Bitter cold worsens plight of hungry Chechens

Published on 26 January 2006

WFP has appealed for urgently needed funds to resume food rations for thousands of people in Chechnya and Ingushetia now suffering from bitterly cold winter weather.

They desperately need our help, and they need it now more than ever

Chris Czerwinski, WFP’s Senior Emergency Coordinator in the Russian Federation.

Two months ago, a lack of funding forced WFP to stop assisting 150,000 people in the region -- some of the poorest and most vulnerable Chechens.

Pledges of further assistance have still not materialized; WFP has only received 12 percent of the US$22 million needed for its current, one-year operation.

Coldest winter in years

Russia is facing its coldest winter in over 25 years with dozens of deaths reported as a result of temperatures dropping to as low as minus 33 degrees centigrade in some parts of the country.

“This year the weather has been especially harsh," said Chris Czerwinski, WFP’s Senior Emergency Coordinator in the Russian Federation.

"It is terrible that impoverished people who have already faced years of suffering now face dangerously cold temperatures with no food,” he said.

“They desperately need our help, and they need it now more than ever,” stressed Czerwinski.

Basic necessities shortage

WFP’s current operation, scheduled to provide 36,368 metric tons of food commodities to a total of 250,000 people, is experiencing considerable shortages of basic necessities like wheat flour, oil, oats, millet and salt.

It is terrible that impoverished people who have already faced years of suffering now face dangerously cold temperatures with no food

Chris Czerwinski, WFP’s Senior Emergency Coordinator in the Russian Federation

The internal conflict in Chechnya, which started in September 1999, caused thousands of people to flee into neighbouring regions.

The continuing precarious security situation has prevented most of the refugees from returning home.

Dire conditions

Some 37,000 displaced Chechens have managed to make it back since 2004, but are now living in dire conditions and struggling to survive amidst the devastation.

WFP normally provides food for one third of the population of Chechnya, including 120,000 of the republic’s most vulnerable population, 26,500 in neighbouring Ingushetia and 131,000 primary and secondary school children in 409 educational institutions scattered across 14 Chechen districts.

Thanks to targeted funding of US$2.4 million from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department, WFP has been able to continue its Food-for-Education programme for 131,000 primary school children.

WFP activities

Within WFP’s emergency operation, food assistance is provided through various activities:

  • soup kitchens for orphans, the disabled and elderly in Grozny
  • food-for-work activities, in which participants help to rehabilitate infrastructure and are paid with food instead of cash
  • food-for-training, in which displaced Chechens are taught marketable skills in order to become self-reliant
  • food-for-education programmes for primary and secondary school children
  • food-for-health in clinics as an incentive for tuberculosis patients to undergo and complete treatment