March 11, 2005: Activists visit the U.S. Office in Pristina. P. Goldberg, chief of mission, doesn't show up for the appointment. His place is taken by his assistant. Also in attendance is the US refugee coordinator. They offer no hope for an evacuation of the IDPs to the US, claiming that there are no US programs for medical emergencies and that they can think of no way to help these dying children. Photos of the children are left for P. Goldberg.
March 12, 2005: Although blood tests results confirm Nikolina Mehmeti is in urgent need of treatment for lead poisoning (and she also has grey lead lines between her teeth and gums), the Mother & Child Institute in Belgrade says they have no medicine to treat her. Urgent calls are made to the hospital in Mitrovica where donated medicine is stored for 12 IDP children to WHO. The medicine is finally found, still at the Mitrovica hospital where WHO says no one can be treated. The Mitrovica hospital sends it by private car to Belgrade.
March 24, 2005: Having finished treatment, the Mother & Child Institute in Belgrade refuses to release Nikolina Mehmeti and her mother until their hospital bill is paid. Because they have no IDs they do not qualify for state-supported treatment. The Mother & Child Institute is upset, claiming that WHO brought two IDP children to them in October and November 2004 to be treated and the bills were never paid. The Mother & Child Institute says it will not admit any more IDP children from Kosovo until these bills are paid. After three hours of pleading, Nikolina Mehmeti and her mother are finally allowed to leave the hospital after aid organizations pay for the mother's stay. The Mother & Child Institute asks activists to send the hospital the address of UNHCR in Kosovo; the hospital feels UNHCR should pay for Nikolina Mehmeti's medical treatment since UNHCR exposed her to contamination.
March 24, 2005: Nikolina Mehmeti and her family are taken to Priluzje, her father's birth village. A small room is rented for them by Swiss Red Cross, who also reimburse activists for paying for Nikolina's mother's stay at the Mother & Child Institute.
March 24-25, 2005: An ERRC lawyer from Budapest visits the Humanitarian Law Center in Pristina to prepare a criminal complaint against UNMIK, UNHCR and others.
March 26, 2005: Vekbi Selemi, age 26, a resident of the Kablare camp for six months, dies of a brain tumor which his family and local Serbian doctors believe was caused by the lead poisoning in the camp. His wife said he never even had headaches until he moved into the camp. Activists take his three children and 21 year old brother (who is also very sick) for blood testing. All three children have lead levels higher than 65 mg/dl; the brother has more than 90 mg/dl.
April 18, 2005: UNMIK, UNHCR, OSCE and the municipality of Mitrovica sign an agreement to return the IDPs to their former neighborhood in south Mitrovica, without setting a date. The most optimistic prediction is the summer of 2006. In the meantime, no evacuation is planned for those most vulnerable to lead poisoning (children under the age of six years and pregnant women) as recommended by Dr. Rohko Kim, a Harvard medical doctor and world expert on lead poisoning after his visit to Kosovo in February 2005 as a special mission for WHO and UNMIK.
April 21, 2005: The aid organization KRRF/Society for Threatened Peoples takes seven IDP children from the Zitkovac camp to the Mother & Child Institute in Belgrade for treatment for lead poisoning. They are referred by the Pediatric Hospital in north Mitrovica because all their lead levels were more than 65 mg/dl, constituting a medical emergency. The children are kept in the Institute for a week but not treated; instead the Institute calls activists to pick up the children, saying their lead levels are less than 38 mg/dl (which is still dangerous, see remarks on "extent of poisoning" above). Later the head nurse asks the activists never to bring "gypsies" back to their Institute for treatment. Upon arrival in north Mitrovica, all the children are tested again. All their tests show their blood lead levels are higher than 65 mg/dl.
April 25, 2005: UNMIK holds a press conference in Pristina to announce they are allocating 150,000 euros (later raised to 200,000 euros) to combat lead poisoning in the camps. They are giving this money to the Kosovo Institute of Public Health. No evacuation of the camps is planned. UNMIK claims the IDPs have refused to be relocated, but UNMIK refuses to say with whom they negotiated as a representative of the IDPs or where the relocation site they claimed they offered would have been. No IDP representatives were invited to the press conference.
April 26, 2005: The International Herald Tribune publishes an op-ed called "KOSOVO: Poisoned camps for Gypsies." (see IHT.com)
May 5, 2005: The Humanitarian Law Center and ERRC hold a press conference/debate in Pristina about the lead poisoning in the camps. The meeting is well attended by local Kosovo Albanian NGOs and some international organizations. UNMIK, WHO and UNHCR refuse to attend.
May 16, 2005: TIME magazine publishes a one-column article on the lead poisoning of the IDP camps in Kosovo called "LEADEN BUREAUCRACY."
Several other newspapers and news agencies publish reports about the lead poisoning in the IDP camps including Reuters, Agence France Presse, and Koha Ditore, the largest daily Albanian-language newspaper out of Pristina, where the story makes the front page. BBC World Service radio and Deutsche Welle also do stories about the camps.
