500 Bosniaks Died of Hunger in Srebrenica two years before the Srebrenica Massacre
In Srebrenica, citizens often face death for food
By Haris Nezirovic
The Bryan Times, p.2
7 April 1993.
SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Facing starvation, the people of Srebrenica must struggle like animals to survive.
Cut off from almost all aid for nearly a year, Srebrenica’s hungry say they have long risked death for food.
First, they walked into enemy fire or cornfields planted with mines. Now they scramble to the hills for meals dropped by U.S. planes, fighting for the precious packages.
In a year of war, local authorities claim 2,000 people have been killed in fighting in the area and about 500 have died of hunger.
In the morass of mud and begging refugees that are Srebrenica’s streets today, figures cannot be verified.
New arrivals stream daily into a town already packed as tight as a box of matches.
Thirty thousand refugees in a town normally housing 9,000 residents. Thousands more in outlying areas closer to Serb lines.
They straggle in five to 10 at a time. Women carrying offspring. Elderly leaning on sticks.
“I’ve been walking since yesterday and I spent the night in the forest,” said a 60-year-old woman from Vlasenica.
“Thousands of people are on the way here. My husband stayed to fight, my two sons were wounded. Where can I go now?” she asked, her face distorted by tears.
People hope vaguely to be evacuated on U.N. convoys. But local authorities have halted evacuations lest they make the town more vulenrable to Serb capture.
People seek any kind of shelter. A family of five beds down in a wrecked car. A family of 10 sleeps in a wrecked truck, others in destroyed buildings.
More than 50 people sleep in one classroom in a school-house turned refugee center. There is no sewage, no running water.
In one room, a man named Hamid lies motionless on the floor, his hair and clothes covered with lice. He is suspected of having typhus.
Spring will bring more infection. With garbage piled high in the streets, doctors fear epidemics of hepatitis, typhus, scables.
In hospitals, patients lie on the floor for lack of beds. Before a surgeon and some equipment arrived in August, five doctors who never operated before hada to improvise surgery on a gynecological table, hacking infected limbs with saws.
Doctors said several patients bled to death for lack of transfusions. Wounds became infected easily. With no drugs to treat them, injured legs and arms had to be amputated.
Patients were tied down as doctors sawed through limps. Operations often lasted two hours and th screams reached the street, said Dr. Ilijas Pilav, who said he performed such surgery.
In November, a U.N. relief convoj brought anesthetics. But there was no muscle relaxant. During stomach operations, doctors struggled to push intestines back inside the body.
That convoy was one of only three to reach Srebrenica before March 8, when trucks arrived after Gen. Philippe Morillon, U.N. commander for Bosnia, talked aid past the Serbs.
Already last summer, residents say, food was short.
Civilians would follow Bosnian soldiers attacking Serb villages, entering just behind them to scavenge food. Some would die trying.
Locals recalled the village of Osatovici, where civilians invaded ahead of the army. Chaos resulted, with civilian deaths doubling those of soldiers, local authorities said.