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Sweden is one of the biggest contributors to International Red Cross aid efforts in the northern Caucasus following the conflict in Chechnya. Sweden has been keeping a close watch on the humanitarian situation for the civilian population in the northern Caucasus and is prepared to provide further assistance as and when the security situation allows.
Earlier this week, Minister for Development Cooperation, Migration and Asylum Policy Maj-Inger Klingvall discussed the humanitarian situation in the northern Caucasus with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and human rights High Commissioner Mary Robinson.
"Sadako Ogata described the acute humanitarian situation for the civilian population in the encircled capital Grozny as extremely serious. Civilians are not only finding it virtually impossible to leave the city, it is also completely inaccessible to humanitarian aid convoys. The refugee situation in the surrounding region remains serious, with a total of 240,000 internally displaced Chechen refugees of which 200,000 are now in Ingushetia. To this figure must be added 100,000 people acting as host families for the refugees and who are also in need of humanitarian assistance. An estimated 150,000 civilians are still living in Chechnya, 50,000 of them in Grozny," said to Maj-Inger Klingvall.
Efforts to supply aid are being hampered by the serious security situation in the region. No international personnel of any kind are at present stationed in Ingushetia. However, Sadako Ogata has received assurances from Moscow that UNHCR can safely strengthen its presence in the region, using the town of Stavropol as its base, and that a special security plan for international humanitarian efforts will be forthcoming.
During the acute phase of the crisis in Chechnya, Sweden has so far placed SEK 11 million at the disposal of the International Red Cross for aid measures in the region. This makes Sweden one of the biggest contributors to the Red Cross's humanitarian aid programme for the refugee population in the northern Caucasus. A further contribution of approximately SEK 900,000 has been made to the Swedish Pentecostal Mission, which is also active in the region.
The UNHCR has already spent USD 2.2 million of its disaster fund on humanitarian assistance to the region. Sweden's total contribution to the UNHCR fund now stands at SEK 370 million. Other Swedish contributions during the year have included support amounting to SEK 260,000 for health care measures in Chechnya coordinated by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and SEK 500,000 in the form of regional support to the Moscow delegation of the ICRC, which includes Chechnya in its remit.
Sweden is closely following developments with respect to the humanitarian situation in the northern Caucasus. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Sida are in daily contact with the UN and other humanitarian agencies to assess the need for further efforts and the possibility of providing humanitarian assistance. "It is essential in this connection that the security of aid workers be guaranteed so that help can reach stricken areas and people in need," said Klingvall, one of whose initiatives has been the establishment of a consultation group, of which SidSida is a member, to monitor the situation in the Caucasus.
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