Dispatches from Chechnya
No. 5, December 1, 2000


GROZNY, December 1, 2000 -- The humanitarian situation in the Chechen Republic continues to be very complicated.  Despite the fact that the number of organizations providing aid to Chechen refugees has lately been increasing, most of these organizations work only in Ingushetia and are not able to influence the situation in Chechnya.  The people who need humanitarian assistance the most are those who still live within the war zone.  Not only are these people unable to obtain the basic necessities of life, they have also been deprived of fundamental human rights, such as freedom of movement.

The effectiveness of humanitarian organizations working in Ingushetia has been declining.  This decline can be explained in large part by the fact that these organizations are developing excessive bureaucracies, which not only eat up a significant portion of the humanitarian budget, but also provide obstacles to refugees seeking assistance.  For example, when the Danish Council on Refugees first started working in Ingushetia, it was very successful.  The Council set up a substantial number of distribution centers, effectively notified people at what times the distribution centers would be working, and even began compiling lists of refugees (Council workers would go to refugee camps and make lists of names).  But lately it has become very difficult not only to receive aid from the Danish Council on Refugees, but even to get on the list of those eligible for aid.

In order to be registered, a refugee must spend several days standing in line, and has to show up at 6 or 7 am (and this process has to be repeated at least two or three times), while the bureaucrats whose job it is to register refugees begin their work no earlier than 10:00 am.  Additionally, if a refugee, for one reason or another, misses one or two distribution days, he is automatically taken off the list, and re-registering can take weeks or even months.

In order to receive aid, it is also necessary to spend a minimum of two days in line, or arrive at 6 or 7 in the morning, due to the fact that the Danish Council has closed a number of its distribution centers.  Those centers that are still open are located in places that are very difficult for the majority of refugees to get to.

In order to get a card that allows one to receive aid from the International Committee of the Red Cross, it is necessary to pay at least 100 rubles to the local migration service officials.  In other instances the necessary forms are simply not available.

The activities of other humanitarian organizations are conducted on an even smaller scale, and in the majority of cases are so low-profile that they are almost secret.

It is important to consider that the Danish Council on Refugees and the Red Cross are among those organizations that do provide a significant amount of assistance to the suffering population of Chechnya.  If such organizations were able to work more efficiently, their aid would reach a larger percentage of refugees.
 More cooperation between all the organizations working in Chechnya and Ingushetia, and increased transparency in the work of these organiztions, could help increase their efficiency.  In Nazran, for example, representatives of all local humanitarian organizations meet weekly, but this meeting is a formality.

Most humanitarian organizations in Chechnya and Ingushetia are very secretive about their activities.  Not only do they not provide information to the media or to the local population, they also avoid giving information to the government.  No one knows how many people have sought humanitarian assistance or how many people are receiving it.  The numbers provided by various organizations very often do not reflect reality.

Therefore, despite the fact that the official amount of humanitarian aid being given has increased, the provision of aid is organized very poorly.  This makes humanitarian organizations very inefficient and makes assistance inaccessible to the majority of the Chechen population.

In order to increase the effectiveness of humanitarian organizations in Chechnya and Ingushetia, we believe that the following steps are necessary:

We also believe that as soon as spring arrives it will be necessary to move the activities of more humanitarian organizations from Ingushetia into the Chechen Republic.