Kampf gegen das langsame Sterben

Thanks to the team of the regional newspaper "Miesbacher Merkur" who published an article about our project "a forgotten promise":

Eigentlich wollte Florian Bachmeier nur ein Fotoprojekt realisieren. Als er Anfang Juli in den Kosovo aufbrach, um Eindrücke von den Grenzregionen Europas einzufangen, begegnete dem 35-jährigen Fotografen aus Schliersee unsagbares Elend. Zurück aus dem Kosovo, will er jetzt Flüchtlingen in Mitrovica helfen. Jahr für Jahr sterben etliche von ihnen an Bleivergiftung, weil das Lager auf dem verseuchten Gelände des ehemaligen Metallkombinats Trepca steht.
In der 100 000-Einwohner-Stadt hat Bachmeier die Menschen des Flüchtlingslagers porträtiert und ließ sich deren Geschichten erzählen.
Die Menschen in Mitrovica leben buchstäblich zwischen den Fronten, am Rande des Flusses Ibar, der die Stadt zerschneidet. Den Südteil nehmen die albanischstämmigen Einwohner für sich in Anspruch, den Nordteil die serbische Minderheit. Dort befindet sich auch das Lager Ostaroda, in welchem die Roma, die während des Krieges von den Albanern vertrieben worden sind, hausen.
Es fehlt an Sanitäreinrichtungen, das kontaminierte Wasser fließt aus einem einzigen Wasserhahn, schildert Bachmeier. Kinder kommen mit Hinrschäden zur Welt, Erwachsene kämpfen mit geistigen und psychischen Leiden.
Die Schicksale der Roma haben Bachmeier nicht losgelassen. Jetzt will er zusammen mit der Hilfsorganisation „Little People of Kosovo“ (Die kleinen Leute vom Kosovo), ein Spendenprojekt auf die Beine stellen, um die größte Not der Lagerbewohner lindern. Das Geld ist für Lebensmittel, sauberes Wasser, abgefüllt in Flaschen, und medizinische Hilfe bestimmt. Langfristiges Ziel des Projekts ist es, die Behörden dazu zu bewegen, das Lager aufzulösen.
Weitere Informationen gibt es im Internet unter www.florianbachmeier.com (Menüpunkt „Blog“), unter www.aforgottenpromise.blogspot.com und www.lpkosova.com.


Article written by Mrs. Hiljmnijeta Apuk, Director and founder of Little People of Kosovo

Medical Evacuation

The consequences for the health of children and their families require urgent medical evacuation from the dangerously toxic camps Osterode and Cesmin Lug / Çesmin Llug.
In the beginning of August, fourteen internally displaced RAE families are evacuated from the poisoned camps from the northern part of Mitrovica and they are returned to their new apartments and houses in Mahalla in the southern part of Mitrovica. The medical evacuation was financed by international donors.
Unfortunately, the evacuee children and their families carried contaminated things from toxic camps to new houses because of donors did not provide new furniture, bedding, footwear and clothing in the required amount.

Health problems for the rest of their lives

Tragically, children from the lead-contaminated Roma camps in northern Mitrovica are most vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and they became disabled for rest of their lives. Also, high levels of lead pollution can cause death.
Lead poisoning affects children and toxic substances can negatively affect their physical and mental development.

Protection rights of Roma children with disabilities

Life in highly toxic temporary camps points to the fact that Roma children with disabilities are multiple discriminated on base of their origin, race, social status and disabilities and they stay isolated in poverty and without any adequate medical care.

“We ask for urgent financial and medical assistance for our people in most toxic camps. We ask for a chance for our children to live.
In the camps children are born with a high percentage of lead and other heavy metals in their blood, which causes permanent physical and mental disabilities and our children need immediate medical treatment", says Elizabeta Bajrami, leader of NGO Roma Women for Roma Women.

Hiljmnijeta Apuk,
NGO Little People of Kosovo
Mitrovica, 17-08-2009


Our first official partner in Germany

We are happy to have the generous support of the Münchner Flüchtlingsrat (MFR). The MFR is an afilliation of more than fifty organisation, initiatives and groups in the Bavaria dedicated to improve the situation of refugees in all aspects. Thanks to Mrs. Monika Steinhauser and her team...


Toxic waste kills

photo: toxicwastekills
On www.toxicwastekills.com you will get informed about the situation in the camps and you can have a look on the list of deaths until now – 82 persons! The authors point out that it is not only another case of displaced persons after a war. The new authorities placed them in a dangerous, toxic environment. Most of the people living in the camps are affected by the effects of the contamination of the area, most vulnerable are children, absorbing the lead, which is distributed to the vital organs. Osterode and Cesmin Lug is one of Europe´s greatest health emergencies for children, evacuation is the only solution to this problem and should have absolute priority.



A letter from Paul Polansky

photo: Paul Polansky

Paul Polansky, born in Mason City, Iowa in 1942 as a son of german and czech parents is an american author and activist working for the rights of the Roma. He left the USA as a protest against the Vietnam War and settled in Europe. He published more than 25 books, produced a documentary film about the camps of Osterode and Cesmin Lug, is head of the Kosovo Roma Refugee Foundation (KRRF) and head of mission for the Society for Threatened Peoples (Gesellschaft für Bedrohte Völker) in Kosovo and Serbia. In 2004 he received the human rights award of the city of Weimar. When we started our correspondence, he sent me the following letter:

Hi Florian,

I'd be happy to do anything that would draw attention to the tragic plight of the Roma in the former UN camps in north Mitrovica, now administered by the Kosovo govt thru KAAD.

