PINF Humanitarian operations in Chechnya and Ingushetia Jan - Feb 2002

Report
from People in Need
Published on 28 Feb 2003
1. Introduction
The People in Need Foundation is a Prague-based non-governmental, non-profit organization founded shortly after the fall of communism in then Czechoslovakia. PINF is the largest indigenous NGO in the post-communist part of Europe. PINF has operated in Chechnya in 1994-95 and again since January 2000.

2. General situation

After the blast on December 27 that destroyed the main building of the Chechen administration, the security checks intensified in Grozny, with more checkpoints added around the governmental complex. Also, repeated rumors that the Chechen fighters were about to descend to the lowland areas, temporarily brought federal soldiers back to those checkpoints in Chechnya, which had earlier been fully manned by local militia. The overall situation has otherwise not changed, although a change of procedures during federal special operations has been noted in some Chechnya settlements. With the approach of a referendum on new Chechen constitution, the situation has become denser.

Chechnya

As a consequence of the blast the Chechen administration has been partly dysfunctional, its functionality further decreasing after the head of the pro-Russian Chechen administration, Akhmad Kadyrov, and the recently appointed Chechen prime minister Michail Babich, entered into dispute about the appointment of a new Chechen minister of finance. The disagreement ended with Babich's resignation.

On February 10, Anatoly Popov was appointed new Prime Minister of Chechnya. Popov had acted as the head of Directorate for building and restoration works in Chechnya, a federal state enterprise, and the deputy chairman of the governmental committee for restoration of Chechnya.

The work of the Chechen administration moved to prefabricated houses placed in the administration compound and to a neighboring oil company building. Working contacts between the republican administration and relief agencies have however been virtually impossible.

In January, the date of the long talked-about referendum on the new Chechen constitution was set for March 23. Since then the pressure has been stepping up on the Chechen population, including those living as IDPs in neighboring Ingushetia, to take part in the upcoming referendum. According to the October all-Russian census, around 500,000 voters should participate in the referendum, including some 38,000 Russian troops permanently stationed in Chechnya.

On January 16, the European Court of Human Rights agreed for the first time to hear lawsuits brought up by Chechens accusing the Russian army of illegal conduct in Chechnya during the second military campaign.

On February 1, the head of Grozny's Oktyabrski police department was assassinated in Grozny.

New approach to special operations by the federal units was noted in several villages south of Grozny. The operations conducted during the period of several weeks did not interfere with the lives of the civilians and led to capture or killing of over twenty criminals and disclosure of several arms and food caches.

Russian Interior Ministry informed in February that in 2002, 657 kidnappings were registered in the North Caucasus, 565 of those in Chechnya. At the same time, Chechnya's Prosecutor's Office informed that some 1,660 people are believed missing in Chechnya since 1999.

The Council of Europe human rights commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles, visited the North Caucasus February 13-15.

On February 25, Russian president Vladimir Putin, pointed at a too high a number of checkpoints in Chechnya, during a federal Security Council meeting. Consequently the decision was taken to decrease the number of checkpoints in Grozny by 20%, the implementation of which started almost immediately.

On February 26, a Chechen militia employee, working on a long-term assignment in PINF's security unit as an office guard and convoy escort, was abducted in Chechnya by unknown perpetrators.

Ingushetia

After the closure of the Iman camp in Aki Yurt, the process of forced repatriation of IDPs back to Chechnya was stopped, it however being understood that as soon as the climatic conditions allow and once the constitutional referendum in Chechnya is over, more IDPs will have to return to Chechnya. Still, some IDPs leave the big tented camps and register for repatriation with the hope of being the first to be included into governmental assistance schemes, should there be any. The security situation in Ingushetia has also been slowly deteriorating, with several killings of local militia, IDPs and special military operations in IDP settlements. This is generally interpreted as the reaction to more targeted special operations in Chechnya in the result of which some criminals seek cover in Ingushetia.

3. Humanitarian response

On January 9, Nina Davidovich, head of Russian NGO Druzhba, abducted in Chechnya on July 23, was released after 168 days in captivity. The international humanitarian community welcomed the release of the humanitarian still reminding that another colleague, head of Swiss branch of the Medecins sans Frontiers, Dutch national Arjan Erkel, abducted in Dagestan on August 12, remains incommunicado. On February 13, the UN and its implementing partners suspended their activities in the North Caucasus, to commemorate six months since the abduction of Arjan.

The access of the international humanitarian organizations to Chechnya was limited in January due to changes in the military authorities and paralysis of the civilian administration. All NGOs had been asked to provide necessary documents for re-registration for the work on the Chechen territory and although many organizations did so, they were not granted access as there was no one in the Chechen administration to sign the permission. PINF was one of very few organizations to receive the access permits for Chechnya both in January (on a working permission granted earlier) and February and was able to continue its operations without major adjustments.

