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MSF in Russian Federation, 2002
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"Total war" in Chechnya and ten years for homeless program
In the new political context of the "international war on terrorism", Russian operations in Chechnya are seen in a more tolerant light by sections of the international community. Three years of the Russian army's "anti-terrorist" operations have taken their toll: people remaining in this conflict-scarred republic continue to live with daily terror and violence. The last year has also failed to bring about better conditions for the hundreds of thousands of Chechens seeking refuge in neighboring republics. MSF continued to provide medical assistance to Chechens in the north Caucasus region and speak out against the inhumane living conditions of the displaced. Elsewhere in the Russian Federation, MSF projects have focused on tuberculosis (TB), the homeless and, until recently, HIV/AIDS.
MSF denounced the Russian and pro-Russian authorities' strategy of denying assistance to persons displaced by the war in Chechnya in a report published in January 2002. In May 2002, Ingush and Chechen authorities signed an accord providing for repatriation of Chechens sheltering in Ingushetia. MSF decried the ensuing campaign of forced repatriation and demanded that any return to Chechnya must be voluntary and undertaken with safe conditions at their destination – which do not exist today. Chechnya today can in no way be called secure.
Despite security constraints in many areas, MSF continues to give essential drugs and medical material to over 30 hospitals and clinics in Chechnya, 30 in Ingushetia and 10 in Dagestan, while MSF mobile clinics offer basic health care and gynecological consultations to displaced persons living in collective centers, camps and villages in these three republics. The maternity ward and operating theater of a hospital in Gudermes, Chechnya was refurbished. MSF also distributed items to needy families before winter, built small houses, and replaced 400 old and worn-out tents in Ingush camps. To address the huge psychological scars of war, MSF began mental health consultations in the Chechen district of Achkhoy-Martan and a program of psychosocial assistance in the Dagestan city of Khazaviurt.
TB program reaches civil society
MSF's program to combat TB has grown to cover the entire penal system of the Kemerovo region of Siberia. Over the past five years, MSF has detected, isolated and cured more than 5,000 incarcerated persons with active TB. The impact of MSF's intervention is now visible: the incidence incidence of TB in Kemerovo's prison system has been cut by more than 50%, and mortality has decreased sevenfold.
While waiting to start treating multi-drug resistant TB in 150 prisoners, MSF responded to the rising epidemic among local civilians by expanding its program to the civil sector. In November 2001, working with local authorities and other NGOs, MSF launched a pilot project in one urban and one rural district of Kemerovo. The project provides a practical model for the authorities to curb the epidemic among civilians.
Center for homeless becomes reality
A municipal center in Moscow for medical and social assistance to the homeless, which MSF campaigned for, should open its doors by the end of 2002. In the meantime, MSF continues to provide 500 medical and social consultations to homeless people each week. In May 2002, to mark the tenth anniversary of its program for the homeless, MSF organized a series of public events in Moscow to raise solidarity and political will to solve the problem.
AIDS work handed over
A new NGO, "AIDS Foundation East-West," created in December 2001 by a former MSF team, has taken on MSF's HIV/AIDS prevention work in the Russian Federation. MSF continued some financial support to the new organization.