Tuesday, April 6, 1999 Published at 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Kosovo exodus sparks new appeal
The UN refugee agency says 400,000 people have left Kosovo
Twelve of the UK's leading aid agencies have launched a national appeal to help those fleeing the turmoil in Kosovo.
Up to 300,000 have arrived in Albania, which was already the poorest country in Europe.
Another 130,000 are in Macedonia and a further 150,000 are believed to be queuing at the Macedonian border. Neighbouring Montenegro has taken in 35,000.
At the launch of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal on Tuesday, an aid worker who has just returned from Albania said people were dying at the rate of two an hour.
On Tuesday the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, extended the Millennium Gift Aid scheme to cover donations made to the DEC appeal.
Money from the taxman
It will mean 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."
The 12 charities teaming up under the DEC umbrella are the British Red Cross, Cafod, Care International, Children's Aid Direct, Christian Aid, Help The Aged, Concern Worldwide, Merlin, Oxfam, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision.
Special televised appeals will be made on BBC, ITV and Channel 4 at 1825 BST.
Christian Aid spokeswoman Ama Annan, who arrived from Albania late on Monday night, said: "I was at a border crossing near the town of Kukes two mornings ago.
'Weak and traumatised people'
She said: "People are very weak and traumatised from the experiences they've had on the other side of the border."
Ms Annan said the refugees were hungry, thirsty and in need of shelter, but she said the Tirana government had a policy of bussing the Kosovars to central and southern Albania as quickly as possible.
Ms Annan said foreign agencies were co-operating on the ground but the situation was changing by the hour.
She said: "The big difference between Albania and Macedonia is that the Albanians welcome the refugees.
"They are appalled by the atrocities and they want to help.
'Albania is a pauper nation already'
"But it is the poorest country in Europe and they do need support."
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.
Save the Children is providing children's survival kits, clothing, plastic sheeting, water containers and other essential items.
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.
Donations can be made to the DEC Appeal by credit or debit card by calling 0870 6060900.
Donations can also be sent by post to: Kosovo Crisis Appeal, PO Box 999, London, EC4A 9AA.
A credit card donation line via the DEC Website should go live on Tuesday.