PINF report on Chechnya, 20 Apr 2000

News and Press Release
Originally published
By Simon Panek and Josef Pazderka
1. Latest information: Second Convoy Arrives in Grozny with Relief Aid

A second convoy organized by the Prague-based People in Need Foundation (PINF) and carrying 50 tones of emergency relief aid has arrived in the smashed capital city of Grozny in Chechnya. The convoy reached the city on April 12th from Nazran in neighboring Ingushetia. It follows an 94,5 tone convoy to Grozny on March 28, when PINF became the first non-Russian agency to deliver supplies to the city for distribution to local residents.

Convoys were jointly funded by PINF together with the Caritas Austria and Caritas Czech Republic and consisted mainly of food commodities: wheat flour, pasta, sugar, milk powder, cooking oil and tea. The trucks also carried some basic medicines and items of clothing.

Aid was directly distributed by PINF crew to residents of three Grozny districts (Zavadskoy 8.000 beneficiaries, Oktyabrskyj 4.000 beneficiaries and Leninskyj 7.000 beneficiaries). Distribution was extremely difficult due to lack of administration, evidence and security in town. 20 tons trucks were offloaded under the protection of new police forces and than the load was moved with smaller trucks to few improvised distribution points in each district. Local community find among themselves few representatives and they helped with distribution and acted as a supervision team during the distribution (mainly to avoid duplication, because no registration of people took place until now and lot of them is without any documents). Majority of beneficiaries were people who stayed during the siege of Grozny in town and surviveed in shelters and cellars. Some of them were returnees who have started to move back to Grozny and according latest news from 18th April already 20.000 people arriveed to town in the mid of April (official opening for residents). Another significant information is that around two thirds of beneficiaries were old people and good part of them ethnic Russians. For all of them distribution of this aid was first occasion after two moths, when they get significant amount of food, enough to cover basic needs for 20 days.

According to the PINF coordinator in Grozny, conditions for the estimated 30 - 40,000 remaining residents are "nightmarish" and the city has the appearance of a "ghost town." There is no electricity or gas, fuel for heating and cooking is almost nonexistent, and the only source for water is broken pipes and pools of ground water which are largely contaminated. The city survivors are overwhelmingly women, children and elderly people, who live in bombed-out ruins and underground cellars. Food is virtually impossible to purchase locally. Residents have access to one daily meal of soup, gruel and bread served at two locations in the city by EMERCOM, but many elderly and disabled people cannot take advantage of this service because of the long walking distances involved. Continuing fear of crime and reprisals by Russian forces keeps people indoors. Of the few who walk the streets, most are orphaned children scrounging for food or looking for adults to join with and care for them.

There is little health care available in Grozny. None of its former hospitals is functioning, and conditions in all of the facilities are catastrophic. The Russian EMERCOM operates mobile clinic in the city which provide primary health care with a limited range of basic medicines.

PINF is assessing the possibility of establishing a permanent presence in Grozny to coordinate further aid deliveries, and which might also serve as a conduit for other agencies which want to provide aid for Grozny but are unable to do so because of logistics and security concerns.

2. PINF operation in the region - overview

PINF departed to Ingushetia in the beginning of January 2000 with two goals: to start small projects in Ingushetia and to find way how to supply people inside Chechnya which were according available information in very bad situation through all winter. PINF signed agreement with Ingushetian Ministry for civil defense and crisis situations (EMERCOM) based on experience from last war, when PINF worked both in Ingushetia and Chechnya. PINF office and base were opened, basic logistic and communication problems solved and first concrete projects started on 10th January.

