Winter death toll could exceed 100,000 in Bosnia

September 30, 1992|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- U.S. intelligence experts and U.N. official are warning that winter weather could lead to well over 100,000 deaths in Bosnia-Herzegovina from hunger and exposure if the fighting continues to hamper relief efforts and assistance is not increased.

The Central Intelligence Agency has told the White House that 147,000 Bosnians could die this winter, assuming that deliveries of aid continue to be delayed and given normal weather patterns, administration officials said. The toll could increase substantially if the weather is worse than usual, or be reduced if the fighting lessens.

A forecast by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees is even more alarming. Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the commissioner's office, said its "worst case" estimate indicated that 400,000 Bosnians could die this winter.

Andrew S. Natsios, the assistant administrator for food and humanitarian assistance for the Agency of International Development, has sent a letter to Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger saying "immediate and massive action must be taken now to avert a tragedy by the onset of the winter season." The letter was sent last week.

Addressing the "nightmare in Bosnia," President Bush said in July that the United States and its allies "must see to it that relief supplies get through no matter what it takes."

The U.N. Security Council has authorized 6,000 more peacekeeping troops to protect the aid shipments. But organizing the force has been delayed, and officials say it could take a month or two.

Yesterday, administration officials said relief flights to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, would resume in a matter of days. The flights were suspended after an Italian relief plane was shot down on Sept. 3. But the administration's analysis shows that the flights will be insufficient and that new land corridors need to be opened up.

Tens of thousands have already died in Balkan fighting. Thomas M.T. Niles, the assistant secretary of state for European affairs, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday that as many as 40,000 civilians may have died and up to 2 million may have been displaced in the fighting in the former Yugoslavia.

"There are no hard figures here," he said. "Some 30,000 to 40,000 very likely perished as a result of the conflict that began in June 1991."

Western nations have been unwilling to use military force to try to end the fighting. Nor are they willing to lift an arms embargo so the outgunned Bosnians might better defend themselves, though some senior U.S. officials have strong misgivings about the arms ban, which has locked in the Serbian advantage in heavy weapons.

A worst-case assessment is the death of 217,000 Bosnians, assuming harsher than normal weather and weak security for delivery of supplies. A mid-range estimate is that 147,000 Bosnians will die, assuming normal weather patterns but weak security for the relief effort. An optimistic assessment is that the fighting will subside, facilitating the delivery of aid; in this case, only about 30,000 Bosnians might die, the agency reports.

Croatia and the rump Yugoslavia were to hold peace talks in Geneva today but the fierce ethnic war raged on in Bosnia.

The Bosnian capital Sarajevo endured its worst pounding for weeks yesterday, increasing international concern for the besieged city's residents.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.