Humanitarian Relief in Croatia and Bosnia

I want to thank the members of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe for giving me an opportunity to present a report on the humanitarian situation in Croatia and Bosnia. I am representing the American Security Council, a non-profit public policy research organization which has brought together a bipartisan alliance of statesmen who support a global leadership role for the United States. It includes such diverse individuals as Ronald Reagan, George McGovern, Richard Nixon, Michael Dukakis, Gerald Ford, Geraldine Ferraro, Henry Kissinger, Tip O’Neill, Margaret Thatcher, Lane Kirkland, and Jeane Kirkpatrick.

Before I begin I would like to call your attention to the full-page advertisement which is included in the back of my report, and is entitled “Stop Genocide in Bosnia”. This advertisement has appeared in publications across the nation and around the world. In the United States the ad has appeared in such publications as Time magazine, the Boston Globe, the Washington Times, and internationally it has appeared in diverse newspapers from Turkey to Tokyo.

As the members of the Helsinki Commission well know, not since the Second World War has Europe endured the intensity of destruction and degree of human misery that it is witnessing in the current Balkan War.

Television footage and newspaper reports depict a grisly drama of death and hate. Most of the victims have been non-combatants — the elderly, women and children — deliberate targets in the Serbian strategy of “ethnic cleansing.” In a new kind of small war, hospitals, churches, graveyards, schools and cultural treasures are systematically destroyed to “clean” entire regions for Serbian resettlement. Towns like Vukovar, Mostar, Banja Luka, Trebinje and many others are sparsely inhabited ruins of what they once were.

The devastation has unleashed a massive displacement of people. Victims of Serbian terror campaigns and from combat zones have flooded the region, and continue to struggle for their survival as refugees. The need for assistance is urgent. This report will outline some of the areas where international assistance will be of most value.

I want to emphasize that I personally was unable to visit Sarajevo, and the real credit for the work I am distributing this morning belongs to several senior Congressional aides. In particular, tremendous yeoman labor was done by Paul Behrends, who is with us this afternoon, and serves as legislative assistant to Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, and to Brett Pfeffer, legislative assistant to Congressman Earl Hutto, a Co-Chairman of the bipartisan National Security Caucus in the U.S. Congress. I also want to direct special praise for the tremendous support we received from Ron Phillips of the ASC Foundation.

Although this report should not be viewed as a complete account of the humanitarian needs of Croatia and Bosnia, it does attempt to catalogue the basic medical, food, clothing and shelter requirements of the region. Hopefully, it also makes clear that institutions and relief agencies “on-site” are capable of delivering/distributing additional supplies. Table 9 lists the existing international commitments to date. Overall international support has been significant but inadequate.

The purpose of my testimony today is to provide you with an overview of the humanitarian situation in the former Yugoslavia. Delivering humanitarian supplies is perhaps the most basic duty of the international community. The fighting must be stopped but the citizens must first be saved. Surrounded by Serb-controlled territory, the 300,000 inhabitants of Bosnia-Hercegovina — mostly Muslims — have suffered under eight months of isolation and almost nightly bombardment from Serb guns. Unfortunately, I cannot possibly review all of the regions in which Bosnians currently suffer. I will concentrate primarily on those regions which have suffered the most.

The Croatian government is currently paying approximately $2 million per day to shelter the 600,000 refugees living in their country. Eastern Slavonia, a territory within Croatia, continues to endure Serbian occupation. Much of the assistance going to this region is confiscated by the Serbs. U.N. efforts to fairly distribute assistance has been criticized by non-Serbs. Many people are refugees in their own villages, living in gymnasiums, garages, and other substandard shelters. Many refugees have gathered in Vukovar, Vinkovci, Osijek and Slavonski Brod.

The type of supplies most in demand are food, clothing, medical supplies and blankets. There is currently great concern about protecting refugees from the cold. Therefore, plastic sheeting, simple stoves and thermos bottles are needed. Warm sleeping bags, gloves, hats, and footwear would be lifesavers.

