New lives for landmine survivors

An Islamic Relief livelihoods project is enabling Chechen child landmine survivors to build brighter futures.

Conflict between Russia and Chechnya saw 35,000 hectares of land in the Chechen Republic contaminated with landmines and other explosives. Children and young people are particularly vulnerable, with hundreds of child casualties recorded in the last decade.

Those maimed by explosives typically face marginalisation, and, with limited livelihood opportunities, are often trapped in poverty. Islamic Relief aims to ensure social justice for survivors, in our 18-month project.

The scheme is empowering child landmine survivors now in their late teens and 20s, to establish successful enterprises from which they can build brighter futures. Islamic Relief has worked with grassroots disability organisations to identify more than 60 entrepreneurial people, who are now accessing the scheme.

Participants receive training and support to generate business ideas and develop business plans. In addition, they are provided with small grants and technical support – delivered by specialist business consultants – throughout the first year of their enterprise. Businesses being developed include computer services, food retail, joinery and tailoring, as well as a photography studio.

“I don’t want depend on anybody.”

Zulikhan Ibragimova, 28, is from Gekhi Chu village. She was just twelve-years old years old when she lost her leg in an explosion.

“By the mercy of God, I finished school and went to college,” said Zulikhan. “Now I am a student and I live with my aunt in Grozny. I opened a grocery store using money saved from my aunt’s pension.

“My family lives in the village on my father’s pension, because my sisters and brother cannot find a permanent job. I always wanted to start my own business, because I don’t want depend on anybody. I want to help my family and now, I have this opportunity.

“I will be able to extend my business by purchasing the necessary equipment for the store. Now I have a low income, but after I get a grant I will be able to support my family.”

Magomed is improving his income

Magomed Amirkhanov, 27, stepped on a landmine as he fed cows in a field in Goyskoe village in 1996. He is now a double amputee. With the support of his family, he was able to continue his education, and went on to learn shoe-making. When he joined the Islamic Relief project, Magomed had been repairing shoes for friends and family for three years. He is now able to turn his skill into a business, and is already looking forward to improving his income.

“I will become a real businesswoman”

Milana Umarova, 31, received laundry equipment through project. In 1995, she was hit by a bomb as she fled fighting. She has relied on a wheelchair since she was twelve-years-old.

“Now I have everything to start my own laundry business,” said Milana, who received two washing machines, three dryers, an iron and ironing board. “I have received not only equipment, but also a lot of knowledge how to run my business.” The project is also providing hope for Milana’s family, her mother explained. “I never hoped to see my daughter smiling so brightly,” said Zara, 56. “I am very thankful to Islamic Relief for its help.

“We live on Milana’s pension. With this money we could buy only the minimum, but we need much more than that. Now I hope that Milana’s laundry business will help us to improve our situation.”

The project, which began last year, is set to complete in early 2015.