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BESLAN -- ONE YEAR ON. How UNICEF has responded

© UNICEF/HQ05-1325/Ludmila Tkhostova
A photo by Ludmila Tkhostova, aged 16, taken inside School No. 1 during a UNICEF-supported photography workshop for children from Beslan

On 1 September 2004, hostage-takers entered School Number One in Beslan, North Ossetia, Russian Federation as children and parents celebrated the start of a new school year. Three days later, more than 170 children were dead, together with hundreds of adults. The children who survived the carnage had seen things that no child should ever see.  

UNICEF was already working in the area and was able to react immediately, getting basic medical supplies into the over-stretched hospitals overnight. UNICEF was there with classroom equipment and supplies on the day that the children of Beslan went back to school. And we have been there ever since, helping to create teams of counselors in the remaining schools and in the community to help children and families rebuild their shattered lives.

The immediate physical needs of the children have been met, but the trauma remains. UNICEF believes that every child in Beslan was affected in some way by this tragedy.

What happened in Beslan was another catastrophe in a part of the world that has already suffered from more than a decade of violence and instability. Urgent action is needed to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes – particularly among the young.  

That is why we are now looking to the future. We are supporting a Peace Education and Tolerance programme for children and adolescents across North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya, Kabardino-Balkaria and Dagestan to foster dialogue and tolerance between the children of these troubled Republics.

Phase 1 Medical Supplies

On the night of 3-4 September 2004, UNICEF staff visited four hospitals in Vladikavkaz where most of the wounded children from Beslan had been hospitalized. Finding a critical shortage of essential drugs and medical equipment, UNICEF immediately distributed basic supplies such as painkillers and bandages, to the two main hospitals in Vladikavkaz where most children were taken. On 8-10 September, UNICEF delivered a comprehensive set of medical supplies, including 20 hospital beds, 20 bedside monitors, 100 blankets, 100 mattresses, 1,000 scalpels and blades,  1,000 sets of bed linen, 1,500 bars of soap, 10,000 pairs of surgical gloves, 30,000 bandages and 90,000 syringes, to five hospitals in Beslan and Vladikavkaz.

Supported by funds from Canadian Embassy in Moscow, the UK National Committee for UNICEF, the German National Committee for UNICEF and the Italian National Committee for UNICEF

Phase 2 – Support for Schools

“The next priority for the children of Beslan must be to restore their faith in schooling,” said Carel de Rooy, UNICEF Representative in the Russian Federation, after a visit to Beslan following the siege. “Most of the children we spoke to in the hospital do not want to go back to school, for obvious reasons. We know from past experience that education is a great healer for children who have lived through traumatic events. But for these children, their own school has become a place of terror.  It will only add to their tragedy if these children, who have already lost so much, also lose out on their education.”

UNICEF provided educational supplies so that the remaining six schools in Beslan could accommodate 760 surviving children from School Number One, making the schools as welcoming as possible. Supplies included 5 fax machines, 42 computers, 1,000 school bags, 1,000 desks and chairs, 100 blackboards, more than 1,000 toys, gymnastic equipment, 3,000 pens, 6,000 exercise books and almost 30,000 school textbooks.

In addition, UNICEF has been requested by the local Education authorities to contribute (through the provision of essential school furniture and equipment) to the equipment of two new schools in Beslan. Two new schools for some 600 children each, including those from school No.1, were finished by beginning of the new school year. UNICEF will provide equipment for two language laboratories and chairs for lecture rooms for these schools in September, 2005.

