Update 00/03 on Northern Caucasus conflict - Response of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to humanitarian needs
22-06-2000 Operational Update
I. ICRC ongoing visits to detainees in the northern Caucasus
In mid-May the ICRC began visiting persons detained by the Russian authorities in connection with the conflict in Chechnya, both within Chechnya and elsewhere in the Russian Federation. This followed an agreement reached with the various ministries though an exchange of letters, formalizing Russian President Putin's authorization in March giving ICRC access to people detained in connection with the conflict, wherever they are held, in accordance with the ICRC's customary working procedures.
Starting 17 May, a team of ICRC expatriates, including a medical doctor, have visited: a prison under the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice in Pyatigorsk and the nearby prison hospital in Georgievsk, both in Stavropol krai; two places of temporary detention in Grozny, under the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior; a prison in Nalchik (Kabardino Balkaria), one in Chernokozovo (Chechnya), and another place of temporary detention in Naurskaya (Chechnya). On 20 June, the ICRC visited a temporary detention facility in Mozdok (North Ossetia) and a prison in the town of Stavropol (Stavropol krai). Visits to other facilities are planned for the coming days.
The visits all took place with the full cooperation of the detaining authorities and in accordance with ICRC standard procedures. Delegates were able to talk in private with the detainees of their choice about the detention conditions, thus completing the picture gained by personal observations and by talking with the prison authorities. During the visits, the detainees were given the opportunity to write Red Cross messages which were then collected for distribution.
These will be followed up by further visits, as part of the ongoing process of monitoring the treatment of detainees and their conditions of detention.
According to figures given recently by the Russian Ministry of Justice, some 1,000 people have been indicted in the northern Caucasus in connection with the conflict. The ICRC's current main task is to identify the places of detention to be visited as a priority.
In May and June, ICRC expatriates made a number of missions to Gudermes in order to discuss security arrangements for visits to detention centres in Chechnya, as well as to discuss Red Cross assistance activities within the Republic.
At the same time, the ICRC is establishing contacts with representatives of the Chechen rebels in order to inform them of ICRC activities and to remind them of their obligation to respect the provisions of international humanitarian law, including to ensure decent and humane treatment of persons in their custody.
II. Assistance for the civilian population
Within the framework of the joint activities programme, run together with the Russian Red Cross (RRC) and the International Federation, the ICRC's main priority continues to be the provision of basic necessities for some 150,000 people in the region, in coordination with the authorities and other humanitarian agencies.
Over the past weeks, the ICRC and RRC have steadily increased their activities to assist the civilian population, by broadening both the scope of the programmes and the number of beneficiaries. This has involved a resumption of certain assistance activities withi n Chechnya, since the beginning of May, and a gradual extension of the programmes in neighbouring republics, in particular Ingushetia. In the future the ICRC hopes to assist about 30,000 persons in Chechnya on a regular basis.
The difficult security situation throughout the northern Caucasus, and in particular in Chechnya, remains a major constraint in the development of ICRC and RRC assistance programmes.
1. Assistance for the civilian population in Chechnya
The ICRC and the Chechen branch of the RRC, which suspended their operations in Chechnya for security reasons last November, resumed activities on the territory of the Republic at the end of March, first of all carrying out assessments to identify the most urgent needs and then responding accordingly.
To date, ten evaluation missions have been undertaken by ICRC and RRC local staff in the towns of Grozny, Achkhoy-Martan, Urus-Martan and Gudermes, to assess the scale of needs for both medical care and water and sanitation. An expatriate team also visited Grozny.
The situation of the estimated 80,000-120,000 people living in Grozny was seen to be extremely difficult owing to insufficient food and medical supplies and the lack of clean drinking water.
So far in Grozny the ICRC has visited five hospitals and one paediatric centre which recently began functioning again, albeit with great difficulty owing to the lack of essential medicines and the absence of running water and electricity. During each visit, the ICRC delivered sufficient amounts of emergency medical assistance to treat a total of 580 war-wounded and 150 other patients. The ICRC is in contact with the health authorities in Moscow and on the spot in order to define more clearly the priorities for assistance to the medical infrastructure in the Chechen Republic and to coordinate the delivery of equipment and more substantial aid to referral hospitals with the authorities.
Water and sanitation
Following evaluations carried out in April by local employees at pumping station PS-1 in Grozny - an installation assisted by the ICRC until the renewed outbreak of the conflict and which is now out of service - it was decided that the station could be brought back into service using ICRC local skills, and the necessary material was ordered. Discussions were held with Vodocanal, the Grozny Water Board, regarding the repairing of the water pipes linking PS-1 to the distribution network. At present, Grozny is dramatically lacking in water owing to the destruction of the pipes linking the pumps to the distribution network.
- Russian Red Cross (Chechen branch) programmes
The home-visiting nurses programme, run by the local branch of the Russian Red Cross with ICRC support, started again at the beginning of May, with 48 nurses providing regular care for 480 elderly, handicapped and other isolated people, most of whom are facing immense hardship. The number of beneficiaries has now risen to 650, with 57 nurses implementing the programme.
On 1 May the ICRC bread-distribution programme resumed for 3,500 people in the Chechen towns of Shali, Gudermes, Argun and Urus-Martan, after a six-month suspension because of the fighting. By the end of May registr ation of a further 7,000 beneficiaries in Grozny had been completed and distributions have now started, bringing to 10,500 the total number of persons receiving a free loaf of bread each day.
The number of beneficiaries of both these programmes continues to increase gradually.
