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Chechnya: ICRC distributes winter clothes for children

10-01-2005 Feature

Winters can be particularly hard in Chechnya. As the nights draw in, spring seems a long way off as the cold months stretch ahead. The ICRC aims to make things a little easier for the youngest residents by distributing winter clothing to them. ICRC employee Timur Ibakov reports.

    The shattered regions of Chechnya do not look particularly attractive at any time of the year, but winter makes them even more depressing. In autumn the trees grow bare. Fragments of metal scar their trunks and branches are deformed by battle so that they resemble the forest monsters of " The Lord of the Rings " .

People who come to Grozny in summer will never forget the penetrating dust. The heat makes you long for a shower. In winter this dust is transformed into thick wet mud that makes it impossible to keep your clothes clean.


Chechen families often consist of ten or more children and mothers struggle to keep their offspring presentable. Water for washing and laundry often has to be collected from the street and carried up many flights of stairs. It's a difficult life.

Equally hard is the lot of those returning from the camps for the displaced in Ingushetia. Families have to survive in tiny, hastily renovated quarte rs, with holes in the windows large enough for a bird to fly through. Their belongings are often piled up in one corner: only the basic necessities remain as anything of any value has long since been sold.

As the families moved from camp to camp, their youngest children grew up and are now teenagers. Desperate to return to schools that are plagued by a lack of fuel for heating systems, they need new clothes that their parents do not have the means to buy.

In 2003, the ICRC began distributing clothes to children aged from 6 to 14 years old from the most vulnerable families. An autumn outfit distributed in July includes a sweater, jeans or a skirt and a pair of shoes. A winter outfit includes a jacket and warmer shoes. This assistance helps poverty-stricken local residents and internally displaced people economize on buying clothes for their children.


I met Sovdat Tambiyeva when she was queuing for clothes in the town of Argun. Sovdat, the head of a family of twelve, had come to get clothes for her three grandchildren. The Tambiyev family was among the first to return from Ingushetia and has since been living in a centre in Argun. It is hardly easy to find employment in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, let alone in Argun. Once a thriving industrial centre – all the town's businesses are closed down now. The Tambiyevs depend on irregular temporary work to support their large family.

" The clothes are a great help to us " , says Sovdat. " But for them, we wouldn't be able to send the kids to school. We try to save on everything. My pension is not enough even to buy medicines for diabetes, let a lone other things. "

Besides Sovdat, over 900 persons received clothes in Argun that day. The total number of clothing packages distributed since the programme was launched in 2003 exceeds 46,000.