Supported by funds from the German National Committee for UNICEF, the Italian National Committee for UNICEF and the UK National Committee for UNICEF

Phase 3 – Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Counseling

The government responded by providing counselors from Moscow to work with survivors and families. UNICEF has been working on long-term measures with the Ministry of Education of North Ossetia and the Republican Psychosocial Rehabilitation Centre of Vladikavkaz to help children and parents affected by the tragedy. The project aims at helping local specialists provide counseling to up to 7,000 traumatized children and parents. It includes: 

§         Support for the Psychosocial Rehabilitation Centre in Vladikavkaz (equipment, materials and furniture);

§         Establishment of a local branch of the Psychosocial Rehabilitation Centre in Beslan (ongoing);

§         Training of 300 local specialists (psychologists, teachers, social workers and doctors) to provide counseling for children and parents, in cooperation with experts from the R. Wallenberg’s International University for the Family and the Child (St. Petersburg) as well as with a Moscow-based centre (‘Broken Flower’);

§         Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome diagnosis completed for 700 children;

§         Involvement of 350 children in rehabilitation activities through summer playgrounds as well as of some 500 family members and community representatives through out-reach activities;

§         Enrollment of 200 crisis-affected children in the Centre, with 107 having already undergone the full rehabilitation course;

§         Creation of 60 groups – each comprised of a trained psychologist, a doctor, a teacher, a social worker and a parent – tasked with providing counseling for affected families under the supervision of trained professionals (some 2,000 children have already been covered by the 300 para-professionals);

§         Establishment of a support unit for children in each of Beslan’s six schools – comprised of a trained psychologist, teacher and volunteer.  These units are the first referral point for counseling. Games therapy helps children overcome their fears, as they are encouraged to take part in art, sport and music competitions;

In light of the persisting needs in this field, UNICEF has been requested to continue the implementation of this project, availability of financial resources permitting, at least until the end of 2006.

Supported by funds from the German National Committee for UNICEF, the French National Committee for UNICEF, the Italian National Committee for UNICEF, the Lithuanian National Committee for UNICEF, Denmark and USAID

Phase 4 – Peace and Tolerance Education

“We need to recognise the very real danger of further divisions between different ethnic and religious groups as a result of the Beslan siege,” said Carel de Rooy in November 2004. “And we need to confront that danger by promoting dialogue, tolerance and the peaceful settlement of disputes, particularly among the younger generation. It is UNICEF’s way to try to ensure that communities pull together, instead of apart.” 

UNICEF, in partnership with local education authorities, Youth Committees, NGOs, schools and communities in the region, has kick-started a programme for Peace Education and Tolerance for children and adolescents across the North Caucasus. Every child in Beslan will benefit, from those caught up in the siege itself, to those from the wider community. But the scheme aims to go further, so as to reach up to 200,000 children and 1,000 teachers across the region. We are working in consultation with the office of the Plenipotentiary Representative of President Putin in the South Federal District of the Russian Federation, Mr. Dimitry Kozak, as well as with the Federal Ministry of Education.

§         Education authorities are getting support to draw up a regional strategy and a plan of action for peace education in their republics (including through study trips abroad), while working groups are being created in each republic to put implement those plans;

§         Trainers are being trained to work with teachers and pupils, showing them how to use principles of tolerance and peace promotion in the classroom and in their daily lives;

§         Events are being organized to bring children together across the region’s many ethnic and cultural divides: youth festivals, peace camps, art exhibitions and contests and youth exchange tours between different parts of the region;

§         Local TV and newspaper information campaigns aim to raise the population’s awareness on the importance of peace and tolerance.

Supported by funds from the French National Committee for UNICEF and the Irish National Committee for UNICEF

Children of Beslan Photo Workshop

In July 2005, UNICEF organised the “Children of Beslan” photographic workshop in Vladikavkaz and Beslan. Thirteen Beslan children aged 13 to 18 – five of whom were hostages during the siege of School Number One – took part in the workshop, where they learnt how to document the life of Beslan one year after the tragedy and expressed their own feelings and the feelings of other residents through photography and writing. Guided by an expert photographer and an experienced journalist, the children produced thousands of photographs in seven days. More than 100 were selected for the photo exhibition titled “Children Are The Most Precious Thing In The World”, that opened in Beslan on 26 August.

Supported by funds from USAID and the German National Committee for UNICEF

For more information:

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





Related Links

Press Releases:

UNICEF marks first anniversary of siege

Children's photo exhibition opens

Real Lives:

A visit to Beslan

Rehabilitation Centre

Photo workshop

Soslan's story

Alina and Alana

The Pukhayev family

The Katsanovs and Ambalovs

Fact Sheets:

UNICEF in North Caucasus


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