May 17, 2005: Danish Refugee Council is appointed by the Kosovo Ministry of Health to administer the fund to "combat" the lead poisoning in the camps.
May 20, 2005: The Humanitarian Law Center reports they have circulated a world-wide petition via email demanding that the IDP camps be evacuated and all gypsies with dangerously high lead levels be medically treated.
WHO TO CONTACT FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: replace (a) with @ in all email addresses
European Roma Rights Center: Dianne Post, Legal Director, Budapest. tel: (36-1) 413-2200; email: dianne.post(a)errc.org
Humanitarian Law Center: Jeta Bejtullahua, head of office, tel: + 381-38 243488/ 490 email: office(a)hlc-kosovo.org; www.hlc.org.yu
Roma Ashkali Documentation Center: miguelboo(a)hotmail.com
Gwendolyn Albert, email: galbert(a)volny.cz, tel: +420-777-621-227; fax: +420-224-941-092.
UNMIK: Soren Jessen-Petersen, special representative to the UN Secretary General and head of UNMIK. Fax: +381 (0) 38-504-604, ext. 5406; email: Jessen-Petersen(a)un.org
Laurie Wiseberg, UNMIK Minority Returns Advisor, fax: +381 (0) 38-504-604, ext. 5592. email: wiseberg(a)un.org
Rashed Ahmed, head of six Kosovo regions, special rep of Jessen-Petersen. Rashed is head of the steering committee seeking solutions for the lead poisoning in Kosovo. email: ahmed31(a)un.org
Vivien Caragounis, personal assistant to Rashed Ahmed. Her direct extension
after getting through the UNMIK switchboard is 7270. Switchboard number is: 028-32566. email:caragounis(a)un.org.
Dr. Sergy Shevtchenko, Health Officer for UNMIK, north Mitrovica. email: Shevtchenko(a)un.org
UNHCR: Pascale Moreau, head of UNHCR Kosovo, tel: +381-(0) 38- 241-509; fax: +381-(0) 38-501-516; email: moreau(a)unhcr.ch
WHO: Gerry McWeeney, head of Mitrovica WHO office, email: who_hep(a)who.ipko.org;
Hana Klimesova, WHO psychiatrist. She says: "We have lost an entire generation of Romani children in these camps to lead poisoning; if they don't die, they will all have irreversible brain damage." Email: Klimesova_who(a)yahoo.co.uk
International Committee of the Red Cross: Pascale Meige. As head of mission she wrote two letters to SRSG Jessen-Petersen demanding that the IDP camps be closed for health reasons. She calls the lead poisoning issue the worst medical tragedy in Kosovo. Tel: +381-38-241-518; email:pristina.pri(a)icrc.org
Swiss Red Cross: Fried Didden, head of Pristina office; tel: +377-44-131-451; email: crspri(a)ipko.net
U.S. Mission in Pristina: Lynn Gurian, assistant chief of mission, email: gurianl(a)state.gov; Brett Jones, refugee coordinator, email: jonesbx(a)state.gov
OMBUDSPERSON: Marek Antoni Nowicki: tel- +381 (0)38501 401; email: ombudspersonkosovo(a)ombudspersonkosovo.org
Doctors Involved in the Lead Poisoning Issue:
Dr. Maja Djordjovic (speaks English, treated Nikolina Mehmeti at the hospital of the Mother and Child Institute in Belgrade): tel: +381-63-827-2681.
Dr. Lubomir Stojanov (director of the Belgrade Mother and Child Institute where Nikolina Mehmeti was treated). Address: Institut za Zdravstvenu Zastitu Majke I Deteta Srbije "Dr. Vukan Chupic", Radoja Dakica 8, Beograd, Serbia; tel- 011-3108-117; email: majkaidete(a)ptt.yu (Direct office tel: 011-3108-146)
Dr. Lubica Radovic (Decji desponder, north Mitrovica), tel: 028-421-955: she treated Jenita Mehmeti before she died and also recommended Nikolina for treatment to Belgrade.
Milovan Pavlovic He is the "collective centers" (IDP camps) manager. email: Milovanpavlovic(a)yahoo.com
Anna Torok She is the local community officer for Zvechen. email: toroka(a)un.org
Bob Cruz Head of UNMIK Zvechen office, tel: +381- (0)- 38- 504- 604, ext. 7442. email: cruzr(a)un.org
Alastair Livingston: Head of OSCE in Mitrovica email: Alastair-butchart-livingston(a)osce.org
Juozas (Joe) Kaztas: UNMIK mayor of Mitrovica email: Kaztas(a)un.org
Dragisa Milovic, president of Zvechen municipal assembly. fax: +381 (0) 28-664-728. Jacky Holmboe, Norwegian Church Council, Mitrovica
Marijana Pantic, DRC: (Returns Officer for Danish Refugee Council) email: rfo_marijana(a)drc-kosovo.org