IOCC Responding to Emergency Needs of Children in Kosovo

Baltimore, MD (April 8, 2004) — The people who have crowded into shelters and apartments in and around Gracanica, Kosovo, don’t know when they’ll be able to go home. Some of them don’t have a home to go home to.

They are among the more than 4,000 people recently displaced by the renewed violence in Kosovo, the troubled province in southern Serbia. Many of their houses were burned to the ground, while others were seriously damaged.

In response to their plight, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is providing humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable people, including infants, children and the elderly, staying in Gracanica, Kosovo Polje and Lipljan. The assistance includes food staples (baby food, milk powder, wheat flour, canned vegetables) and hygiene items, as well as linen sets, mattresses, towels, pillows, shoes and clothing.

Following the violence of mid-March, many Serbs fled to Gracanica, a UN-protected enclave near the Kosovo capital of Pristina, where they are staying temporarily in shelters, private accommodations, a school and a monastery. Humanitarian shipments there have been hampered because of the area’s isolation.

The relief destined for the region is being sent in response to recent assessments made by IOCC personnel of the situation and the unmet needs in Kosovo. Humanitarian distributions are taking place in partnership with the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren (Kosovo) and other local organizations.

The emergency response is another example of IOCC’s ongoing commitment to refugees and other displaced persons in the former Yugoslavia. IOCC is implementing the Kosovo project with support from the Metropolitanate Relief Fund of the Midwestern Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada.

In addition to those recently displaced, IOCC has been providing assistance to the more than 200,000 people who were forced to flee Kosovo for Serbia following the 1999 NATO bombing campaign. Through an extensive network of local partners, IOCC provides them with legal assistance, counseling, up-to-date information and vocational training.

In a recent encyclical letter, IOCC’s parent organization, the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, encouraged all Orthodox Christians to support IOCC’s humanitarian efforts in Kosovo. The hierarchs also joined IOCC in calling for peace in the region.

Donations to provide immediate emergency assistance to victims of the violence in Kosovo may be sent to: IOCC, P.O. Box 630225, Baltimore, Md. 21263-0225. Donations also may be made online at www.iocc.org or by calling toll-free 1-877-803-4622.

Founded in 1992, IOCC is the humanitarian aid agency of Orthodox Christians. For more information about IOCC’s programs in the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere, please visit www.iocc.org.

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