Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 48

A document issued by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on December 12 paints a rather bleak picture of the general socioeconomic situation in the North Caucasus and particularly in Chechnya. “Current assessments of humanitarian vulnerability indicate that the overall humanitarian situation in Chechnya and its neighboring republics will remain serious throughout 2007, although gradual improvement is expected,” states the executive summary of the “Inter-Agency Transitional Work Plan for the North Caucasus 2007.”

The document continues: “There are at least 150,000 internally displaced persons in Chechnya (equivalent to 10-15 percent of the total population) and as many as 40,000 persons are also displaced in Ingushetia and Dagestan. They and the general population live in a post-conflict environment, in which the authorities recognize major weaknesses in the rule of law. Although there are signs of socioeconomic recovery, and the expectation is that this process will continue in 2007, the North Caucasus remains one of the poorest regions in the Russian Federation. Nearly 80 percent of the population in the North Caucasus region is estimated to live on an income below the national poverty level. Health indicators suggest deeper problems of poverty and inadequate social services. Maternal and infant mortality rates in Chechnya and Ingushetia, for example, are 24 times higher than the national average. The incidence of tuberculosis in Chechnya is ten times higher, and has increased nearly fivefold since 2001. Public infrastructure in Chechnya is mostly destroyed. For example, 40 percent of the residents of Grozny lack access to running water.”

OCHA called for a number of steps to be taken, including the provision of “basic food relief to the most vulnerable,” housing and employment for internally displaced persons and micro-credit and poverty-reduction assistance. It also noted that “because the North Caucasus remains a difficult operating environment in terms of the safety of humanitarian and development aid workers, the UN and most of its partners take exceptional security measures, including the use of armed guards and escorts.”