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Russian Federation/Chechnya

03-02-2003

ICRC community-based mine/unexploded ordnance awareness programme in 2002

 

1 - Background 
 

The ICRC's mine-awareness activities in the northern Caucasus in 2002 are a continuation of those carried out in 2001. As such, they are based on the results of the initial survey conducted in August 2000 to find out what knowledge people had about the danger of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) and on the monitoring and review of the activities carried out so far. As part of these activities, messages of advice relating specifically to high-risk activities are devised by analysing the available mine-accident data. The programme, which is run in coordination with other organizations involved in similar work so as to ensure an integrated approach, targets people living and working in mine-affected communities in Chechnya and in two regions of Dagestan – Novolak and Botlikh – as well as IDPs living in camps and collective centres in Ingushetia and Dagestan. The long-term aim is to build up sustainable mine-awareness activities for the affected communities and to hand them over to the local authorities.

In 2001 the focus of the programme shifted from awareness-raising to behavioural change. The activities carried out with children and adults had made the communities involved increasingly aware of the danger of mines, leading them to initiate their own activities. Children had been a primary means of passing on information to other children, but also to adults, who thus became more active in devising a role for themselves in mine-awareness activities. Parents, in particular, wanted to know what information they should be giving to their children.

 Information gathering  

    

Owing to lack of information, the ICRC has been unable to determine whether there has been an increase or a decrease in the number of mine accidents. It has therefore made plans to improve the information-gathering system in coordination with other organizations. A universal data-collection form is now being used by all the organizations involved in awareness-raising and assistance activities so that the information gathered can be more easily used by all. The ICRC, which collects data from the hospitals where it is providing medical assistance, will train a representative of each of the central regional hospitals in cooperation with the Ministry of Health so that data can be collected from the health facilities administered by these hospitals. The ICRC and UNICEF, whose implementing partners, Voice of the Mountains and Minga, are collecting mine-accident data directly from communities, have drafted a memorandum of understanding on the sharing of such data. This memorandum is currently under discussion.

 
2 - Target groups 
 

 Civilians  

Civilians are the main target group. The analysis of mine-accident data shows that they are the most at risk and thus in need of " coping strategies " that will enable them to live more safely in a mine-affected environment. Within the civilian population, priority is given to two specific target groups:

 children, who are the most vulnerable to the dangers of living in mine-affected areas and also a primary means of passing on information to other children and to adults;

 returnees , who are in need of specific information when they go home to live in mine-affected areas. 

 Civilian and military authorities  

    

Civilian and military authorities have an obvious role to play within a mine-awareness programme in disseminating information and helping to manage the mine problem. 

 Journalists  

    

Journalists from national and local media can be used to supply a continuous flow of information to a large number of people. Specific activities are carried out to encourage them to take part in the mine-awareness programme over the long term.

 
3 - Mine-awareness activities in 2002 
 

Since both the IDPs in Ingushetia and Dagestan and the resident community in Chechnya have made use of the information provided and been seeking ways to disseminate it more broadly, mine-awareness activities in 2002 have focused on ensuring a sustainable source of information and advice. Children had already been identified as a primary means of passing on advice to others. To ensure that children had usable information and were able to pass it on to others, a project aimed at teachers has been set up with UNICEF and the Ministry of Education. However, gaps continue to exist in the targeting of adult males, whom the analysis of mine-accident data shows are most at risk.

 Mine-awareness activities for IDPs and refugees  

    

Leaflets explaining the danger posed by mines, the correct behaviour to adopt and how this information can be passed on to others were distributed to adult members of the IDP community. These topics and the role of adults, especially parents, in the mine-awareness programme were also discussed in focus groups. Positive feedback was given by IDPs who had used the leaflet to inform relatives and friends who regularly make the trip back to Chechnya. Many people were aware of the mine danger but did not understand how they were putting themselves at risk. The leaflet explained what they should and should not do when travelling in mine-affected areas and dispelled various misconceptions. Two leaflets are now being prepared for adults and children in anticipation of their planned return from Ingushetia to Chechnya. Among other things, these leaflets focus on the signs used to indicate that an area is dangerous, advise people not to take short cuts and warn children not to pick up things they see on the side of the road. Further information will be given to the IDPs on their return home by those who know the dangerous areas around their villages.

