Civilians Continue to Flee Violence in Chechnya

MSF Calls Upon UNHCR to Improve Living Conditions of Displaced Chechens in Ingushetia

Nazran, January, 16, 2002 — The international medical relief organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today called upon Ruud Lubbers, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to ensure that living conditions improve for displaced Chechens in Ingushetia. 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 more Chechens arrive daily. MSF raised its concerns in a letter presented to Ruud Lubbers when he visited Ingushetia today.

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 are living with Ingush families, but over 60,000 people remain in tents, empty school buildings, and factory buildings. Shelter and sanitation facilities are the most pressing needs. Worn out and leaking tents urgently need to be replaced. Sanitation facilities are far below acceptable standards, with examples of one latrine serving 100 people or more.

MSF is also worried about the unclear registration system of newly arrived displaced persons. With different organizations using different systems, a considerable number of people are not registered at all. Moreover, the Russian authorities stopped the registration of new arrivals in February 2001. The federal authorities consider people who have arrived over the last year to be "economic migrants" and do not register them as displaced persons. Without registration, people have no legitimate status, are not entitled to benefits, face difficulties finding work, and are often unable to get the humanitarian assistance they need. MSF asks the UNHCR to ensure that the official registration of displaced Chechens be resumed.

Meanwhile, the violence in Chechnya continues. The civilian population remains under threat and many families have lost their homes. 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. 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.