Russia

Humanitarian action in the North Caucasus information bulletin 01 - 15 Feb 2003

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I HIGHLIGHTS
UN Suspends North Caucasus Aid Operations in Solidarity with Arjan Erkel

On 13 February, the United Nations agencies in the Russian Federation suspended for one day their humanitarian programmes in the North Caucasus in solidarity with the head of the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) mission in Dagestan, Arjan Erkel, abducted in Dagestan on 12 August 2002. "The United Nations remains deeply concerned about the fate of Mr Arjan Erkel and joins MSF in its numerous appeals for the safe and immediate release of Mr Erkel," the UN statement said. The UN condemned Mr Erkel's abduction and underscored once again that such actions undermined the effective provision of humanitarian assistance to the thousands of civilians in need in the North Caucasus. The United Nations greatly appreciated the efforts of the Russian authorities in securing the release of Nina Davydovich, head of the Russian non-governmental organization Druzhba, on 7 January, and expressed hope that everything possible would be done to secure Mr Erkel's release. It also reiterated its solidarity with the hundreds civilians, abducted in the North Caucasus in recent years, and called on those responsible to ensure their safe return.

Donors Monitor Humanitarian Response

From 6-8 February, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in close collaboration with UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and NGOs, facilitated a visit of a donor delegation including representatives of the Embassy of Germany, Ireland, and Netherlands to Chechnya and Ingushetia. The delegation met the President of Ingushetia, Murat Zyazikov, and representatives of local authorities in Chechnya, as well as of UN agencies, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and NGOs. In Ingushetia, the mission included visits to Sputnik IDP camp and to a temporary settlement. In Chechnya, the delegation visited two temporary accommodation centres (TACs) (one of them still under construction), a hospital, and a food distribution point, operated by the People in Need Foundation (PINF). The donor representatives praised the work of the aid agencies, but expressed concerned over the remaining insecurity in Chechnya and access problems, which prevents them from increasing the scope of operations there.

II HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE

Protection

On 13 February, the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) chaired a weekly protection coordination meeting in Nazran for about 20 representatives of the Humanitarian Aid Office of the European Commission (ECHO), UN agencies, ICRC, and NGOs. Vesta NGO, a UNHCR partner, reported that the overall situation in the tent camps had not changed significantly. Government officials continued their activities with regard to IDPs return to Chechnya, while the vast majority of IDPs reiterated security concerns as the primary reason for not returning now. Vesta monitors located and surveyed 93 of the families that had left the Iman IDP camp in Aki-Yurt (Ingushetia) for Chechnya in December after the closure of the camp. According to the returnees, none of them received the promised 20-rouble state allowance, though all the families possessed the necessary identity papers. Their living-conditions were diverse, and the needs in heating, sanitation facilities, electricity and gas were not fully satisfied.

Food

By 15 February, The World Food Programme (WFP) distributed over 2,500 tons of mixed food commodities to 257,600 beneficiaries in Chechnya and Ingushetia. The food basket for the on-going relief distribution in both republics consisted of 10 kg of wheat flour, 1 L of vegetable oil, and 0,15 kg of iodised salt. In February, WFP included pre-school children from 30 kindergartens in Grozny city, Grozny Rural, Achkhoi-Martanovsky, Sunzhensky, and Gudermesky raions of Chechnya into its school- feeding programme. Considering that children in kindergartens have three meals a day, WFP decided to provide additional wheat flour to them. WFP provided daily hot meals and sweet buns to some 41,600 primary school children at 164 schools and to over 2,100 children in 30 kindergartens.

Shelter and Non-food Items

UNHCR continued consultations on the shelter issue with the Ingush Migration Service and other authorities, donors, and NGO partners on a regular basis. Out of the 300 "box-tents" funded by UNHCR and produced by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) 27 were already installed and 13 delivered to IDPs. Another 58 were in the process of being assembled at Karabulak relocation site.

In Ingushetia, Help, a German NGO, provided non-food items to IDPs from Chechnya, accommodated in tent camps, host families, and temporary settlements. By the beginning of February, it completed the distribution of firewood to a total of 2,250 families. The NGO continued distributing bed items to 10,000 IDP families as well as warm clothes to 7,000 IDP children.

Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) provided physicians working in the primary health care system in Chechnya with 150 sets of the Russian edition of the internationally recognised "Manual of Diagnostics and Therapy." In January, these physicians were involved in the WHO survey, conducted in cooperation with the Association of Women Physicians of Chechnya and the Ministry of Health of Ingushetia to study medicines prescribing traditions and practice.

Education

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) together with IRC launched a new vocational training course for 30 adolescents in Grozny, which includes English language, computer, and cooking classes. The People in Need Foundation (PINF), a UNICEF partner, organised a football tournament and a volleyball game among school children in Chechnya. These sports events showed a great need for such activities to keep children morally and physically fit. Over 1,500 children from 16 IDP schools in Ingushetia, supported by UNICEF, participated in a concert and drama performances in the framework of an IRC-organised festival. Winners of the festival were awarded with UNICEF-provided recreational items. The Centre for Peacemaking and Community Development (CPCD), another UNICEF partner, conducted a training course for 60 teachers working at NGO-run IDP schools in Ingushetia. The training was followed by a round-table discussion on issues related to the educational process. Druzhba NGO organised a festival "The Children of the Caucasus for Peace and Friendship" in Pyatigorsk (Stavropolsky Krai), which brought together children from Chechnya, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and North Ossetia.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation and the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SDC/SHA) supported the rehabilitation of school 39 in Grozny, capable to enrol 1,200 children. The Humanitarian Cargo Carriers (HCC) completed the construction works, WFP included the school into its school-feeding programme, and the Hammer Forum (HF) plans to open a medical post in the school.

Mine Action*

The Voice of the Mountains, a UNICEF partner, conducted mine risk education sessions for about 1,000 school children in three raions of Chechnya and 280 IDP children in A camp in Ingushetia. Let's Save the Generation (LSG) NGO took 350 IDP children from settlements in Ingushetia to a drama theatre in Vladikavkaz to watch UNICEF-sponsored mine risk education performances. In addition, the children participated in mine risk education sessions conducted by LSG instructors. The UNICEF/WHO-supported prosthetic centre in Vladikavkaz completed the treatment of 9 mine/UXO-affected children and adolescents, providing hem with artificial limbs and physiotherapy. Eleven mine/UXO child victims and their mothers received psychological counselling by psychologists from the New Education NGO.

* Mine action in this report refers to one or a combination of the following activities: mine awareness, victim assistance, and vocational training.

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