Located within U.N. occupied territory, the needs of Western Slavonia are similar to those of Eastern Slavonia. There are fewer militant Serbs in this region, and assistance efforts should be somewhat easier here.

As an example of the type of challenges being faced, an explanation of the situation concerning the orphanage outside of Lipik is offered. Lipik is a small town near Pakrac, Croatia. The Lipik orphanage was home to approximately 80 homeless children, ages 1 to 16. The orphanage was the first building attacked in the Serb campaign to take control of Pakrac. The children hid in the basement as the bombs fell. Although the children survived, the building sustained several direct hits, destroying the roof and much of the building’s infrastructure.

The children are being housed temporarily in an old hotel. The cost to repair the orphanage is estimated at $2 million. If the building is not repaired soon the cost of repairing the building will increase to the point that it will be a total loss.

In Southern Dalmatia, small cities in the vicinity of Dubrovnik have been totally impoverished after enduring over one year of Serbian occupation. Slano, a small village north of Dubrovnik serves as an example of the type of total destruction suffered by many small towns. The church has been burnt. The hotels and cafes surrounding the main square are shells of burnt buildings full of rubbish and debris from the destruction. Most of the people are gone. There is no money to rebuild, and there are no building materials even if there was money. People are in a sort of emotional shock, numb from endless months of Serbian humiliations. Stories of young girls being raped in front of their families, etc., are common. Anyone who knows these hardy Dalmatian people quickly realize that they are in need of more than material support, and that the trauma of occupation has left deep psychological scars.

The region south of Nuem and especially south of Dubrovnik has been hard hit. Everything seems to be in short supply: money, electricity, fuel, food, medicine, blankets, and building materials. The advantage this region enjoys over the others is that the winter climate is more moderate than any other combat zone. Thus, the needs for protection against the winter is less severe here than elsewhere.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina the death toll continues to grow. Some estimates suggest that perhaps 100,000 people are already dead. The UNHCR estimates that there are over 2 million refugees in the former Yugoslavia.

Sarajevo, as bad as the situation is, represents only the tip of a large iceberg of need in Bosnia. Systematic human rights abuses and wholesale destruction of entire towns and villages have caused a hemorrhage of refugees and misery.

The needs in Bosnia are similar to those in Croatia with the exception that there is additional need for basic human care items such as vaccinations, basic hygiene items, tents, vitamin tablets, water purification tablets, and sturdy waterproof tarps. Mobile generators (for heat, light, etc.) are also in need if there is access to simple fuels.

Caritas, a German based humanitarian relief organization, and the Muslim Red Crescent are best suited to distribute most efficiently additional assistance to those in need in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Caritas has been phenomenally successful in channeling aid to those in need throughout Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Using unorthodox and audacious tactics, Caritas has systematically delivered vital humanitarian aid deep behind Serbian lines. Avoiding the main roads and known Serbian strongpoints, Caritas volunteers have used back roads and overland trails to get help to the most desperate.

The director of Caritas for former Yugoslavia, Vladimir Stankovich, has volunteered his logistics network to distribute any additional assistance. Most of their support is now coming from the European Community by truck to his headquarters in Zagreb. From there it is reloaded onto other vehicles and pushed forward.

I recommend that the Muslim Red Crescent also be used as a means to distribute assistance because of Caritas’ use of churches as distribution points. Some Muslims are too proud to accept charity from non-Muslims. To maneuver around this hesitancy, the Muslim Red Crescent would be a more effective organization than Caritas to assist Muslim dominated regions, especially the Krajina and Southern Bosnia.

While this overview is certainly not comprehensive, it is a good representative example of the suffering which is currently taking place in the former Yugoslavia. Given the severity of the humanitarian situation, Senator Dennis DeConcini (R-AZ) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) have introduced a resolution calling for a significant increase in humanitarian assistance. The DeConcini/Hoyer Resolution calls for “the immediate, effective and unimpeded delivery” of humanitarian aid to all civilian populations in Bosnia.

My final message is that while it is too late to save those who have perished, it is not too late to act — to back up our words with deeds.


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