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US Aid Efforts Frustrated in Kosovo

March 30, 1999

U.S. relief groups are furiously collecting food, medicine, clothing, blanket, tents and just plain cash to help solve the major humanitarian crisis triggered by the flood of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo.

But many relief workers have been forced to leave Kosovo itself and relief group officials said Tuesday they doubt they can even get supplies into the war-torn Yugoslav province. They are focusing instead on Albania, where tens of thousands of refugees have fled.

Larry Jones, president of the Christian relief organization Feed The Children, called the situation in Kosovo ``the worst crisis since World War II. This is a major, major disaster.″

The group is asking people to drop off items such as nonperishable food, over-the-counter medicines, clothing, blankets and tents at its Oklahoma City headquarters. People also can call the Feed The Children hotline to make monetary donations.

World Vision, another Christian relief group, pulled its six Kosovo staffers out on March 21 and has tripled the number of workers in Montenegro. It is working to help refugees there and in Macedonia and Albania.

``People are concerned about refugees who have fled Kosovo _ they think the humanitarian crisis is on this side of the border,″ Kevin Cook, head of World Vision in Kosovo, said from the Macedonian capital of Skopje. ``The real needs are with people inside Kosovo.″

Atlanta-based CARE was getting a team ready to go to Albania and spokeswoman Claudia Chang said the group was looking for food, clothing and fresh water _ ``anything that tens of thousands of people uprooted from their homes would need.″

Officials with several American Red Cross chapters said they weren’t doing anything because they couldn’t get relief supplies into Kosovo. Instead, they encouraged people to donate money to the International Red Cross, which can buy goods near the refugee camps and make sure they are delivered.

Some charities were finding little interest in aid for Kosovo.

``People here are generous with disasters in the Third World, like Hurricane Mitch, but I think Americans feel Europeans can take care of their own,″ said Todd Rosin, a spokesman for the Los Angeles chapter of United Way.