OCHA Humanitarian action in the North Caucasus information bulletin 1 - 15 Mar 2003

Government of Germany Allocates €680,000 for Humanitarian Aid in the North Caucasus

In 2003, the Federal Foreign Office of the Government of Germany provided €680,000 for humanitarian relief activities in the North Caucasus, primarily for projects aimed at helping victims in Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Dagestan. The German Government allocated the bulk of the sum to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Committee of the Red Cross to finance emergency relief for civilians, children, prisoners, and the sick and wounded. In addition, it extended financial support to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to help OCHA in coordinating the humanitarian response to the situation in the region.

MSF Issues a Petition to Secure Arjan Erkel's Release

On 10 March, the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) re-invited the public to sign the MSF petition calling on President Putin and on the Chairman of the Dagestani State Council, Mr Magomedov, to secure the release of Arjan Erkel, head of MSF mission in Dagestan, abducted there on 12 August 2002. The action coincided with Arjan Erkel's 33rd birthday. According to MSF, over 15,000 people in Russia and around the world have already signed the petition, with thousands of new signatures being added each day. The petition will soon be delivered to Russian and Dagestani authorities. In a press release MSF expressed dismay of the unwillingness of the Russian authorities to address the case and called on them "to secure immediate release of Arjan and to live up to their responsibility to ensure the security of civilians and humanitarian workers on their territory."



According to the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), a UNHCR implementing partner, as of 5 March, over 93,000 IDPs from Chechnya were registered in its database for assistance in Ingushetia. Out of this number, about 15,000 were registered in five tent camps, 27,000 in temporary settlements and over 51,000 in private sector. The total figure shows a decrease of over 9,000 people (9%) as compared to about 103,000 IDPs registered at the end of 2002. While over 800 persons de-registered in Ingushetia and registered for assistance in Chechnya during organized voluntary returns, most of this decrease resulted from a DRC verification exercise. A branch of the Chechen Passport and Visa Service operating in Sleptsovskaya, Ingushetia, reported that it had extended or renewed the passports or temporary documents of some 3,000 IDPs between 28 January and 28 February. UNHCR assisted in the process by providing the branch with office equipment and two "box tents" to be used as its offices.


In Ingushetia, the World Food Programme (WFP) completed the second round of relief food distribution, covering about 92,500 IDPs. In Chechnya, the agency provided 970 MTs of mixed food commodities to about 135,000 beneficiaries. WFP, together with the Centre for Peacemaking and Community Development (CPCD), started realising a bakery project to provide bread to 720 most vulnerable persons (disabled, orphans, and semi-orphans) on a daily basis. Under its school-feeding project, the agency allocated over 170 MTs of food for 43,800 primary and pre-school children in over 190 educational institutions. In addition, it provided 324 MTs of food for beneficiaries of the food-for-work project in Grozny, carried out in partnership with the People in Need Foundation (PINF).

Shelter and Non-food Items

UNHCR continued consultations with the Ingush authorities to clarify building regulations, which apply to temporary settlements for IDPs. The completion and use of new temporary shelters, including installation of UNHCR's "box-tents", were delayed pending this clarification, since relevant departments did not issue the necessary permits. Adequate alternative shelter in Ingushetia is essential to ensure viable options for those IDPs who do not want to return to Chechnya now, and thus to preserve the principle of the voluntary return.

In Ingushetia, Help, a German NGO, provided non-food items to IDPs from Chechnya, accommodated in tent camps, host families, and temporary settlements. It continued distributing firewood and bed items, and finished the distribution of clothes and shoes to 7,000 IDP children in tent camps and temporary settlements.


On 5 March in Nazran, The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a workshop on "Making Pregnancy Safer, Promoting Effective Perinatal Care, and Integrated Management of Childhood Illness" to discuss the early implementation phase of its strategy in this field in Chechnya and Ingushetia. The 24 participants of the workshop included representatives of the ministries of health of the two republics, responsible for mother and child healthcare, medical college professors, as well as representatives of UNICEF and NGOs. WHO continued promoting its rational medicines use concept. From 10-15 March in Nazran, it organised a training-of-trainers seminar for 10 participants, including 7 medical workers from Chechnya and Ingushetia, and 3 representatives of MSF. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) continued promoting the safe immunisation practices in Chechnya and Ingushetia by providing 652,000 disposable syringes to national cold centres in the two republics. In addition, it delivered cold chain equipment to the Itum-Kale District hospital in Chechnya for further distribution among medical posts in 6 towns of the district. In Grozny, UNICEF provided 33 items of medical equipment and medical expendables to the major maternity, paediatric and gynaecological hospitals.


Hilfswerk Austria (HA), a UNICEF partner, opened a class for drop-out pupils at an IDP school in Aki-Yurt in Ingushetia to meet educational needs of children who had not been able to study for various reasons. Additional evening English language classes were conducted for pupils willing to improve their knowledge. The International Rescue Committee (IRC), another UNICEF partner, organised vocational training activities for 60 adolescents at schools it runs in Ingushetia, including English, computer literacy, accountancy, culinary, and sewing classes. UNICEF together with its NGO partner, Caritas Internationalis (CI), continued realising a kindergarten programme in Ingushetia covering 700 pre-school children. CI completed the refurbishment of new kindergartens in B and Sputnik camps, increasing the number of children enrolled there from 260 to 300.

Water and Sanitation

In Chechnya, UNICEF, together with the Polish Humanitarian Organisation (PHO), continued providing potable water to Grozny residents through 151 water distribution points. PHO changed several 1.5 m3 water bladders for 5 m3 bladders in hospitals to move the smaller ones to schools in support of the WFP school-feeding project. UNICEF/PHO sanitation activities in Grozny covered 40,000 people, including hospital patients and personnel, and school children. The project included garbage and sewage collection from 4 schools and 22 hospitals.

Mine Action*

Voice of the Mountains, a UNICEF partner, conducted mine risk education sessions for 1,250 school children in Chechnya and 300 IDP children in Ingushetia. Let's Save the Generation NGO took 440 IDP children from Sputnik tent camp in Ingushetia to a drama theatre in Vladikavkaz to watch UNICEF-sponsored mine risk education performances. According to the NGO, the majority of IDP children residing in Ingushetia already visited these performances. UNICEF is looking for a possibility to shift the project to Chechnya. The UNICEF/WHO-supported prosthetic centre in Vladikavkaz completed the treatment of 8 child and adolescent mine victims, providing them with prosthesis. Other children underwent measurements and fittings, as well as rehabilitation procedures. CARE International and New Education NGOs, UNICEF partners, successfully completed the project of psychosocial rehabilitation and support of child mine survivors. From May 2002 till February 2003 the project covered 215 war and mine-affected children in several IDP camps and settlements in Ingushetia.

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

Produced by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Tel: (7095) 956-6405; Fax: (7095) 956-6355; e-mail:
Please send any contributions for the next bulletin to OCHA by 1 April 2003

For more information, please contact us directly or refer to: or


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit