Northern Caucasus: Commission allocates EUR 9.5 million for victims of conflict in Chechnya
The European Commission has granted €9.5 million in humanitarian aid to support victims of the conflict in Chechnya. The aid is intended to bolster the EU's ongoing efforts in support of the most vulnerable sections of the local community and displaced persons in Chechnya (approx. 140 000) and the neighbouring republics of Ingushetia and Dagestan (approx. 80 000). It will help meet the urgent needs of the victims in terms of food, water, shelter, sanitation, health care and psycho-social support. Security measures for the protection of relief workers will also be stepped up. The aid will be channelled through the Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) under the responsibility of Commissioner Poul Nielson, and distributed to the civilian population by humanitarian NGOs and international agencies operating in the country.
Nielson commented as follows on the crisis in Chechnya: "The civilian population is a victim of the conflict in Chechnya and almost solely dependent on aid from the international community. The thousands of displaced persons are the most vulnerable and will therefore be the principal recipients of the aid from ECHO. However, the access of humanitarian workers to these innocent victims continues to be hampered. I urge the Russian authorities to do their utmost to guarantee this vital access".
The humanitarian situation remains extremely worrying in Chechnya and the neighbouring republics of Ingushetia and Dagestan. Although some return movement began this year, substantial numbers of Chechens are still displaced and living in precarious conditions. Some 70 000 persons displaced by the fighting in Chechnya are living in Ingushetia - aid to these accounts for 40% of ECHO's funding for the northern Caucasus - and Dagestan has taken in a further 8 000. An estimated 140 000 have been displaced in Chechnya itself out of a total population of 700 000. Aid from the international community scarcely covers the basic needs of the local people and displaced persons, victims of a forgotten crisis. The Commission has therefore decided to step up its aid effort in the region by granting a further €9.5 million in humanitarian aid on top of the €16.5 allocated already this year.
To ensure that the aid goes to the most vulnerable sections of the local community and displaced persons, clear objectives have been decided. The distribution of food products will continue to be targeted so as to prevent further deterioration in the nutritional condition of the most vulnerable. This decision will finance distributions to some 200 000 persons in Chechnya, 5 000 in Dagestan and 1 500 infants in Ingushetia. ECHO's partners will provide free primary health care to displaced persons in Ingushetia and Dagestan and to the people of Chechnya, particularly children.
Psycho-social programmes targeting some 10 000 young people will be set up. To help improve living conditions, ECHO will continue to provide aid for water, sanitation equipment, hygiene and shelter in Grozny and Ingushetia. The distribution of seeds and tools to 30 000 households in Chechnya and Ingushetia should assist income-generating activities and a return to some self-sufficiency. Special measures will be taken to improve the safety of relief workers.
The proper implementation and monitoring of these programmes will depend on the security situation and conditions for access to Chechnya which remain unpredictable and far from satisfactory.
This year alone ECHO has contributed a total of €26 million to the people of Chechnya. Since the start of the current crisis in 1999, the total aid for the whole of the northern Caucasus amounts to more than €120 million, making the European Union the leading donor to the region.