The Japan Committee for the United Nations Children’s Fund is calling for emergency aid for the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing Kosovo.

Funds will help UNICEF and the office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees supply blankets and medical supplies such as antibiotics, as well as counseling to the fleeing ethnic Albanians, the vast majority of whom are women and children.

In a related development, the government decided Thursday to extend emergency aid worth $15 million to Kosovo refugees via the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other aid institutions, Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said.

The aid is in addition to 1,000 tents the government will provide for the refugees, who reportedly number more than 100,000, Komura told a news conference. “The ongoing air strike (by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) to stop brutality in Kosovo was inevitable,” he said. “The best Japan can do at the moment is to extend humanitarian support for Kosovo refugees and keep requesting the government of Yugoslavia to accept peace proposals.”

Komura said Japan’s response to the Kosovo refugee crisis has been very quick so far, stressing that the decision was made even before the UNHCR asked Japan to offer humanitarian aid.

More than 150,000 people have fled into Albania, Montenegro and the former the Yugoslav republic of Macedonia since NATO airstrikes started last week. UNICEF officials estimate that the number of refugees will be as high as 350,000 within the next few weeks. To help, call (03) 3355-3222.

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