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April 5, 1999: Providing Relief to Kosovo

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The ethnic cleansing of Kosovo cannot stand as a permanent travesty. These refugees belong in their own homes, on their own land. Our immediate goal is to provide relief; our fundamental goal is to help them return.

President Bill Clinton
April 5, 1999

Today, at the White House, President Clinton announced the appointment of Brian Atwood, the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), to coordinate our humanitarian response to the Kosovar refugee crisis. The President also announced the creation of an 1-800" number, 1-800-USAID-RELIEF, for Americans to call to make contributions to the United States humanitarian relief efforts.

Coordinating Humanitarian Assistance to Kosovar Albanians. In addition to Administrator Atwood, who will chair the coordinating council, the council will include three other members. Julia Taft, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, will take the lead in the response by the civilian agencies to the refugee crisis. James Lee Witt, Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), will coordinate private donations to aid the effort and will ensure their proper delivery. Lieutenant General John McDuffie will be the coordinator for our military assistance to the relief operation.

Addressing the Humanitarian Crisis in the Balkans. NATO has put 11,000 troops in Macedonia to work in addressing the humanitarian crisis. It is also planning to deploy several thousand troops to Albania to provide humanitarian aid and security for relief operations. USAID has established Disaster Assistance Response Teams (DART) in Macedonia and Albania to evaluate the needs of the Kosovar Albanians and coordinate our humanitarian response on the ground. Additionally, the U.S. military is currently sending on an urgent basis various forms of relief to the region, including in the next several days:

  • 500,000 humanitarian daily rations (HDRs), which are specially prepared meals packed for speedy distribution to at-risk civilian populations, to Albania--we are currently flying 90,000 HDRs a day into Albania;

  • 600,000 HDRs to Macedonia;

  • tents, sleeping bags, blankets, comforters and cots to Albania and Macedonia.

Continuing to Provide Critical Humanitarian Assistance. Since February of last year, the United States has provided over $150 million in humanitarian assistance to displaced Kosovar Albanians. This sum includes the provision of $50 million in aid that was authorized by President Clinton last week. Half of this aid ($25 million) will be used to provide financial support to international organizations like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and numerous other organizations. The other half ($25 million) is comprised of goods and services, including transport, shelter and logistical support provided by the Department of Defense.

The United States Was Prepared for this Humanitarian Crisis. President Clinton ordered the pre-positioning of humanitarian supplies in the Balkans well in advance of the current refugee crisis. The United States established stockpiles that would feed 500,000 people for three months. Also, UNHCR had stockpiles with items, including tents, blankets, kitchen sets, soap and radio equipment, ready in Copenhagen, Macedonia and Albania.

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