 Community-based activities: working with the religious leaders  

    

The IDPs in Ingushetia are not only a source of information about the mine problem but also a primary means of conveying information to people living in mine-affected communities in Chechnya. During discussions held in the camps, it was suggested that imams – religious leaders – could also play a role in this regard and the ICRC has now decided to make them its partners in ensuring t hat information is circulated within mine-affected communities. A survey conducted in February showed that the imams themselves thought they were the most appropriate means of disseminating mine information among adult males. The survey also indicated what materials and other kinds of support were needed.

Mine-awareness activities are currently being planned in conjunction with the head mufti and the muftiat responsible for religious activities in Chechnya. Focus groups supported by the ICRC are being organized by the muftiat as a means of field-testing the draft curricula and developing the strategy for training imams. The training will not be carried out until the second half of 2002. Priority will be given to imams from affected communities, with further training to be given in all areas of Chechnya in the first quarter of 2003.

On the basis of previous experiences in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, where the mine-awareness programmes set up by the ICRC and the National Societies were evaluated in the first half of 2002, it was decided that imams would not receive a financial incentive since this would be detrimental to the long-term goal of sustainability. Instead, the ICRC will provide communities with boards, to be put up outside mosques, on which imams can place posters and information. Imams will be encouraged to supplement such information with specific messages relating to seasonal activities. In addition, large billboards have been prepared for distribution in the affected areas so as to remind people of the mine danger and ensure that they do not place themselves at risk.

 Mine-awareness activities for children  

    

Child-to-child activities, mainly for children sent from Chechnya to rest for three weeks in sanatoriums of the northern Cauc asus, had already been initiated in 2001. This project, which was sponsored by the federal government, gave the ICRC a means of disseminating information among people whom it had been unable to reach so far as access to Chechnya, in particular the mine-affected communities in the south of the republic, was extremely limited. Since child-to-child activities could not be monitored in Chechnya, those carried out in Ingushetia were used as a basis for reviewing all child-to-child activities in the region. Children who had taken part in such activities were the main focus of the review, although teachers, parents and other children were questioned as well. As a result of the review, a further follow-up activity was included in the project, the purpose of which is to have children discuss the information they have about the danger of mines, look at how this information can be applied and make plans for passing it on to others.

A games resource book prepared by the ICRC in conjunction with the Ministry of Education will be distributed to schools in Chechnya via a workshop using games to teach about the danger of mines in the second half of 2002. The resource book supplements the activities of UNICEF, which is working with the Ministry of Education to ensure that mine-awareness is included in the school syllabus. These classroom activities will be monitored and reviewed through 2003. Additional materials and workshops will be prepared according to needs so that mine information will continue to be taught in the classroom as long as the mine problem exists.

Cheerdig, a character used to teach children about the danger of mines, featured in a second comic book prepared by the ICRC at the beginning of the year. The comic book, which explains the correct behaviour to adopt and stresses the importance of sharing this information with other children, was distributed by the Chechen Puppet Theatre during the performances it gave in Chechen schools of a puppet show entitled Danger, Mines - The New Adventures of Cheerdig . Cheerdig will also be used in an animated film prepared with ORT, the Russian State television, to remind children of the danger posed by mines. The film comprises five five-minute segments for use both by the Chechen television station and by schools. Activities have been carried out with teachers so as to ensure that children can discuss the film's key messages in the classroom and plan how to pass on these messages to others. A poster competition will also be held at the start of the 2002-2003 school year. Four posters will be printed and distributed to schools and health points and displayed on the boards put up outside mosques.

