Statement by Dzafer Buzoli, Coordinator for Gesellschaft für Bedrohte Völker, Switzerland

Prior to the 1999 conflict, Roma Mahala in the southern part of Mitrovica town was inhabited by 7000 - 8000 Roma Ashkali Egyptians (RAE) residing in approximately 750 houses. The former inhabitants of Roma Mahala are all now living in displacement; about 611 persons in northern Kosovo, some in Serbia Proper and Montenegro, and some in Western Europe.

Until March 2006, the IDPs in northern Kosovo lived in four camps situated in North Mitrovica, Zvecan and Leposavic municipalities and have been constantly calling for return to their place of origin since 2000. 80% of the Roma residing in the camps in North Mitrovica belong in Roma Mahala.

In 2004 World Health Organization had found high lead levels on the soil and air in the camps of Cesmin Lug, Kablare and Zitkovac. Institue for Public Health had taken the blood samples from the humans in these camps and found the biggest lead levels even found in humans blood’s history.

The camps of Osterode and Cesmin Lug are heavily contaminated with lead due to years of operations by the TREPCA mining company. Analysis of soil samples taken by the World Health Organization (WHO) confirm that the levels of lead are so high as to constitute serious health hazards to the Roma population, particularly children below 6 years of age and pregnant women.

Two Roma communities, approx. 169 families, 611 individuals are targeted for emergency evacuation: Osterode (112 families, 418 individuals), Cesmin Lug (57 families, 193 individuals). There are a total of 206 children aged 0-12.

The World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Europe has identified excessive levels of environmental lead contamination, together with high human lead intoxication in camps of Osterode and Cesmin Lug.

Since 2000, WHO has called for interventions to address this public health emergency through: alleviation of the environmental exposure; provision of a “lead-safe” environment; provision of “lead-safe” occupations; improvement of public health (addressing poor living conditions and poverty), and provision of adequate case management and treatment for the affected population.

Since 2005 a comprehensive package of interventions has been delivered to the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian (RAE) residents of temporary camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

The environmental hazard is still a risk to human health to the whole population of RAE IDP Camps. Today, after 10 years of displacement, the RAE still remain in these camps until the permanent solution is found by the International Community. Most of them are registered under the social welfare, their only income and work is to collect the metal, plastic, paper to sell.

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