Daniela Kostadinova in Skopje
"We know that if something big happens again, the south will be the one carrying the burden. So we must be prepared." explains Mladen Bundov, Secretary of Gevgelija City Red Cross branch, in southeast Macedonia. Over the past five months, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has lost its reputation as a "once-upon-a-time" oasis of peace in the ever-restless Balkans. Following armed clashes between governmental forces and armed Albanian forces in March this year, people fled the violence. Displaced by the fighting they were in need of basic items like shelter, food and water.
The Gevgelija Red Cross branch reacted swiftly to the crisis that started in March 2001. Some 116 persons were accommodated with friends and relatives and received Red Cross distributions of food and hygiene articles, provided by ICRC and the Federation. Currently in Macedonia there are 47,400 registered internally displaced people, most of them come from the northwest part of the country. The Macedonian Red Cross (MRC), in co-operation with the ICRC and the International Federation, assists them all with food and shelter.
Although the immediate needs of those displaced by fighting are covered, Red Cross activities have not stopped. The Federation is supporting all 34 Macedonian Red Cross (MRC) branches in carrying out preparedness activities throughout the country to ensure quick, appropriate response should further emergencies arise. "It is always good to plan and prepare. We are not here to create panic. We are only trying to be one step ahead of events, if possible. Looking after people's welfare is our primary goal.", explains Alexandra Ivanovski , Federation relief officer.
Advice is given on how to identify and organize warehouse facilities in a short period of time, distribute ready-to-eat meals, plus tips on how to mobilize local resources to meet the immediate needs of displaced people within the first hours of their arrival. Co-ordination between the MRC Headquarters and branches, offices of the International Federation, as well as the ICRC is also discussed. "In fact, all this is part of the overall contingency plan for the country to be applied when quick action needs to be taken. These preparedness activities are part of a broader programme", explains Emir Krehic, Federation relief delegate.