The first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, made the same point May 14 during a meeting in a refugee camp outside Scopje with representatives of leading aid agencies, including Bob Turner, head of the IRC’s operations in Macedonia. She noted that while they’re not glamorous, the IRC’s public health activities are absolutely essential to the well-being of the refugees. She also noted with approval the IRC activities in support of Macedonian families that have taken in tens of thousands of refugees from Kosovo.
The IRC provides public health support for three refugee camps in Macedonia: Stenkovec I and II and Neprosteno. Public health programs include the installation and maintenance of latrines and water storage tanks and the set-up of water distribution points, as well as public-health education programs for the refugees.
The IRC is also establishing two community health centers in Macedonia that will provide health services to refugees as well as to the host community. This operation will include a mobile health education outreach program and a psycho-social program to help refugees deal with the traumatic experiences they’ve undergone.
Currently more than 231,000 refugees are either housed in refugee camps or living with host families in Macedonia, including 49,000 in the three camps where the IRC is working.
The IRC team in Macedonia was previously headquartered in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. Just prior to the start of the NATO bombing, the staff of 150 men and women was providing assistance to tens of thousands of Kosovars who had been driven from their homes during conflicts that took place late in the summer of 1998. The IRC has been in the Balkans since December 1991, when it launched an aid program in Bosnia.