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Containers for returnees

By 2nd Lt. Alexandre Barb
First published in
SFOR Informer#109, March 21, 2001

Doboj - Slowly, the crane operator lowered a big box onto the ground. It was a habitable container. In the village of Foca, north of Doboj, where the war left visible traces, the assistance promised by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission on Refugees) arrived and was received with joy.
While rebuilding a church, a Bosnian-Croat woman named Sofia measured the importance of the event: "This container that you brought will be very useful since it will be a place where people can sleep while they are repairing their houses." She lives there with seven other people (two families) who are taking part in the active reconstruction of the village.
"These containers have a practical aspect. They will allow people to gather all of the necessary material to help their return," declared Carmen Butler of the UNHCR field office in Doboj, an area where a number of Bosnian-Croats who fled during the war are now returning. "There is also a psychological aspect: the people who return here feel safe. This is in addition to them reconstructing their homes," she added.
The containers were a gift from the departing Swiss contingent, based in Sarajevo, to UNHCR. The Swiss soldiers had lived and worked in them. Located at a UNHCR depot near Sarajevo, 18 of these containers were headed to Eagle Base in Tuzla. The transportation was provided by 18 soldiers from two platoons of a German transport company based in Rajlovac.
The loading began Tuesday, March 13 at about 9 o'clock in the morning.
Six trucks (three carrying two containers each and three others one each) made two trips to get all of the material to Tuzla. That represents more than 500 kilometers driven on the snaky road over the mountains, not including the sites often difficult to access, on bad roads where making a U-turn is quite a challenge. But nothing the transport company couldn't handle. "This is the second time that we've done this type of transportation for the UNHCR," said 1st Lt. Carsten Schoor, chief of the convoy. "The first time we did this was in January when we went down into Mostar. We should be doing this again in May," he said.
Finally, the containers arrived in Tuzla, but waited for transportation to the areas designated by the field officers of the UNHCR. To facilitate the deliveries, Schoor and some of his soldiers took two days and met with the representatives of the organization to get a better understanding of the terrain and where the containers were needed. While many of the UNHCR field officers drive cars which allow them access to many areas, the containers are being transported by trucks which do not have as much flexibility.
But there was joy March 14 when the first container was deposited in the region of Doboj. "This was the second-most destroyed area during the war. You don't see houses along the road because everything was either destroyed, stolen or burned out. The people who are returning home need these shelters," confided Butler.
The other containers were deposited throughout the week near the villages of Bijeljina, Orasje, Zvornik and Tuzla. Together, UNHCR and SFOR are working to build a better future for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Related links: CIMIC
Our Partners: UNHCR
Humanitarian Aid
Nations of SFOR: Germany