The "Kosovo Roma Refugee Foundation"
operated from 2002-2005
but no longer exists
Get the Lead Out provides information about lead poisoned IDP camps in Kosovo and serves as an umbrella-website for participating organizations working on the issue.
10 Dec. 2005: Close to six hundred people are living in three UN camps in Kosovo that are extremely polluted with toxic waste from lead deposits. They have been in the supposedly temporary camps for six years since the war in Kosovo left them homeless. One child already died
This child was poisoned to death due to the neglect of UN and regional officials in Kosovo. How many more will die before they are relocated?
() from the lead poisoning in 2004, and there have been other deaths of uncertain cause and all those tested show extreme lead poisoning in their blood. Many children show obvious symptoms of lead poisoning, such as slipping in and out of consciousness and trouble with walking. The World Health Organization has declared the situation a medical emergency in 2004 and along with Amnesty International and Refugees International have urged the immediate evacuation of children and pregnant women, but still to date the people are in the camps. Though the jurisdictional and bureaucratic situation of these camps is complex, it is a fact that the UN was officially aware of the toxic pollution even before the camps were built. Also, the fact that the people forced to live in the camp are from the politically weak and discriminated-against Roma and Ashkali minority further aggravates the situation -- and the outrage.
12 Dec 2005: BBC reports Kosovo Roma to leave toxic UN camps within 20 days
Hundreds of Roma (Gypsy) people who have spent six years in a makeshift Kosovan camp contaminated with lead are to be relocated and built new homes.
Sweden is to donate 320,000 euros (L216,000) to help the Roma, with a similar sum donated by Germany. Officials now hope to move the Roma to a new camp by the end of the year. They will remain there until work has finished on rebuilding their original homes in the region around Mitrovica during 2006.
"These people were driven away from their houses and have been living on waste ground for the last six years and no-one really cares about them," Per Byman, Sweden's humanitarian director, told the BBC News website.
Work is due to begin next week on temporary homes at a former French military base, Mr Byman said. The aim is to move the Roma away from the lead smelter, which they blame for a series of health problems, especially among children.
Once they have moved, the Roma will have access to hot water, electricity, job training and medical assistance. Levels of lead poisoning among Roma in camps at Zitkovac, Kablare and Cesmin Luq are currently classed as an "acute medical emergency" by US medical authorities.
10 Dec 2005:
1. Relocation news from the Roma &Ashkali Documentation Center report 9:
At the Community Development Unit (CDU) meeting: Laurie Wiseberg (UN-ORC) wasn't there but has promised the camps leaders that relocation to the French KFOR base is imminent.
No news concerning the Norwegian Church Aid Commission to choose the buildings for the Roma Mahala Return and no news on relocation plans by the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in EuropeDiscussion about the people who are not originally from the Roma Mahala, and what will happen to them, since their houses are not getting rebuilt.
When some Roma and Ashkalia families formerly from Mitrovice/a came back from Serbia to visit their former homes, the president of the Mitrovice/a municipality guaranteed them human rights and the Albanian neighbors were nice to them. There are Albanians who are living in one of the six houses once occupied by the Roma and Ashkalia families, the rest have been destroyed. Danish Refugee Council (DRC) has no funds to rebuild these houses.
Camp Visit 23rd November, Cesmin Lug camp: Camp representative Latif Masurica told the RADC that they don't want to be relocated to the KFOR base (Osterode) nearby because the UN doesn't keep its promises and doesn't consult with them. He said camp residents fear that with temporary resettlement they will be forgotten. ()
2. The European Roma Rights Center sent letters asking the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, four Special Rapporteurs, and the Secretary General of the United Nations to take immediate action for the preservation of the lives and health of children in the three Romani IDP camps in Kosovo based on new tests showing yet again the dangerous levels of toxic contamination of the camps. ()
3. Question for ERRC and RADC and all interested parties from activist Gwendolyn Albert of the League of Human Rghts (Czech Republic) about the above:
In Warsaw at the OSCE meeting on Roma 20 and 21 October, Laurie Wiseberg, Minority Rights Advisor and Executive Officer for Return to Roma Mahalla Project, claimed that testing kits were available to UNMIK to conduct tests of the population in the camps. Yet it seems from the outside that the only testing being conducted is by the Society for Threatened Peoples.
Why is the information in the ERRC press release above missing from the recent RADC report? If UNMIK is following up on the lead poisoning, why aren't we hearing about it?
As Refugees International pointed out, when this testing is conducted without any official response or follow-up, it contributes to further confusion of the issue among the IDPs. It is imperative that there be coordination among all actors in order to serve these people's needs.
Is there any official plan in place to systematically test these people and COMMUNICATE the meaning of the test results to them, backed up with action, or is the issue of their contamination going to continue being treated in this haphazard, random way?
4. APPEAL FOR LETTERS: The action network Global Response has launched a campaign on the lead poisoning issue with sample letters and addresses of responsible parties ()
1. Kosovo Ombudsman is still pushing the lead poisoning case, writes article in largest Kosovo daily newspaper. Summarizes the current state of the issue, including all the complications and the guilty parties. ()
2. RADC report 8: Lead Contamination Testing: on Tuesday October 18, the team for lead testing from the US visited the camps in Kablare, Cesmin Lug and Zitkovac, did no testing, met camp leaders. The Roma mahala in south Mitrovica was tested, however. The camps are going to be tested and the results will be known in two weeks. Additionally, rubble clearing is continuing in the Roma mahalla for possible relocation of camp residents there. ()
15 Sept: Two images from a photo essay at the Refugees in Danger website (), with the left showing the red soil of the lead mines and the right depicting the squalor of the poisoned UN camps that the people have been forced to live in for years. Photos by Mona Ljungberg used with permission.