EXODUS FROM SREBRENICA. Tens of thousands of refugees poured into the Tuzla region following the fall of Srebrenica to Bosnian Serb forces. What are the most pressing problems? What measures is the UN taking to help these people?
At Tuzla Airbase, on the 15th of July 1995, refugees are being helped out of trucks and registering at this rapidly expanding refugee camp. 6000 refugees have already arrived, after fleeing in front of Serb forces that are pushing them out of the former Safe Area of Srebrenica. The Bosnian Serb Army says that it is holding all men of military age for interrogation and at present these refugees know nothing more about their husbands, brothers and sons. Abida Hasanovic, one of the refugees there says “they took my son, an innocent 17 year old” and on the edge of tears she says that through a crack in the truck she saw the men lined up two by two and then “we heard gunfire, we couldn’t see everything.”
At present, 10,000 people are unaccounted for according to the EU. UNHCR and UNPROFOR are providing shelter, food and water to those that have made it to the Tuzla airbase. Toilets are under construction at present. Ed Joseph, of UN Civil Affairs says that providing shelter from the hot sun is their highest priority as they are attempting to look after 5,700 refugees. At the clinic, many children are being treated for severe sun burn. Alvin Gonzaga, UNHCR Protection Officer says that the people here are suffering the trauma of being uprooted and of being separated for their close relatives. Abida Hasanovic says that she does not know how she will survive alone.
Transportation of aid has been the greatest problem and one solution has been to use MI26 Helicopters from Zagreb that can carry thirty tonnes of aid. With 1000s of refugees expected over the coming days, the efficient distribution of aid will become even more of a necessity.