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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.

Kosovo: Special Report
With almost 400,000 refugees estimated to have fled the troubled Yugoslav province already, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal aims to raise funds to meet the increasingly urgent need for food, shelter, medicines, blankets, mattresses, water and sanitation materials.

"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.

Josephine Hutton of Care International in Skopje: Terrible facilities at refugee camps
"We desperately need extra funds to boost the aid effort if lives are to be saved."

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.

[ image: Gordon Brown:
Gordon Brown: "The crisis has touched many Britons"
Mr Brown said: "Everyone has been moved by the plight of the people of Kosovo.

"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.

Swift response

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.

Susannah Reid: "British efforts to help refugees today moves into top gear"
When the crisis began, national Red Cross societies of countries neighbouring Kosovo were ready to respond as refugees started to flood over the border.

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.

[ image: Refugees are being airlifted to Nato member states]
Refugees are being airlifted to Nato member states
Care International has teams in Macedonia and Albania, and Children's Aid Direct has provided 40 tonnes of material aid, 140 tonnes of food parcels, 150,000 sets of children's thermal underwear and 5,000 family hygiene packs.

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.

Aid flights

[ image: The appeal aims to raise funds for emergency aid]
The appeal aims to raise funds for emergency aid
Oxfam's first flights landed on 2 and 3 April, taking with them £127,000 worth of aid and enough water and sanitation equipment to help about 70,000 refugees in Skopje and Tirana.

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.

  • Meanwhile, Tony Blair is reported to have recorded a television address to be broadcast in Montenegro explaining why Nato is bombing Yugoslavia.

    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.

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