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AND HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of Kosovars like her are working to
rebuild some semblance of normal life. They are recovering not only
from three months of NATO airstrikes, a massive refugee exodus and
a bittersweet return, but also from years of fighting between rebels
and Serbian soldiers and nearly a decade of government repression.
In May 1999 I spent two weeks in Tirana, Albania, providing medical
care to refugees from the fighting in Kosovo. I returned to the
region this summer as part of an international effort to help them
begin the long process of rebuilding.
some towns, I actually had to remind myself that yes, there had
been a war. Pristina, the capital, was bustling with new construction
projects, buzzing with techno music and teeming with energetic,
optimistic young people experiencing freedom for the first time
in their lives. There was an overwhelming sense of hope.
out in the countryside, it was impossible to forget what had happened.
Bridges were bombed out, forcing traffic to make huge detours. Fields
planted with land mines were cordoned off with yellow tape. Graves,
some containing dozens of bodies, lined the roadsides. Piles of
blackened rubble marked where houses once stood.
many of these villages - places with names like Sferke, Orllan and
Glamnike - the only new buildings were bright-yellow clinics built
by my group, International Medical Corps.
part of a team focused on maternal and child health, I saw mostly
women - 40 or 50 a day, in some cases. Sometimes, the clinic was
so full we had to see patients outside. Their complaints ranged
from ear infections to depression.
a good many came for birth control. Traditionally, women in Kosovo
had used IUDs and very little else, and there were a lot of misconceptions
about other options, including the pill. Before we came, no one
there had even heard of Depo-Provera, an injected, long-lasting
contraceptive, but now people are clamoring for it. And they want
condoms, which they of course knew about but had trouble getting.
Young women in particular expressed strong fears about contracting
spent a lot of time, too, on sexually transmitted diseases. Chlamydia
and gonorrhea were major problems, and they sometimes presented
us with delicate situations.
the war, many Kosovar men went to Turkey, Germany and elsewhere
in Europe to escape the Serbian army, the KLA or both. While away,
they picked up sexually transmitted diseases, then came back to
Kosovo and passed them on to their wives.