Serbs wrecked 85,000 homes before leaving

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The Independent Online
AFTER THE jubilation of victory, and the confusion of the early days, international agencies and non-governmental organisations in Kosovo are facing a grim situation on the ground. The damage to towns and villages is far worse than they expected. And after spending billions on the war against Yugoslavia and the peace-keeping operation, donor governments have little cash left over for reconstruction, leaving agencies without the money or time to prepare for the October snows.

The statistics make depressing reading. Photographs taken by an American U-2 spy plane last week show 64 per cent of houses in Kosovo have been damaged or destroyed, mostly by the Serb army, police and paramilitary units. Unofficial counts put the number of unhabitable houses at 85,000 - many of them homes to large extended families.

In parts of Kosovo, especially around the western towns of Pec, Prizren and Djakovica where there will be snow in three months' time, villagers are living in tents and makeshift shelters.

A Unicef survey found that 43 per cent of primary schools have been damaged or destroyed by shelling or arson. More than half need roofs, and a total of 28,000 desks, 58,000 chairs and 2,000 blackboards are required.

But the funding crisis and a lack of essential materials such as timber and tiles, mean the United Nations High Commission for Refugees is unable to make plans for the winter. Of the $389m (pounds 243m) it needs for the rest of the year, only $156m had been received by the middle of last week. Britain was the least generous of all the main Western donors, promising only $800,000 (pounds 500,000), compared with $2.8m from Germany, $12.4m from Italy, and $28.5m from the United States.

The situation is worsened by the desperate state of Kosovo's manufacturing infrastructure. There are no working brick or tile factories in Kosovo, and the lack of working wood mills means cut timber for roofs must be imported from as far away as Denmark.

Many returning Kosovo Albanians have brought with them the light tents from the refugee camps in Albania and Macedonia, but these are inadequate for Kosovo's sub-zero winter temperatures.