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Friday, 10 November, 2000, 22:02 GMT
UK donates 10m to Serbia
Streets scene in Sarajevo
An estimated 40% of Serbians live on less than $1 a day
Britain is to donate 10m of emergency aid to Serbia to help avoid a humanitarian crisis as the harsh Balkan winter approaches.

International Development Secretary, Clare Short, made the announcement, saying the recent uprising that deposed former President Slobodan Milosevic had left the Yugoslav republic ill-equipped to cope.

"The people of Serbia are suffering the consequences of a prolonged period of social and economic collapse," Ms Short said.

"The prospects for hundreds of thousands of people are looking increasingly desperate as the winter approaches."

Living standards drop

Britain has already pledged about 17% of a 120m EU grant to help the country cope and provide support to new President Kostunica, who is reforming the country in the wake of the uprising.

The additional aid will provide "immediate relief" because the EU package will take several weeks to arrive, Ms Short said.

Living standards are much worse than last year, with unemployment at 50%, according to Ms Short.

An estimated 40% of the population are living on less than a dollar a day and health systems are at breaking point, with shortages of several medicines.

The British cash will be used to create centres where people can enjoy shelter and warmth, support essential health and children's services, provide emergency goods and services and monitor aid distribution.

Reform supported

Ms Short stressed that Britain is fully committed to helping Serbia now that Mr Milosevic is no longer in power.

"We hope that the election of President Kostunica will lead to major reform in Serbia.

"We and the international community are committed to helping with the reform process," she said.

Liberal Democrat international development spokeswoman Dr Jenny Tonge welcomed the aid plan.

But she added: "We must not forget that Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania are struggling just as much.

"They need as much help as Serbia if conflict is not to erupt again in the Balkans."

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See also:

16 Oct 00 | Europe
Deal breaks Serbia deadlock
11 Oct 00 | Europe
Kostunica faces uphill struggle
19 Oct 00 | Europe
Serbia's unfinished revolution
08 Oct 00 | Europe
Yugoslavia looks to the future
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