3. PINF convoys to Chechnya

PINF has until now delivered eight convoys totaling 350 tones of aid to nine locations inside Chechnya since mid-January, making it the only non-Russian agency that is even attempting to work on a systematic basis inside the breakaway republic. All aid is purchased on local markets in Ingushetia and delivered to Chechnya with permits and trucks provided by the Ingushetian Ministry for Emergency Situations (EMERCOM), and from March by rented transport and thanks to permission which PINF got from new administration of Chechnya giving PINF right to work in all territory except Grozny for which PINF obtained additional permission valid till end of May 2000. PINF is now authorized to work in all Chechnya territory and relation with new administration is more or less correct and on working

4. Summary of PINF Chechen Relief Aid, January - March 2000

PINF has delivered a total of 350 tones of bulk food to the following locations in Chechnya: the border villages of Sernovodsk and Assinovskaya (Jan. 13); the heavily destroyed village of Alkhanyurt east of Grozny (Jan. 23 and Feb. 20.); the regional center of Achkhoy Martan in southwest Chechnya (Feb. 5); the village of Chiri-Yurt in central Chechnya (Feb. 18); convoy to the town of Shali and villages of Duba-Yurt and Serzhen-Yurt (Mar. 11-13); and the two convoys to Grozny on Mar. 28.-31. and Apr. 12.-14.. Aid was in the beginning delivered by trucks provided by Ingushetian EMERCOM and accompanied by PINF field coordinators who controlled distribution, later by local transport started to be used. Direct permissions for PINF were obtained from Russian new administration and Russian troops in Chehchnya.

According information from new temporary government of Chechnya Mr. Letschi Gidizov, responsible for international humanitarian aid, on April 19th 2000 total amount of 650 tons of food was delivered to Chechnya during period January - April 15th. The statistic of temporary government is for sure not complete.

5. Ingushetia

In Ingushetia, PINF is providing regular food shipments and primary health care services for approximately 4,000 Chechen refugees living in 24 spontaneous settlements (SPS), or "wild camps," scattered throughout the republic. All food is purchased on local markets and it is mainly supplementary for children and vulnerable cases. For children in these 24 SPSs was distributed notebooks and color pencils to give them (after sitting 6 months in former garages, warehouses or animal farms - which are typical SPSs) chance to do at least for few hours something else than to wait for next poor meal. Situation in SPSs is still (compare to refugees in host families and in big camps) quite bad, lack of food, water, school and health access are main problems. About 25.000 people lives in SPS (out of 210.000 refugees in Ingushetia, from which around 150.000 are in host families and 25.000 in big organized camps). In additional PINF opened three improvise tent schools in SPS with teachers-refugees, basic equipment and school material provided by Ingushetian ministry for education. Capacity of these schools is 250 children. Mobil clinic provided by PINF is covering SPS dealing with primary health care issues, if needed moving people to hospitals.

Upon the requests from Ingushetian EMERCOM PINF supplied two emergency convoys for refugees in remote part of Malgobeckyi district and for refugees which cross border from Chechnya by foot in Muzhici Caucasus valley. Both convoys together carried 15 tons of basic food for 3.500 beneficiaries.

Total Aid Provided to 15th April 324.000 US$.

6. Fundraising

The PINF Chechnya relief operations have received:

  • $ 85.000 in individual Czech donations.
  • $ 57.000 City of Prague.
  • $ 42.800 Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Czech Republic
  • $ 14.000 Regional Government of Ober Ostereich (Austria)
  • $ 55.000 Caritas Austria
  • $ 10.000 Caritas Czech Republic
  • $ 5.000 PINF Slovakia
  • $ 20.000 Moscow based NGO Grazhadnskoye sodeistvyie (Civic Cooperation)
  • $ 89.000 in-kind donation of winter clothing from NewYorker company
Total funds /including value of donation in kind/ until 15th April 2000: US$ 377.800

7. Caritas Austria, Caritas Czech Republic and People in Need Foundation forming task group is in process.

Task group of these three NGOs will operate in the region jointly. Memorandum of understanding among these three NGOs should be signed soon. Plans of task group of these three organizations are to continue with emergency convoys to Chechnya and development of new emergency reconstruction projects, hopefully with follow up of reconstruction, health and school projects, together with social support programs in Grozny. Program in SPSs in Ingushetian will be continued until most of the refugees will move from these wild camps either to their home of origin or to more appropriate places in Ingushetia.

PINF and Caritas task group is willing to cooperate or work on implement partner base with any other national or international aid organization. Please contact us, we will appreciate to share our experience and know-how from the region with You.

Contact in Prague:
ph. 420.2. 6113 4402