Wednesday, April 7, 1999 Published at 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
Kosovo appeal raises £8m
Refugees are still in need of tents, blankets and water
A nationwide appeal to help the Kosovo refugees has now raised £8m in three days.
A spokeswoman for the DEC said the appeal was now receiving postal donations, which would swell the fund even more.
The organisers say this is the best response ever to such an appeal, but stressed that people should keep giving to help the refugees.
Latest UN figures say 520,912 refugees have left Kosovo. More than 313,000 - 40% of them children - have fled to Albania, Europe's poorest country.
Up to 24,300 refugees are in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 59,000 in Montenegro and 7,612 in Turkey.
But thousands more are trapped in Kosovo after Serbia closed the Kosovo-Albanian border, reportedly turning thousands back by force.
Within 20 minutes 18,000 people had called the hotline to offer money.
There have been an average of 4,000 calls an hour, and an average donation per call of £31.
A total of 84 volunteer telephone operators at the BT Mayfair Telephone Exchange in central London have been taking the calls.
Catholic charity Cafod's Matthew Carter, speaking for DEC, said the response had been "staggering".
And he said the public "can rest assured" that the money is going "immediately", where it is needed most.
"DEC members are there on the ground," he said. "And we've been there for a number of years.
"We're responding immediately. We've been responding over the last month in some cases," he said.
"We're supplying the basics that these people need to survive - food, water, sanitation facilities, shelter and bedding.
"But we urgently need more money so we can respond to the growing numbers of people. To supply half a million people with shelter and food is an enormous undertaking," he said.
Money from the taxman
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, has extended the government's Millennium Gift Aid scheme to cover donations made to the DEC appeal.
It will mean gifts of £100 to the Kosovo appeal will be boosted by an extra £30 from the Inland Revenue.
They launched the joint appeal to prevent the public being bombarded with separate appeals.
Charity heads said the scale of the tragedy was such that a carefully-planned joint effort was needed to make sure the aid got to the people who most needed it as soon as possible.
And it was decided to collect financial donations rather than goods to simplify and speed up the aid work.
It also means that goods can be purchased locally, thus supporting local economies, said a spokesman.
Donations can be made to the DEC Appeal by credit or debit card by calling 0870 6060900. Automated lines will remain open until 19 April.
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 is also live at www.dec.org.uk, which also takes online donations.