4. PINF activities in Chechnya and Ingushetia

Highlights

Complex monitoring of shelter program revealed that 685 private shelters supported by UNHCR and PINF were completed in Chechnya in the last quarter of 2002

Youth festival organized in Argun in the framework of HIV prophylaxis campaign

Rehabilitation of school kitchens and dining rooms in Grozny started

Food distribution to schools in Oktyabrski district of Grozny implemented in the framework of WFP/ECHO funded school-feeding program

IDP children dancing ensemble Marsho toured the Czech Republic in January

Chechnya

Food distribution in Grozny

In early January PINF finished December relief distribution of WFP commodities, while January relief distribution cycle took place in February, because of the late end of the December distribution and clarification of new division of responsibilities among NGOs distributing food on the Chechen territory. The beneficiaries, assessed by the field staff of the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) are divided into five categories on the basis of their household economy status. Since mid-2002 two most vulnerable categories of inhabitants ("very poor", "poor") had been included in the relief distribution. Since the beginning of 2003, with the January distribution cycle carried out in February, further step towards targeting the beneficiaries was taken by distributing only half a ration to the beneficiaries from the second, "poor" category. February distribution cycle was postponed till March.

For other than relief distribution schemes, in January, PINF distribution was carried out according to previous arrangements, i.e. PINF has distributed food commodities to kindergartens in Grozny. In February, with a new division of responsibilities in non-relief distribution, PINF distributed for the first time food commodities to schools in Oktyabrski district of Grozny (School feeding program), previously assisted by DRC, and kindergartens in Grozny-rural district while continuing distribution to kindergartens in Grozny (pre-School feeding program).

PINF Distribution figures: Relief distribution January 2003

Monthly ration
Wheat Flour (kg)
Salt (kg)
Oil (liters)
January - full ration
10
0.15
1
January - half ration
5
0.075
0.5

Distribution figures
Beneficiaries
Wheat Flour (kg)
Salt (kg)
Oil (liters)
January - full ration
16 089
160 890
2 413.35
16 089
January - half ration
29 287
146 435
2 196.53
14 643.5
January total
45 376
307 325
4 609.88
30 732.5

Pre-School feeding, January, February 2003

Monthly ration per child
Wheat Flour (kg)
Oil (liters)
Sugar (kg)
Corn-Soya bland (kg)
Rice (kg)
Salt (kg)
January
2.25
0.172
0.3
0.75
0.75
-
February
2.7
0.18
0.36
-
1.8
0.036

Beneficiaries
Wheat Flour (kg)
Oil (liters)
Sugar (kg)
Corn-Soya bland (kg)
Rice (kg)
Salt (kg)
January
570
1 282.5
91.2
171
427.5
427.5
-
February
876
2 365.2
157.7
315.4
-
1 576.8
31.5

School feeding, February 2003

Monthly ration per child
Oil (liters)
Sugar (kg)
Corn-Soya bland (kg)
Rice (kg)
Salt (kg)
0.24
0.48
1.2
1.2
0.048
Distribution
Beneficiaries
Oil (liters)
Sugar (kg)
Corn-Soya bland (kg)
Rice (kg)Salt (kg)
2 994
300
920
1 980
2 170130

Lower distribution figures compared to rations and number of beneficiaries is given by the balance of commodities by the end of January.

In food for work activities, contacts with the Chechen administration were intensified, especially with sections involved in rehabilitation of Grozny, mainly Direction of reconstruction works. The food for work activities in Grozny-rural district were extended to two more settlements, Chishki and Dachu-Borzoy. The ration distributed for work in January was changed to 8.5 kg of flour and 0.025 kg salt per one participant and working day, due to unavailability of sugar and oil.

In February, PINF has started a complex, WFP co-funded initiative of rehabilitation of school kitchens and dining halls in all Grozny, which includes 29 schools. Part of the work (unskilled labor) is conducted within the food-for-work scheme. For this activity, special ration was negotiated including rice. By the end of February eight school kitchens were finished or in progress of rehabilitation.

Food for work, January, February 2003

Activity
Workers
Man-days
Flour (kg)
Oil (liters)
Sugar (kg)
Salt (kg)
Rice (kg)
Building reconstruction
43
426
3 621
-
-
10.65
-
Grozny - cleaning, planting, social
463
8 880
75 480
-
-
215.775
-
Grozny rural - cleaning, planting, social
343
6 092
51 782
-
-
152.3
-
Shelter program*
465
4 882.5*
46 500
930
930
-
-
January total
1 314
20 280.5
177 383
930
930
378.725
-
Building reconstruction
43
730
2 883
174.8
72
18.25
720
Grozny - cleaning, planting, social
476
9 220
69 150
1 844
-
230.5
-
Grozny rural - cleaning, planting, social
441
9 158
68 685
1 831.6
-
228.95
-
Shelter program*
150
1 575*
15 000
300
300
-
-
February total
1 110
20 683
155 718
4 150.4
372
477.7
720

* For the shelter program a special ration is calculated including 100 g of flour, 2 kg of sugar and 2 l of oil, as the work on one house takes 10.5 man-days in average.

