July 8, 2000
Letter to the Editor
The New York Times
229 West 43rd St.
New York, NY 10036
Carlotta Gall’s front-page story (New York Times, July 7, 2000) on the sorely lacking international response to the postwar housing crisis in Kosova is important and well done. However, to get an accurate picture of what is happening in Kosova, attention must also be brought to the dismal state of basic healthcare.
On our last visit to Kosova, in November-December 1999, my wife and I headed an American delegation that visited the main hospital in Prishtina and the medical school at the University of Prishtina. We witnessed firsthand the lack of basic equipment, medicine, and financial support besetting what could be a first-rate healthcare system in Kosova. The Prishtina Hospital, which was turned into a Serbian military barracks during the war, is staffed by many highly qualified Albanian physicians, surgeons, and administrators, who currently donate their time to serve the Kosovar population, who have emerged from the occupation and the war ill, wounded, and traumatized.
Last week a delegation headed by two of our Board members who are Albanian American healthcare professionals, met with 150 doctors at the University of Prishtina to assess conditions in Kosova today. They found that the situation has worsened since the end of the war, especially with the recent arrival of more refugees–most of whom were prematurely forced out of Western European countries and who suffer from ailments ranging from post traumatic stress syndrome to high blood pressure, poor nutrition, and diabetes. One Albanian ophthamologist said that she and her colleagues are helpless to treat more than 10,000 Albanians who will soon go blind because of advanced diabetes.
So, on the first anniversary of the end of the NATO bombing campaign to stop the genocide in Kosova, not only are tens of thousands of Albanians still homeless, but hundreds of thousands of Kosovars are victims of grossly inadequate healthcare resources and poor medical management on the part of the United Nations Mission in Kosova. They may never live to see their homes and their beloved Kosova rebuilt or, equally important to them, the political solution that will ensure their security and freedom.
Joseph J. DioGuardi
The writer, a former Congressman (1985-1989) representing New York’s Westchester County, is the volunteer president of the Albanian American Civic League.