It takes a (global) village

As the humanitarian relief effort in Albania and Macedonia mounts, international organizations are seeking the cash and kindness of strangers.

Published April 13, 1999 8:49AM (EDT)

Testimonials on CNN about "genocide" (testimonials that, we're constantly reminded, can't be independently verified). Families herded into freight trains like cattle. Masses of people standing in bread and water lines in muddy, squalid makeshift refugee compounds that make Gypsy camps seem like Club Med. These are all vivid snapshots of Europe's greatest flood of refugees since World War II -- and they give pause to even the most cynical.

Conditions for Kosovar Albanian refugees are improving, with the first transports of the Tirana, Albania, humanitarian airlift now landing and international aid organizations getting better access to refugees. But the situation for many is still precarious, and the exodus from Yugoslavia continues. There are now more than 300,000 refugees in Albania, 98,000 in Macedonia and 60,000 in Montenegro. Satellite images and testimonials are the only evidence of the fate of scores more ethnic Albanians still inside Kosovo. Grim daily updates on the relief effort can be found on the U.S. Agency for International Development and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees home pages.

It takes a lot of greenbacks to care for an overnight refugee community the size of Austin, Texas. And though the U.S. government has contributed $50 million to the relief effort, organizations are scrambling for resources. Mostly, they need cash -- it's cheaper to buy supplies in Albania and Macedonia than it is to fly stuff in. Besides, the region's airspace is already overcrowded with bombers and transports, and the local economies, burdened by the influx of displaced, could use the economic booster shot.

"As well-meaning as it might be, a can of soup won't help much," says American Red Cross spokesman Gray Brian, discounting the notion that good old-fashioned canned food drives will stave off starvation in the Balkans.

Salon spoke to a handful of organizations about their Kosovo efforts and how readers can contribute.

American Friends Service Committee
The Quaker organization saw its early relief efforts hampered when the supply warehouse it shares in Kosovo with the Mother Theresa Society was destroyed, allegedly by Serbian troops. But AFSC now has staff on the ground in Macedonia and is working with partner organizations to distribute first aid and hygiene supplies. The organization is accepting both in-kind and monetary contributions. For more info, check out AFSC's Web page or call (888) 588-2372. 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia, PA 19102.

American Muslims for Global Peace and Justice
The organization is working with mosques around the country to raise cash and organize congregation prayers for the Kosovars every Friday. American Muslims' efforts in Macedonia are coordinated by Rahima and Islamic Relief, aid groups that spokesman Salah Gupta describes as the people we've seen "throwing bread from tractors." The organization is also trying to send doctors from the Islamic Medical Association to the Balkans. "Even $50 can feed a person for two and a half weeks in Albania. A small amount is a lot," offers Gupta. (408) 988-1011. 2094 Walsh Ave., Suite C-2, Santa Clara, CA 95050.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
UNHCR is coordinating the international relief effort in Albania and Macedonia. UNHCR is also strapped right now, burdened with 22 million refugees or imperiled populations around the world -- including the Kosovars and victims of mutilation in African hot spot Sierra Leone. UNHCR only accepts monetary contributions, but spokeswoman Jennifer Dean says you can volunteer with local affiliates if you don't have money to spare. (202) 296-5191. 1775 K St. NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20006.

Here's a list of other organizations leading the Kosovo relief effort:

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

711 Third Ave., 10th Floor

New York, NY 10017

(212) 885-0832; (212) 885-0889

American Red Cross

International Response Fund

P.O. Box 37243

Washington, DC 20013

(800) HELP-NOW
Spanish: (800) 257-7575

American Refugee Committee

2344 Nicollet Ave. S., Suite 350

Minneapolis, MN 55404

(612) 872-7060

Baptist World Aid

6733 Curran St.

McLean, VA 22101

(703) 790-8980


151 Ellis St. NE

Atlanta, GA 30303

(800) 521-2273

Catholic Relief Services

P.O. Box 17090

Baltimore, MD 21203

(800) 736-3467

Church World Service

28606 Phillips St.

P.O. Box 968

Elkhart, IN 46515

(800) 297-1516, ext. 222

Direct Relief International

27 S. La Patera Lane

Santa Barbara, CA 93117

(800) 676-1638

Doctors Without Borders/MSF

6 East 39th St., 8th Floor

New York, NY 10016

(888) 392-0392

Doctors of the World

375 West Broadway

New York, NY 10012

(888) 817-4357

Food for the Hungry International

7729 East Greenway Rd.

Scottsdale, AZ 85260

(800) 2-HUNGER

International Aid Inc.

17011 West Hickory St.

Spring Lake, MI 49456

(800) 968-7490

International Medical Corps

11500 West Olympic Blvd.

Suite 506

Los Angeles, CA 90064

(800) 481-4462

International Orthodox Christian Charities

P.O. Box 630225

Baltimore, MD 21263

(410) 243-9820

International Rescue Committee

122 East 42nd St.

New York, NY 10168


Lutheran World Relief

Church Street Station

P.O. Box 6186

New York, NY 10277-1738


MAP International

2200 Glynco Parkway

P.O. Box 215000

Brunswick, GA 31521-5000

(800) 225-8550

Mercy Corps International

3030 SW First Ave.

Portland, OR 97201

(800) 852-2100

Oxfam America

Kosovo Relief Fund

26 West St.

Boston, MA 02111

(800) 77-OXFAM

Save the Children Federation

P.O. Box 975

54 Wilton Rd.v
Westport, CT 06880

(800) 243-5075

Salvation Army World Service Office

615 Slaters Lane

Alexandria, VA 22313

(703) 684-5528

US Association for the UNHCR

1775 K St. NW, Suite 300

Washington, DC 20006

(202) 296-5191

U.S. Committee for UNICEF

333 East 38th St.

New York, NY 10016

(800) FOR-KIDS

World Concern

19303 Fremont Ave. N.

Seattle, WA 98133

(800) 755-5022

World Relief

P.O. Box WRC

Wheaton, IL 60189

(800) 535-5433

World Vision

P.O. Box 9716

Federal Way, WA 98063

(888) 511-6565

By Daryl Lindsey

Daryl Lindsey is associate editor of Salon News and an Arthur Burns fellow. He currently lives in Berlin and writes for Salon and Die Welt.

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