Activities K English of onestone



90% of Peja City in the autonomous province of Kosovo in the Republic of Serbia was destroyed after the ethnic strife and NATO bombing in 1999. Peja was placed under the supervision of Italian soldiers of the KFOR (NATO-led Kosovo Force) peacekeepers. Interpreting between the soldiers and the various NGOs was an important part of my job.


This project involved repairing the roofs of a thousand homes in Kosovo that had been damaged, so that the people in the region would have shelter before the onset of the harsh winter. It was the first time that MSF organized a non-medical mission in order to prevent a medical disaster during the upcoming winter. Eight MSF logisticians were required for the task. This picture shows a destroyed dry-brick home. Such homes, which were usually inhabited by low-income classes, could not be considered for an MSF roof due to their weak structure.


The type of home for which MSF provided roofs. This house has concrete walls and is of a standard size. People living in homes that received a roof had to promise to give shelter to at least six people from another family during at least the first winter.


A home with a completed MSF tin roof. We provided materials, tools, manuals of instruction, and advice. The locals did the actual construction work. The windows of almost all homes were burnt and broken.

21_AUT.JPGMSF roof kit material exposed to explain the set-up to locals. The roofs had to be designed giving priority to low cost and sturdiness. Materials were brought to Kosovo by overland convoy under dangerous conditions: Tin was brought in from Romania, and timber from Montenegro. Low-cost materials from these countries could be organized thanks to the action teams MSF maintains in most countries. Compared to the MSF roofs, the roofs provided by the UN Refugee Agency were much less likely to survive the harsh local winter. They consisted of plastic sheeting fixed on structures made up of 4 cm-squared timber pieces.

IMAGE033.jpgA roof provided by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
NGOs (non-governmental organizations) of many countries received UNHCR roof kits and installed them. However, many locals declined, because they wanted a roof from MSF.

IMAGE010ko.jpgA UNHCR refugee tent providing shelter to locals who had lost their homes. We had only 1,000 roofs available, and had to make sure that they went to the most needy families. In a crisis, everybody tries to get help. The family in this picture was not actually living in the refugee tent. As supporters, we had to ignore personal feelings and to carefully determine who needed help most.

IMAGE0281.jpgA home soon to be fitted with a roof from MSF. They called us ‘The Roof Doctors.’ Like in the past in Japan, relatives and neighbors gathered to help with the raising of the ridge beam.
On the same day we had finished fixing 750 roofs on Kosovar homes, the message reached us that MSF had won the Nobel Peace Prize. Rather than rejoicing over this event, we were just happy that we had succeeded to fix 750 homes.