Overview of projects now suspended following kidnapping of MSF volunteer

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Immediately after the kidnapping of Arjan Erkel, MSF's Head of Mission for Dagestan, in the regional capital of Makhachkala on the evening of August 12, MSF suspended all its operations in the region. MSF had already stopped its programmes in Chechnya on July 29 in response to the kidnapping of Ms. Nina Davidovich, head of the Russian non-governmental organization Druzhba. However the MSF offices in Dagestan and in the rest of the northern Caucasus remain open.
Up to August 12, MSF had 21 expatriate staff (based in Moscow, Nazran, Makhachkala and Khazavjurt) and 170 locally employed staff and volunteers carrying out operations in the region. MSF ran multiple programmes aimed at improving the lives and health of civilians. These projects were suspended immediately after the kidnapping of MSF volunteer, Arjan Erkel on August 12. MSF deeply regrets having been forced to suspend its operations for security reasons. It is, however, also unacceptable that humanitarian relief workers whose sole aim it is to help populations in an impartial and indiscriminate way, are being kidnapped. MSF is very concerned about the fate of Arjan Erkel and demands his unconditional release. An overview of the conditions faced in the Northern Caucasus and the programmes currently suspended follows. Situation in the Caucasus The decade-long, post-Soviet depression as well as the conflict in Chechnya have badly affected the north Caucasus region. The medical and humanitarian situation of the population remains extremely dire. In Dagestan and Ingushetia, death rates and infant mortality rose rapidly as a result of environmental degradation, stress, malnutrition and a deteriorating health care system. Epidemic diseases such as diphteria, tuberculosis and cholera have reappeared, linked to declining housing and public health standards as well as high alcohol consumption. In addition, the conflict in neighbouring Chechnya has resulted in important displacements not only of Chechens, but also of Dagestani and Ingush people living close to the Chechen border. Two wars left Chechnya's social and economic infrastructure in complete disarray and have resulted in a growing flow of internally displaced people. More than 250,000 Chechens have fled to neighbouring republics, while another 100,000 are internally displaced. An estimated 150,000 Chechens are staying in Ingushetia, another 20,000 are estimated to live in Dagestan. The living conditions of the displaced are far from being ideal - be it in the tent-camps, makeshift homes or collective centres - and their medical needs are great. Profile of the MSF suspended operations Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan MSF distributed essential drugs and medical material to over 30 hospitals and clinics in Chechnya, 30 in Ingushetia, and 10 in Dagestan. MSF performed consultations through clinics and mobile clinics for the IDP's and the local population with a special attention for gynaecological and prenatal consultations. Ingushetia and Dagestan MSF ran pediatric consultations in Ingushetia and a psycho-social programme in Dagestan with the aim of integrating war-affected children into the school system in Khazaviurt. MSF carried out rehabilitation, water and sanitation activities in IDP communities and distributed hygiene kits and shelter. Chechnya MSF ran a mental health programme through counselling centres in Achkoy Martin town, Katyr-Yurt, Yande and Shami-Yurt. MSF renovated the maternity and surgery wards and the operating theatre of Gudermes Central Hospital. Ingushetia MSF started a tuberculosis programme in Sunzhenski district near the Chechen border with a 60-bed facility. Médecins Sans Frontières is an international medical humanitarian organization that provides medical and humanitarian assistance to victims of war, conflict and disasters. This assistance is given without political, religious or ethnic discrimination. MSF is independent and is mainly funded by public donations from the 18 countries where it has representative offices.