Chechens still fleeing violence

Nazran, January 16, 2002 - Today the international medical relief organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) calls upon High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Ruud Lubbers, to ensure that the poor living conditions of the displaced Chechens in Ingushetia will be improved. The plight of the displaced population has lost the attention of the international community. Thousands of displaced Chechens live under unacceptable conditions in Ingushetia and many more Chechens arrive on a daily basis. MSF raises its concerns in a letter to Mr. Ruud Lubbers, which today will be presented when he visits Ingushetia. MSF is very concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation of an estimated 180,000 displaced Chechens who face their third winter in Ingushetia. The majority of the Chechens have found a place to stay with Ingush families. Over 60.000 people live in tents, empty school buildings and factory buildings. Shelter and sanitation facilities are the most pressing needs. Tents are worn out and leaking; they need to be urgently replaced. The sanitation facilities are far below acceptable standards, with examples of one latrine for 100 people or more. MSF is also worried about the unclear registration system of newly arrived displaced persons. With different organisations using different systems a considerable number of people is not registered at all. Moreover, the Russian authorities stopped the registration of newly arrived persons one year ago in February 2001. The federal authorities consider the people who arrived over the last year 'economic migrants' and do not register them. Without registration, people have no legitimate status, are not entitled to benefits, face difficulties finding work and often are not able to get the humanitarian assistance they need. MSF asks UNHCR to ensure that the official registration of displaced Chechens will be resumed. Meanwhile the violence in Chechnya continues. The civilian population remains under threat and many families have lost their homes and households. MSF provides health care and supports health facilities in Ingushetia, Dagestan and Chechnya. In Ingushetia MSF has been providing humanitarian assistance to the displaced Chechens since 1999, when the majority of displaced arrived. For security reasons MSF can only give limited assistance to health facilities in Chechnya, but within these limitations MSF is able to provide some support to health facilities and to distribute drugs and medical supplies.