2. Aid for displaced persons from Chechnya elsewhere in the northern Caucase
According to official statistics there are 170-200,000 displaced persons from Chechnya in Ingushetia. ICRC assistance activities (distribution of family parcels, hygiene products, candles etc.) continue at a rate of some 10,000 people assisted per week. Over the last eight months the ICRC has directly assisted 421,168 people cumulatively in some 160 different distribution points throughout the Republic.
Since the beginning of the ICRC operation in October 1999, the ICRC has supplied: 137,457 food parcels, 3,572 boxes of high-protein biscuits, 132,956 hygienic kits, 71,568 blankets, 1,188 kitchen sets, 9,402 jerrycans, 5,302 buckets, 1,036 wood heaters/lamps/burners, 40,460 square metres of plastic sheeting and 237,536 candles .
The ICRC provides monthly medical assistance for the five main hospitals in Ingushetia. Since October, sufficient medical supplies have been delivered to treat a total of 1,495 war-wounded patients.
Water and sanitation activities
Eight ICRC water cistern trucks continue to deliver water to 66 distribution points both in IDP camps and collective centres, where 22 bladders and four shower facilities have been installed. An average of 264m3 of water are distributed daily to more than 31,700 beneficiaries.
Since the end of November, when distributions of drinking water for IDPs began, 29,486.4 m3 have been provided.
- Russian Red Cross (Ingush Republican branch) programmes
With ICRC support, the Ingush branch of the RRC continues its programmes for the displaced.
In May, 270,000 people in four distribution points in Ingushetia were provided with 270,000 loaves of bread. 38,231 hot meals were distributed from three soup kitchens during the same period.
In May 15,025 IDPs were provided with clothes and shoes.
Also in May, 1,139 patients, including 862 children, were given medical assistance from three medical units.
In Daghestan the ICRC, in cooperation with the local branch of the RRC, began to assist Daghestanis in collective centres and the private sector, displaced as a result of hostilities, as early as 10 August in Makhachkala and Buinaksk, and, in October, Chechens, who found refuge primarily in the Khasavyurt region. Over the period 10 August 1999 to 13 June 2000, the ICRC provided food and non-food assistance cumulatively to 117,712 beneficiaries. From mid-May to mid-June, the ICRC assisted 12,370 people.
19,543 food parcels
8,841 boxes of high protein biscuits
305,150 kg of wheat flour
18,429 hygiene kits
5,323 kitchen sets
244,5 rolls of plastic sheeting
557 bales of second hand clothes (25-30 kg each)
Three schools in Novolak district of Daghestan were provided with school articles for 1,280 pupils.
365 war-wounded have been assisted since August 1999. In addition, enough medical supplies were provided to Makhachkala and Khasavyurt hospitals to treat 150 patients.
At the beginning of June the ICRC carried out a new assessment of the health structures in and around the Khasavyurt area, in order to reorganize medical assistance activities within the Republic and to re-evaluate the situation of IDPs. The ICRC provid ed regular monthly surgical assistance to Khasavyurt Central Hospital, and provided the small medical structures on the border with Chechnya with limited quantities of medical assistance on an ad hoc basis.
- Russian Red Cross (Daghestan Republican branch)
In May 52,000 loaves of bread were distributed from four distribution points in Daghestan. 18,200 hot meals were provided at one soup kitchen during the same period.
In April, 31,700 loaves of bread and 11,200 hot meals were distributed.
Also in May, 2,768 IDPs were provided with shoes and clothes.
540 patients, including 460 children, were given medical assistance from one medical unit in the same period.
- North Ossetia and Kabardino Balkaria
Since the beginning of operations, the ICRC has provided 3,500 IDPs from Chechnya, accommodated in North Ossetia, and 3,430 IDPs , accommodated in public buildings in Kabardino-Balkaria, with ad hoc food and non-food assistance (food parcels, wheat floor and hygiene kits).
The military hospitals in Nalchik, Mozdok, Vladikavkaz, Kislovodsk and Pyatigorsk have also been assisted with sufficient quantities of emergency and surgical material to treat 1,245 war- wounded.
In May the ICRC carried out an assessment visit to Mozdok Central and Peredterechny District Hospitals to evaluate the conditions. The monthly surgical assistance was provided.
Monthly medical supplies are also given to the local branch of the Russian Red Cross in North Ossetia.
- Russian Red Cross (Republican branches)
22,668 people in four distribution points in North Ossetia were provided with 22,668 loaves of bread during the month of May. 6,814 hot meals were distributed from one soup kitchen over the same period.
3. Aid for displaced persons outside the northern Caucasus
The Russian Red Cross, with the support of the International Federation, provides emergency assistance, psycho-social counselling, legal advice and medical services to IDPs from Chechnya accommodated in regions outside the northern Caucasus. From 1 November 1999 to 31 May 2000 the Russian Red Cross provided 34,502 food parcels, 34,520 hygiene kits, 5,535 blankets and 3,801 medical sets to IDPs at 48 distribution points in seven regions of the Russian Federation (Stavropol, Krasnodar, Rostov, Volgograd, Astrakhan, Saratov and Kalmykia).
III. Red Cross personnel involved in the emergency operation in the northern Caucasus
11 expatriates based in Nalchik (including the team visiting places of detention) and supported by specialists (logistic, relief, medical, water and sanitation engineer) from the ICRC Moscow delegation and headquarters in Geneva.
198 permanent national staff all over the northern Caucasus.
- Russian Red Cross
Permanent staff: 45 (delegated from the Central Committee and in the field).
- International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
Delegates and local staff in Moscow offer support to the Russian Red Cross outside the northern Caucasus for IDPs.