Russian Federation: The long hard struggle to rebuild Chechnya
Following the devastating conflicts, Chechnya has embarked upon an important reconstruction programme which should extend from the capital Grozny to the rest of the country. Throughout 2006, the displaced Chechens returned to resettle in their country, from the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia.
In this new more stable but fragile context, Action Against Hunger is adjusting the aid programmes it initiated in 1995. There is a double objective: one is to move from the provision of emergency food aid to the delivery of income-generating activities that ensure food security for families affected by the war. The second is to improve access to hygienic sanitary installations.
Regaining food autonomy via income-generating activities
Since 2000, Action Against Hunger has implemented a large-scale food distribution programme reaching out to those living in the most vulnerable areas. Today, the emergency phase is over and our teams distributed the last rations to 2,000 people at the end of May. However, access to food still remains a problem for the most vulnerable.
Today, the priority is therefore to develop micro-credit programmes to help families regain sustainable employment and autonomy. Action Against Hunger has identified 80 beneficiary families this year, based on motivation criteria, professional skills and the precariousness of their living conditions. Each family is encouraged to define a personal project whether that be opening a hair salon, a bakery, a garage or a tailoring stall... Once the project is deemed viable, Action Against Hunger teams provide the families with the materials necessary to start their small enterprise. They also provide continuous management guidance and market research training. The results have been extremely encouraging with families quickly being able to generate a steady income.
This success has allowed the members of these families to regain their dignity and to start paying off the debt that they have so often incurred.
In the mountainous and isolated south of the country, the population traditionally consist of cattle farmers and apiarists, the majority of whom lost their cattle during the war. Isolation is a major explanation of the difficulty of these populations in becoming autonomous and self sufficient again. Action Against Hunger thus encourages families to build on their pastoral experience, providing opportunities to help rebuild their lives in the region of their origin. Approximately 200 households have received dairy cows, sheep, chickens or hives of bees. Families can thus diversify their diets by consuming milk, cheese, beef, eggs and honey or they can sell their animals and thereby receive a revenue, and little by little reconstitute their livestock.
Improving access to water and hygiene standards in uchastocks, schools and hospitals
Although Chechnya is showing signs of recovery, many accommodation or public services are not a priority in the reconstruction process. For example, certain hospitals suffered considerable destruction but continue to receive patients without having been renovated. Because of that, the level of cleanliness sufficient is not guaranteed to assure an adequate standard of care for patients. This year, Action Against Hunger brought aid to 8 health structures: reconstruction of the canalisation system, heating or latrines, the organization of education sessions focused on personal health and hygiene and the distribution of material to disinfect and clean the buildings.
Similarly, schools on the outskirts of Grozny that were destroyed during the war are still attended by hundreds of pupils even though they do not provide even the most basic access to water or latrines. Action Against Hunger teams on the ground have therefore launched a programme to reconstruct sanitary installations, which will be ready for the next academic year. In addition to this, hygiene promotion sessions were held throughout the last school year and hygienic products such as soap, shampoo, dental paste and toothbrushes were distributed to families. The 1,500 children that attended these sessions rapidly learnt to improve their hygiene practices.
Finally Action Against Hunger is intervening in the Uchastocks, lawless residence zones where oil factory workers lived before the war. These factories closed down and new Chechen families without land took possession of the land. Without the support of an urban policy which would have foreseen the need for access to public services, these habitants are fighting to cover their primary needs. They live in temporary and often unsanitary shelter, have little access to clean water and in sufficient quantity, to health care, or to education. Alerted by medical aid organisations, Action Against Hunger has observed that these vulnerable populations are suffering from major health problems due in part to bad hygiene or to a bad water supply. Sanitary infrastructures such as public latrines or communal bathrooms have been constructed. On the other hand, our teams are also introducing for these families training sessions for good health and hygiene practice, distributing appropriate material to store water delivered by cistern trucks and products that are essential for hygiene and household maintenance.