Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 4

The January 15 issue of the weekly Novaya gazeta featured a piece by a well-known journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, devoted to the recent kidnapping in Chechnya of American citizen Kenneth Gluck, head of the North Caucasus mission of Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF-Doctors without Borders). Villages like Starye Atagi, where Gluck was kidnapped, she writes, “are in essence huge refugee enclaves located in the foothills of the mountains…. In these enclaves, there is no work, no food and no medicine. Tuberculosis rages, while famine and unsanitary conditions rule. People survive exclusively due to groceries and medicines which are brought in from outside.”

“Who,” Politkovskaya asks, “brings them in? Over the past half a year, there has been no humanitarian assistance from the [Russian] state, of which Chechnya is a part… Only international missions based in neighboring Ingushetia feed and medically care for the refugees.” After visiting Starye Atagi and nearby villages, Politkovskaya summed up her impressions thus: “There wander about hungry, exhausted children… Everywhere there is the same heartrending cough… Anemic women. Apathetic men. Children wearing summer clothing and summer shoes in the winter.” It was, she underscores, “Doctors without Borders” under the leadership of Kenneth Gluck which represented “the sole donors and sponsors” of the Ninth City Hospital in Grozny and of the First Grozny Maternity Hospital, the only one functioning in the city. “If we [Russians] are honest,” Politkovskaya remarks, “then we have to admit that all the children saved in the Ninth Hospital are the ‘children’ of Doctors without Borders.”

In similar fashion, Svetlana Khunbaeva, chief doctor of the maternity hospital mentioned by Politkovskaya, stated in an interview with Kommersant daily, “The central maternity hospital in Grozny renewed its work this past summer only because the mission of ‘Doctors without Borders,’ headed by Kenneth Gluck, provided the necessary equipment and medicines.” “What we receive from the [Russian] Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Emergency Situations,” Khunbaeva commented, “is a meager part of what is necessary. We survive thanks to the supplies of ‘Doctors without Borders.'” But now, following Gluck’s abduction, food and equipment intended for Chechnya will apparently no longer be sent there but will instead be directed to Ingushetia (Kommersant daily, January 12).