Russian Federation: ICRC operations in the northern Caucasus
30-10-2004 Operational Update
As armed confrontations and attacks continue in Chechnya, a great number of people remain extremely vulnerable both in Chechnya and the northern Caucasus. The security situation remains a major problem for the local population and hampers humanitarian action.
Important numbers of security forces are still stationed in and around Chechnya and mines and other unexploded ordnance continue to kill and maim civilians. Hostage taking remains a serious threat, arrests continue to take place in relation to the conflict and there are widespread reports of disappearances.
In Ingushetia, the situation since the beginning of the year has been increasingly tense. In both Ingushetia and Daghestan, the question of the return of displaced persons from Chechnya is still of concern as the appropriate security conditions and available shelter are not satisfactory to host all those wishing to go back.
In North Ossetia, the tragic hostage crisis in Beslan left several hundred people dead and wounded, most of them children. This terrible act of violence has caused severe trauma to the survivors in Beslan and has aggravated the situation across the region, fuelling an atmosphere of fear and anger.
A number of suicide or bomb attacks in the Russian Federation have taken place throughout 2004.
ICRC activities in the northern Caucasus
As in any other part of the world, the acceptance by all sides of the ICRC's way of working is a key condition for an effective operation. In the northern Caucasus, the ICRC works with the agreement of the Fe deral and local authorities. However, since the resumption of hostilities in Chechnya in 1999, the ICRC has not had reliable contact with opposition groups.
Due to the risk of abduction and other criminal acts, the ICRC works with armed escorts provided by the authorities. Although access constraints have placed severe limitations on ICRC activities, it has aimed to carry out its operations as far as possible.
The ICRC strives to make visits to those detained in relation with the conflict in Chechnya, allowing detainees and their families to exchange news via red cross messages. It receives allegations of arrests and urges the authorities to provide further information if necessary and monitors the situation of the civilian population on a regular basis. The ICRC is currently reviewing issues relating to visits to detainees and access to Chechnya with the Russian authorities.
The ICRC has been assisting about 100,000 people by supplying food and non-food aid to the resident population in Chechnya and to the displaced in Ingushetia and Daghestan. During the last quarter of 2004, the ICRC has gradually started to wind down its involvement in food distribution. From 2005, the ICRC will provide only non-food assistance and analyse different options to provide longer-term support.
The ICRC also supports the rehabilitation of the public infrastructure such as the water supply and sewerage systems, the maintenance of hygiene facilities for the displaced and the repair of hospitals.
Health services are strengthened through assistance to 12 hospitals and continuing support to Grozny central blood bank and clinical laboratories. An emergency supply of medicines and equipment to treat 1,000 war-wounded is also kept and training is provided for health workers, hospital doctors and orthopaedic technicians of Grozny Orthopaedic Centre.
During and after the Beslan crisis, the ICRC supplied the Ministry of Health in North Ossetia, and several hospitals (including the Republican Paediatric Hospital and Beslan Hospital) with emergency medical supplies. These supplies consisted of medical kits for the treatment of surgical cases, lung ventilation and suction machines, electro coagulators, laryngoscopes and surgical instruments. In addition large supplies of bed linen were also delivered to two hospitals. This aid was provided in close co-operation with the Russian Red Cross.
The ICRC implements mine risk education programmes to help the civilian population, and children in particular, to avoid the dangers posed by these and other unexploded weapons in Chechnya.
The promotion of international humanitarian law is an essential aspect of the ICRC's programme and is conducted among the armed forces, security forces, universities and secondary schools throughout the region.
The ICRC supports the Russian Red Cross branches in the northern Caucasus and southern Russia to develop humanitarian programmes and to strengthen their emergency response capacity.
The ICRC still has no news of its Grozny staff member, Mr Usman Saidaliev, who was abducted by armed men from his home in Chechnya on 2 August 2003. Numerous interventions have been made to clarify his whereabouts but w ithout success. The ICRC continues to call for information about Mr Saidaliev's whereabouts.
The ICRC has over 360 staff working in the northern Caucasus, including 19 expatriates.