War's toll on city-based relief agencies

This Just In...

April 02, 1999|By DAN RODRICKS

Nick Ford, project manager for Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services in Kosovo until its operations there were suspended because of the NATO air strikes, made his way into Macedonia to help get supplies to the ethnic Albanians streaming out of Yugoslavia. Yesterday, he and CRS workers distributed ready-to-eat food rations to thousands of hungry refugees. Last night, he was back at Macedonia's border with Kosovo, waiting to speak with a local police chief, when I got Ford on his cellular phone.

"We're waiting to get permission to go into the neutral zone," he said. "We're prepared to distribute [food and hygiene packs] for between 30,000 and 40,000 there. . . . It's a very challenging situation." That's all he had time to say.

Earlier, Ford and other CRS officials in Macedonia and Albania reported a great crush of refugees that threatened to quickly exhaust the relief agency's supplies. CRS, which estimated the line of vehicles bearing Kosovars at the Macedonian border to be five miles long, supplied 1,000 families willing to take in refugees with oil, beans, flour, sugar and hygiene packs.

"The influx of refugees has been overwhelming," Charles Juhn, a CRS official in Albania, messaged the home office. "We're concerned that, if the movement of refugees keeps up at this pace, we're going to have a critical shortage of food, blankets and mattresses." CRS converted a community center in Tirana, the Albanian capital, into a refugee information center.

International Orthodox Christian Charities, also based in Baltimore, estimated that 30,000 refugees had reached Montenegro, with thousands more arriving at its mountainous border with Kosovo. IOCC staff reported refugees traveling through snow with no extra clothing, sleeping in the open, or in cars and buses. A number of Serbian civilians had also crossed into Montenegro to escape the fighting in Kosovo.

In addition to distributing food and hygiene items to refugees in countries bordering Kosovo, the IOCC managed yesterday to deliver supplies to about 60 women and children who took refuge from the fighting in a 13th-century monastery in the Mokra Gora Mountains of western Kosovo.

Tom Price, of CRS in Baltimore, said the office has received between 100 and 150 additional calls from donors each day since the NATO airstrikes began last week. By contrast, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Mitch, CRS received thousands of extra calls daily. The phone number for Catholic Relief Services is 1-800-736-3467.

The IOCC, with headquarters on 40th Street, can be reached at 1-877-803-4622.

The world in World Series

It's not true that Peter Angelos went to Havana to find clients willing to sue Fidel Castro over illnesses related to secondhand cigar smoke. It might be true that he went with hopes of eventually dipping into the Cuban baseball talent pool. Whatever. I agree with Da Boss that, in diplomacy as in opera, an overture is better than no overture.

But here's what I come out of this whole thing with:

Major League Baseball should step into the new world order and globalize its operations. Why not expand to 12 divisions and pull a few teams from Latin America and Asia into the mix? Why settle for a few games between National League and American League teams? The Orioles and all other major league franchises could play Cuban teams, or teams from Japan, Mexico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. The World Series would actually live up to its name. It's time for baseball's big bang. Da Boss just lighted the fuse, and he doesn't even know it, maybe.

A brief good buy

Steve Francis skipped from high school to junior college to the University of Maryland on a basketball scholarship - all in little more than two years - and now he's headed into the National Basketball Association draft, giving up his final year with the Terps for a shot at millions of dollars. OK, fine, Stevie. Good for you. Give us all a smile by announcing, the day you sign the contract, that you and the NBA team that drafts you will make a substantial donation to the university that got you to the dance.

Then again, you could just buy cars. Gary Payton of the SuperSonics has 23.

Squirrelly

Notice posted on poles at Northern Parkway and Roland Avenue, as well as York Road and Regester Avenue: "Lost. Squirrel. Grey. Bushy tail. Likes to eat nuts. Runs away from people. $50 reward." Then it gives a name, Chris, and a number.

I called the number yesterday (April Fools' Day). Chris's dad answered the phone and chuckled when I explained about the sign. He said Chris was home recently for spring break - the squirrel sign must have been a little spring break joke - but now he's back at St. Mary's College. And nope, he doesn't have a pet squirrel. Dad didn't seem interested in reimbursing me for the macadamia nuts I'd used to catch his son's squirrel - they run away from people, you know - nor did he want me to ship it to his son in St. Mary's City.

That's gratitude for ya.

TJIDAN@aol.com is the e-mail address for Dan Rodricks. He can also be reached at 410-332-6166.

Pub Date: 4/02/99

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