been not used for a few years but they putted some new roofs on it and prepare all the other things, only the water is not solved yet, the owner of the land next to it want to have big money for leeting the pipelines going through.
BJ's translator, Ben, knew the place very well he got his army training twice there. The slogans in favour of Enver Hoxha were still more or less visiable, futher more we find empty handgrenate and bullets all over the place. If you look at the daily pictures of what is happening at this moment in Kukusi (Kukes) it is really stupid that this camp is not used yet. Any way that almost 120.000 refugees up there will be moved down in the coming days, at least that is what you are hearing every day. Driving up north and coming back we saw again lot's of NATO military going in that direction.
If this continues that way our Balkan Sunflowers volunteers will be earlier in this camp than the refugees. After that we visit some other refugee camps, one runned by some American Missionairs, which looks good, and another runned by the local authorities (or rather not runned) which is even worst than the refugee centers I found in the middle of Bosnia in the middle of the war there. Since a few days IRC was able to put up some toilet buildings there but still it is like unbelieveble. An old school or so. aybe there is room for about 300 people, but there are at least 600. A family of 17 persons living in room of 16m2 (the officially guidelines are at least 3,5 m2 per person). The food distribution is done by the local town council, who drives by with an open truck bringing loafs of bread, I haven't seen some other food. The place was incredible dirty and smelling like hell.
Besides from that there were everywhere refugee in host families and even a lot of displaced people from the civil war in 1997. This made me think that what the orginal plan was to work in refugee camps had to be changed a bit. It should be more like community work, living in the towns and doing there activities for everybody and at the same time make like traveling activity centers. A bus with volunteers driving around and visiting different refugee camps through the week.
Later on the day I explained this idea to people of UNHCR and other agencies and they really like it. At this moment all the international agencies and NGO's are almost fighting about having the right to do activities in the few bigger refugee centers around and in the bigger cities, but hardly no one is visiting or doing something in the centers more than 10 Km outside the towns. At such moments I start to realise again that humanitarian aid is a big bussines. In the main time refugees are still there.
Sorry to be that kind of skeptical some times. But remember I have seen some wars by now. Back in Tirana I went to the UNCHR meeting about community and social activities. Yes what can I say we like to have funding from that organisation for our activities, so I have to be positive.....
A lot more positive was the eeting I had afterwards with representatives from the local (albaninan) NGO's. They didn't ralise what is coming to them through this war and all the things ectracting from it. But they were open to learn, I hope we find enough people in the world to help them with this learnig process.

all the best, and remeber the Balkans are a good place for Sunflower to blossom........

He, Tyche, Pjort and Rik, I love you, Papa is here and thinking also about you.

This was radio Tirana, till tomorow,


ps Keep trucking your guys, this country need some help.