WASHINGTON, D.C. -- High-level coordination underway between FEMA, USAID and DoD to ensure effective delivery of assistance. Washington, April 6, 1999 -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has established a phone bank to handle public donations for relief assistance for the Kosovar Albanian refugees, FEMA Director James Lee Witt announced today, as he urged Americans who want to help to call 1-800-USAID-RELIEF.
"Like all Americans, I am shocked by the conditions and the suffering that the Albanian people are enduring," Witt said. "I'm sure that Americans all across the country are anxious to help. At this time, we are asking for cash donations only. Because of security and logistical concerns we are not able to handle material goods.
"FEMA has extensive experience in coordinating donations as well as the deployment of supplies and equipment to help the victims of catastrophic disasters," Witt said. "We are going to use that expertise to help the Kosovo refugees."
Meanwhile coordination meetings took place today at FEMA's Washington headquarters following President Clinton's action on Monday naming Director Witt to help coordinate humanitarian relief for the refugees. Today's coordination meetings focused on ironing out procedures and operational details for a massive humanitarian relief effort, named Operation Sustain Hope by President Clinton. Brian Atwood, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, was named coordinator of the overall effort.
Witt said that he is sending a high-level team, which includes FEMA's Deputy Director Mike Walker, to the NATO Mission in Brussels Wednesday, April 7. Walker will be responsible for coordinating the Agency's role in the relief effort with NATO and other organizations involved in the rapidly growing humanitarian relief effort.
The U.S. government has provided over $150 million in humanitarian assistance to displaced Kosovars since February of last year, including a provision of $50 million authorized by President Clinton on March 31. President Clinton also ordered the prepositioning of humanitarian supplies in the region well in advance of the current refugee crisis in preparation for a variety of contingencies. In addition, the U.S. has stockpiled enough food to feed 500,000 people for three months.