Tuesday, April 6, 1999 Published at 10:06 GMT 11:06 UK
Chancellor backs charities' Kosovo appeal
The UN refugee agency says 400,000 people have left Kosovo
The UK's leading aid agencies are joining forces to launch a national appeal to help those fleeing the turmoil in Kosovo.
"The sheer scale of the crisis has overwhelmed the aid effort. Yet despite huge logistical problems, DEC agencies are delivering aid," said a DEC spokesperson.
On Tuesday the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, announced he was extending the Millennium Gift Aid scheme to cover donations made to the DEC appeal.
Money from the taxman
It will mean that gifts of £100 will be boosted by an extra £30 from the Inland Revenue.
"This change to the Millennium Gift Aid scheme will enable taxpayers in the UK to do their bit to help and ensure government money backs up their donations."
Among the charities teaming up under the DEC umbrella are the British Red Cross, Cafod, Care International, Children's Aid Direct, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Merlin, Oxfam, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision.
Although individual agencies are already heavily involved in relieving the suffering caused by the troubles in Kosovo over the last two weeks, the united money-raising appeal is intended to enable them to respond more swiftly and effectively.
Food, hygiene parcels, blankets and clothes have already been distributed.
Cafod has mobilised resources in Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro to provide immediate relief to as many refugees as possible, while a Christian Aid assessment team is on the Albania-Kosovo border with another emergency team due in the Albanian capital Tirana this week.
Help the Aged and its international partner HAI are developing a programme to assess and deal with the needs of older refugees.
Merlin is aiming to address deteriorating health situations if and when they arise, such as epidemics of measles, meningitis, TB and polio.
Save the Children is providing children's survival kits, clothing, plastic sheeting, water containers and other essential items for their families.
Tearfund is working with local partners to provide aid to the refugees and World Vision delivered aid including food and non-food items particularly for mothers and babies.
Banks will be handling donations to the DEC appeal free of charge. Television, radio and newspapers are offering free advertising and BT is supplying 3,400 phone lines for credit card donations.
The Western alliance has already warned Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic not to try to seize power in Montenegro, which has developed closer ties with the West in recent weeks.
Donations can be made to the DEC Appeal by credit or debit card by calling 0870 6060900.