 Targeting youth  

    

Teenagers and young people in general, as a separate target group from children and adults, have also been included in mine-awareness activities. The Graphic Art Institute in Grozny is preparing designs for the billboards to be put up throughout Chechnya to inform people of the mine danger. Following a series of discussions, the ICRC and the State Committee of Youth for Chechnya are preparing a project whereby teenagers will be encouraged to take part in mine-awareness activities. At present the State Committee is carrying out its youth activities in Grozny, although representatives have been appointed at a regional level to start up and support such activities elsewhere. The ICRC will work with the State Committee to ensure that these activities are sustainable and that messages of advice are appropriately targeted.

 Working with the media  

    

The ICRC has always seen the media as having a key role to play in its mine-awareness strategy. Initially, it held discussions with journalists and provided them with information. In Dagestan, it worked with the local newspaper in Novilak, one of the two regions where it had initiated mine-awareness activities together with the local communities, and an article detailing various mine-awareness initiatives was written to explain what mine-awareness was. By these means, the ICRC sought to raise awareness of the problem and ensure that journalists understood the aim of mine-awareness activities and were able to disseminate the information given through the mine-awareness programme in such a way that it could be used by their audiences. An increasing amount of information is now being given in radio and television broadcasts and in newspaper articles. Among other things, the Chechen television station has broadcast segments of " The New Adventures of Cheerdig " and the BBC's Russian bureau included this puppet show in a special broadcast on ICRC activities in Chechnya.

With the increase in the number of newspapers and other media available in Chechnya, the ICRC has given higher priority to working with journalists as a sustainable means of disseminating advice about the mine danger. A round table focusing on the role of the media in the mine-awareness programme was held at the end of March for journalists from local newspapers and this round table will be followed by others for television journalists and for journalists from military newspapers and journals. In order to provide all these journalists with continuous support, the ICRC mine-awareness team is preparing a monthly bulletin to be distributed via the Ministry of Information. The bulletin will focus on the information given through the mine-awareness programme, supply journalists with messages of advice devised on the basis of mine-accident data and give ideas on how this information and advice can be disseminat ed.

As a result of the round table held in March, the editorial staff of the children's magazine Rainbow worked together with the ICRC in preparing an article on the danger of mines. The magazine has now gone a step further and features Cheerdig, the character used by the ICRC for its mine-awareness activities with children, in each monthly edition. The ICRC is providing the funds needed to print an additional 1,000 copies of the magazine, which has a current print run of 5,000. The extra 1,000 copies will be distributed by the ICRC to the hospitals for which it provides assistance and by the Chechen Branch of the Red Cross via its mobile clinics.

As part of its media-related activities, the ICRC is also helping the Chechen Television and Radio Company to develop a mine-awareness serial for broadcast by local TV stations. The serial, which focuses on a family living in a mine-contaminated area, looks at how mines affect people in their daily activities, shows how accidents can be avoided and explains what information should be passed on to others. Materials based on the serial will be given to village leaders involved in mine-awareness activities with adult males and to teachers working with children.

 The mine victims' club  

    

At the request of mine victims and other members of the IDP community in Ingushetia, the ICRC has set up a club where survivors of mine accidents can meet and talk. Such a club, which will also enable its members to contribute to mine-awareness activities, had already been set up by the mine victims themselves in Chechnya, but owing to the circumstances in which they are presently living in Ingushetia they had been unable to establish one there. In discussions with the IDPs in Ingushetia, the club was seen as the most effective means for encouraging people who live, work and travel in mine-affected areas to change their behaviour. Together with the local media, the club is preparing newspaper articles and is also planning to produce television spots.

 Coordination of activities  

    

Having decided that their activities needed to be more closely coordinated, the ICRC and UNICEF are now holding monthly meetings so as to avoid any duplication of efforts and to ensure that a common approach is taken in discussions with the authorities and in developing a strategy for the participation of the authorities in mine-awareness activities. At the initiative of UNICEF, the meetings will also be used to assess needs and to plan seminars and workshops for those who carry out mine-awareness activities in the field.