More than 150,000 Albanians have fled Kosovo in the past week. Impoverished neighbouring countries are already overwhelmed by the human tide of misery as long columns of cold, distraught people with virtually no possessions and no means of support try to cross borders to safety.
The British aid organisations at the forefront of the international relief operation say they need a massive injection of funds to alleviate the plight of the refugees.
Donations to the Independent appeal will be handled by the Disasters Emergency Committee, which represents 15 charities including Oxfam, the Red Cross and Save the Children.
Since the exodus from cities, towns and villages in Kosovo began last week, civilians have been flooding into Albania, Macedonia and the Yugoslav province of Montenegro. At least 100,000 refugees have crossed into Albania alone.
The money raised by the Independent will be used to buy food, shelter, warm clothes and sanitation for the displaced people. Tents, blankets and medical supplies are also being sent to the region. The weather is still wintry in the Balkans, and most of the refugees have only the clothes on their backs.
A telephone line has been set up by the Disasters Emergency Committee to take credit card pledges to the appeal, and donations by cheque will be handled free by banks.
The appeal will be backed by a campaign of television and radio broadcasts as well as a series of newspaper advertisements.Reuse content