Emergency shelter program

In January the remaining quantities of UNHCR-funded materials available at PINF warehouses in Grozny were gradually distributed to the beneficiaries. Out of 1500 beneficiary households, assessed in 2002, 605 had received the full range of emergency shelter materials by the end of the year. While minor materials (ridge capping, roofing nails, plastic sheeting) are available for all 1500 beneficiaries, additional quantities of various size timber and, especially, roofing sheets need to be procured in 2003 to close the program.

Since the beginning of the year, PINF field work mainly concerned monitoring of the use of the materials by the beneficiaries of this self-help program, including 3 760 beneficiaries of 2001 initiative, many of whom have only received the last material towards the end of 2002, and the 605 beneficiaries of 2002 program, who had received the full scope of materials, although this was predominantly between October and November, when cold weather does not allow for outside rehabilitation works. The complex monitoring revealed that in the last three months of 2002, 685 shelters were completed by the beneficiaries around the city of Grozny, which marks a significantly increased rehabilitation activity of otherwise dilatory Grozny inhabitants and must be attributed to various incentives implemented by PINF since autumn 2002, such was inclusion of beneficiaries who had finished their work into a WFP-supported food-for-work scheme to compensate partly for their time spent on mending their shelter.

The emergency shelter program implemented in Chechnya by PINF and UNHCR since late 2000 aims at providing roofing materials to beneficiaries in private sector, on one-dry-room basis. The beneficiaries are vulnerable families living in the damaged Chechen capital Grozny and IDP families in Chechnya, Ingushetia and other parts of the North Caucasus willing to reside in their own rehabilitated houses after the repair.

Another part of shelter program is implemented through the International Rescue Committee, funded by US State Department. In the framework of the program 45 households were assessed in Grozny for complex shelter assistance following the one-dry-room concept.

Psycho-social assistance / HIV Prophylaxis

WHO-supported psycho-social centers operate in five PINF rehabilitated schools in Grozny. In all centers, professional psychologists carry out therapeutic sessions and provide individual consultations to pupils, their parents and teachers. The centers are extensively visited in the children's spare time and complement after-school activities, organized by PINF at the schools. Group and individual therapy sessions are conducted in the centers, concentrating mainly on post-traumatic problems. Major part of the work is also devoted to the prevention of AIDS, drug abuse and other risk behavior issues.

In January, AIDS/HIV prevention campaign, the first of its kind in Chechnya launched in November 2002, continued targeting shifting the emphasis on drug abuse prevention. Special theatre performance written by a Chechen playwright Musa Akhmadov for the purposes of the campaign was performed at various locations around Chechnya and in Ingushetia. Public debates and speeches were organized on the topic, poster competition was launched and a youth festival organized in the town of Argun. The campaign will culminate in the end of March.

Ingushetia

School network in Ingushetia

Classes in PINF-operated, UNICEF-funded schools in Ingushetia continued since mid-January after a holiday period. An increasing pressure on IDPs to move out of Ingushetia has had an influence on the number of pupils attending PINF schools, nevertheless this has not lead to significant big changes in total number of pupils. Several families, evicted from Iman camp in Aki-Yurt (closed down on December 2) and returned Chechnya, came back to Ingushetia and the children again started to attend PINF school in the settlement. At several spontaneous settlements, where PINF alternative schools are located, special police operations were conducted significantly increasing the tension in the settlements. Ongoing problems with gas supplies to the alternative schools were encountered in northern Ingushetia, where allegedly the Federal migration service stopped to pay to the Gas provider for gas supplied to spontaneous settlements. Despite the increasing return trend, only a negligible decrease of 0.05% pupils in PINF-operated schools was noted.

In February, five young sportsmen from a PINF-supported wrestling team in the Altievo IDP spontaneous settlement participated in the republican championship, one of those qualifying for participation in the South-Russia championship. The wrestling team was started two years ago on a meadow next to the spontaneous settlement and now functions in a former silage pit, restored to a gym through support of PINF, UNHCR and UNICEF.

"Marshot" our in the Czech Republic

In January, a children dance ensemble Marsho toured five cities in the Czech Republic. The ensemble is composed of children living in the Sputnik IDP camp in Sleptsovsk, I