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UNICEF in the North Caucasus

© UNICEF/SWZK00262/Pirozzi
After-school dance class for children in Grozny

A decade of conflict in the Chechen Republic has caused devastation and scattered the population. An entire generation is growing up knowing nothing but displacement, fear and insecurity. The population of the capital, Grozny, has fallen from 350-400,000 in the 1980s to 150-200,000 today. Over 200,000 people are displaced within Chechnya, and around 30,000 people from the war-torn republic are still living in neighbouring Ingushetia. Last year’s siege of School Number One in Beslan, North Ossetia and its tragic aftermath, have seized world attention and heightened tensions in an already volatile region.

Chechnya:

§         Total population: 1,000,000;

§         Internally displaced: 200,000;

§         Child population aged 3-17: 212,000;

§         IMR (2004): 21.7/28.9 per 1,000 live births (national average: 13.3).

§         50% of the population live on less than 33 rubles a day ($ 1.1), while the unemployment rate stands at 80%.

§         UNICEF has recorded over 3,100 landmine/UXO civilian victims, including more than 700 children, since 1995, which makes Chechnya one of the worst mine/UXO-affected areas in the world.

Ingushetia:

§         Total population: 475,000;

§         Displaced from Chechnya: 30,000 (including 10,000 children 3- 17)

§         Internally displaced from North Ossetia: 19,000;

§         IMR (2003): 28.1 per 1,000 live births;

§         GDP per capita: $253 per year. Some 90% of the displaced are unemployed.

UNICEF priorities

Our focus is shifting towards Chechnya itself and gradually focusing on long-term rehabilitation and recovery, while not neglecting humanitarian priorities as well as existing needs in other neighbouring republics. We work in five areas:

Education:

We support education in Ingushetia and Chechnya, recognising its importance in creating a sense of normality and stability. We have helped to set up recreation facilities, sports facilities and “child-friendly spaces” – areas where children can escape from their daily stress. In Ingushetia, we have enrolled around 10,000 displaced children in more than 50 tented or wooden schools (the number of schoolchildren has now decreased to 2,000, following the IDPs’ return to Chechnya) and set up five kindergartens (now four) for vulnerable IDP children. We have also provided regular schools with extra supplies and furniture to cater for the displaced children. In Chechnya, we rehabilitated 28 schools/kindergartens over the last two years, established 27 Early Childhood Education centres for 1,350 pre-school age children and created five kindergartens for orphans and other vulnerable children (recently handed over to the local authorities). In addition, we support a vocational training project for adolescents who dropped out of school and continue to provide significant quantities of education supplies to local schools as well as training support to teachers.

Mine Action/Child Protection

For young victims of landmines and UXO, we provide support through the prosthetic and rehabilitation centre in Grozny, as well as through a psychosocial support project and a vocational training initiative (both implemented by Chechen partners). UNICEF also supports education on the dangers of landmines/UXO, which is now part of the school curriculum in Chechnya through community-based presentations and media campaigns. We promote the Convention on the Rights of the Child and support the establishment of Child Rights Ombudspersons in all the republics of the region.

Health

We are working to bring the child vaccination rates back to the pre-conflict levels; to this purpose, we deliver cold-chain equipment and medical consumables, as well as general medical supplies, to health centres and hospitals in Ingushetia and Chechnya. We have also launched an HIV/AIDS prevention project in both republics and continue to raise the awareness of vulnerable mothers on basic child health care issues.

Water

We distribute pure drinking water to 105,000 people in Grozny on a daily basis, in partnership with the Polish Humanitarian Organization (PHO), and conduct hygiene education as well as awareness-raising activities through sessions in schools and media campaigns.

Psychosocial Rehabilitation

In addition to the Beslan-related activities, UNICEF is in the process of engaging in Chechnya, where support (mainly equipment and training for specialists) will be provided to local institutions and centres.

Structure and Funding

Structure: We have some 24 staff in the emergency programme, 20 of whom are based in Nazran, Ingushetia. We operate through an office and warehouse in Nazran and a small office in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia (which responded to the Beslan crisis in September 2004). We, as all other UN agencies working in the region, still lack of an office in Grozny, because of the security situation. We therefore rely on courageous NGOs working in Chechnya as well as on local governmental partners to channel our assistance and support.

Partners: We are, increasingly, working with local NGOs. We also work closely with the Ministries of Education and Health in Chechnya and Ingushetia, as well as with EMERCOM and the Ministry of Labour and Social Development in Chechnya (for Mine Action activities). We work in cooperation with other UN agencies in the area, namely WHO (Health and Mine Action), WFP (School feeding), OCHA (coordination) and UNESCO (Education) and cooperate with ICRC on Mine Action.

Funding: As of 31 July, 2005, out of a total requirement of US$6,912,300 to sustain the 2005 operation in the region, approximately $6,105,641 (i.e. 88%) has been received from Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the US/BPRM, USAID, the European Union’s Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO), the French, Dutch, UK and Irish National Committees for UNICEF. In addition, in 2005, generous donations have also been received from the German, UK, Italian, French and Lithuanian National Committees for UNICEF’s special programme for Beslan. UNICEF thanks these donors for their generous support.

For more information:

John Brittain, Communication Officer, UNICEF Russian Federation,  tel: (+ 7095) 933 8818. Cell: (+ 7095) 761 6648. email: jbrittain@unicef.org
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