Jacky Buzoli the only Rom on the KAAD staff has been fired for letting people know the truth about the camps...about his Romani people dying of lead poisoning.

My NGOs (KMEG and GFBV) keep calling for evacuation from the toxic camps and medical treatment but the UN and now the Kosovo govt refuse to evacuate the people. Roma who volunteered to return in 2006 to their original neighborhood in south Mitrovica if they were finally treated for lead poisoning have not been treated. One three day old baby born with a deformed brain and damaged kidneys from lead poisoning recently died in the south mahala, mainly because his mother was never treated for lead poisoning. We have hundreds of children suffering organ damage in the camps but KAAD/the Kosovo govt refuse to evacuate them from the souce of poisoning.

In 2005 Elizabeth Morphew visited all the families in the camps telling them they didnt have lead poisoning but were sick from the NATO bombing. Hana Klimesova refuses to talk to me for fear of losing her job.

You're seeking donations for what? To bury the Roma dying in the camps of lead poisoning? So far 82 have died. No UN official, no KAAD staff have ever attended one funeral.

Have you read my book UN-Leaded Blood? You can find it on my web page. It was written in 2005. Nothing has changed since its publication except the number of deaths have gone from 27 to 82.

The Kosovo govt now has a five year plan to resettle the Roma from the camps. In five years we wont have any Roma, at least no children, left.




KAAD activities in Osterode and Cesmin Lug

photo: KAAD

The KAAD (Kosovo Agency for Advocacy and Development) was our contact in Mitrovica when we visited the camp for the first time. Mr. Dzafer Buzoli is working in the Camp Administration in Osterode and coordinates the organisation´s activities and programs. Since January 2009, the KAAD is active in the camp with a project of Camp Management, including infrastructure maintenance and medical support. In the near future social activities are to be covered also by the KAAD within the Camp of Osterode.
The Women and Youth Center are venues where women and youth can meet, socially interact, get trained. In this moment, this is the only forum providing internally displaced Roma women an opportunity to interact with trained coordinators on various issues without prejudice The activities include a domestic violence prevention program, vocational trainings, HIV information programs and some social activities. The KAAD Camp Management employs six project staff members, nine security guards, one medical adviser, three Camp leaders and 14 members working in the cleaning and maintaining staff.


Danger zone Mitrovica – be aware of lead

Text written by Angela Griep, Public Information Officer, UN Volunteers UNMIK

In the region of Mitrovica, high levels of lead in the environment build a significant risk for mental and physical health, especially for children under six years. UN Volunteers Hana Klimesova, a psychologist, and Elizabeth Morfaw, Health Risk Assessment Coordinator, are working for WHO (World Health Organization) on a survey about the impact of lead exposure on children’s health.
“We focus on children between 24 and 36 months old because they were born after the closing down of Trepca smelter, the major source of lead pollution in Mitrovica. If the danger is over, as people like to think, these kids would not show any significant blood lead levels”, they explain. “We need a proof that the risk of lead exposure is still there. The research will also build a scientific basis for further actions and projects regarding the environmental pollution from heavy metals in this region”.

Trepca Mine Limited in Mitrovica was built in 1927. The smelter close to Zvecan commenced work in 1939. Because of the smelter and three huge tailing dams of the factory, environmental pollution in Mitrovica increased dramatically. In 2000 the smelter was closed down in order to reduce health risks caused by the pollution. But lead doesn’t decompose over the years. It stays in the soil, water, dust and food. The tailing dams up to now guarantee a regular supply of ‘fresh’ dust and soil contaminated with lead, which is brought by the wind to Mitrovica, Zvecan and the surrounding areas.

The human body absorbs lead through mouth, nose and skin. Mothers who are exposed to lead can intoxicate their unborn child through the placenta or their born child through breast-feeding. “Ninety nine per cent of the lead absorbed by an adult will leave the body through urine and feces, but only 32 per cent of the lead a child absorbs can be excreted” explains Hana. “Furthermore they often put their hands in their mouths and playing on the ground, being in much closer contact with contaminated soil and dust”, adds Elizabeth.

The results can be dramatic: brain or nerve damage, impaired speech, hearing problems, decreased mental ability, decreased learning abilities, reduced growth, high blood pressure, hyperactivity, antisocial behavior and more.

The survey the two UNVs are conducting is divided into three parts: medical, environmental, psychological. First they reconstruct the environmental exposure history of the child, which is followed by the collection of environmental samples and laboratory analysis. “We compare the GPS coordinates of the home addresses with our 2002-2003 maps, which show the quantity of lead in milligrams per kilogram of soil in Mitrovica and its surrounding areas”, says Elizabeth giving an example. According to European standards the percentage of lead in residential soils shouldn’t exceed 450 mg/kg of soil. One zone of the region shows 450 mg/kg or less. Another one contains between 450 and 2000 milligrams of lead, and the third one – where North Mitrovica and Zvecan are – shows more than 2000.


To read the entire article: http://www.unmikonline.org/pub/focuskos/aug04/focuskmunaffair2.htm


Starting shot for A Forgotten Promise

This week-end I sent out the first letters asking for donations to support our project. Thanks to the first givers who already made their contribution. And thanks to the stuff of Cromeart System in Munich who did a great job in the photo laboratory, I just got back home with the developed films and I am very satisfied with the results.