Northern Caucasus: Commission allocates €22,5 million for victims of conflict in Chechnya

Brussels, 7 April 2005 - The European Commission has approved a €22,5 million humanitarian aid package to support victims of the conflict in Chechnya, the first tranche of funding for 2005. The recipients will include internally displaced persons (IDPs) and vulnerable groups in central and southern Chechnya as well as IDPs in Ingushetia and Dagestan. Funds are being allocated via the Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid, ECHO, a service of the European Commission under the responsibility of Commissioner Louis Michel. Assistance to vulnerable groups will be provided in all sectors: protection, food, non-food, water and sanitation, health, shelter, education, psycho-social assistance and mine-risk education. Programmes will be implemented by international agencies operating in the region. Since the beginning of the conflict in autumn 1999, ECHO has allocated €148 million to the crisis, making the EU the largest donor in the region.

More than five years into this conflict, humanitarian needs remain acute in the Northern Caucasus. Out of a population of around 800,000, nearly 200,000 people remain displaced within Chechnya, many of whom just returned from Ingushetia after the closure of tent camps there. Conditions of living for the whole population in Chechnya, particularly in Grozny, are extremely difficult. Outside Chechnya, 35,000 people are still displaced in Ingushetia and some 10,000 in Dagestan, most of them in dire conditions. Insecurity continues to prevail, with military operations going on, especially in the South, and regular rebel attacks on federal forces and local militia. The civilian population continues to suffer harshly in a conflict where they are frequently exposed to violence.

This new financial support will allow to provide basic and supplementary food for the 250,000 most vulnerable people in the three republics, mostly in Chechnya. The decision will also fund primary and mother and child health care and support surgery, traumatology and rehabilitation services for the war-wounded and disabled. It will help provide primary education and vocational training, as well as psychological assistance for the people, especially children, affected by war-related trauma. The funding will cover the truck distribution of drinking water in Grozny (where the population is estimated around 100,000 people) and the improvement of sanitation facilities. It will also allow IDPs in Ingushetia and Dagestan to have access to more decent shelter conditions and water/sanitation facilities.

The delivery of aid will depend, as always, on access and security conditions, which remain extremely difficult. All humanitarian aid organisations continue to work on a remote-control basis in Chechnya, without a permanent expatriate presence.