The IRC Provides Emergency Relief to Chechen Refugees

FEBRUARY 2000 - The International Rescue Committee is distributing critical supplies and providing emergency services to thousands of Chechens who fled to Ingushetia to escape fighting between Russian forces and Chechen rebels. "The displaced have spread out among tented camps and abandoned trains, farms, houses and factories," says IRC emergency director Gerald Martone, in a report from the scene. "Every site is cold and damp, severely over-crowded and most are without access to clean water, washing facilities and adequate sanitation." Diseases such as acute respiratory infection, influenza and diarrhea are on the rise, says Martone.
The sites which are not officially recognized by Ingush authorities are receiving the least amount of humanitarian aid, and the IRC is focusing its assistance on these underserved locations. Since many of the displaced fled during the summer, the IRC is providing supplies that are necessary for survival in the current cold temperatures. IRC coordinator for Chechnya, Gillian Dunn, has been arranging the distribution of winter clothing and children's shoes, blankets and mattresses and materials to build sleeping platforms and repair dilapidated shelter. The IRC is also procuring relief items to respond to specific needs at camps, including antiseptics, detergents, diapers and cooking sets.

As a result of the large influx of Chechens into Ingushetia, Martone says quality water is scarce and inadequate sanitation is a big problem. He says the IRC will be implementing a program that involves constructing and maintaining bathing facilities, latrines, garbage disposal areas and suitable drainage. In addition, insecticides, anti-lice shampoo, anti-rodent agents and disinfectants will also be made available.

The IRC has also launched an emergency project to ensure that Chechen children are not left behind in terms of education. In late January, the IRC brought a group of Chechen teachers and youth leaders to Moscow for an intensive training in teaching techniques, course content and psychological counseling skills. IRC-sponsored classes and recreational activities are now underway and the IRC continues to distribute basic materials like paper, textbooks and pencils. Chechnya coordinator Gillian Dunn says violent conflict has frequently interrupted the education of many of the children and some are first learning their letters and numbers now.

Gerald Martone, Director Emergency Response

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=A9 Copyright 2000 International Rescue Committee