The Long Hard Struggle to Rebuild Chechnya

Program Briefing

In the wake of devastating conflicts, Chechnya has launched a reconstruction program that is convincing displaced Chechens, who found shelter in the neighboring republic of Ingushetia, to resettle in their own country.

Returnees welcome Chechnya’s new, more stable but fragile context, but often they find their old livelihoods can’t be resumed. In this context, Action Against Hunger, the non-governmental, non-profit, non-religious humanitarian organization, is adjusting aid programs it initiated in 1995. We have two objectives: One is to move from the provision of emergency food aid to the introduction of income-generating activities that families affected by the war can use to feed themselves; the second is to improve access to hygienic sanitation.

Regaining food autonomy via income-generating activities

Because the political situation in Chechnya no longer requires an emergency response, Action Against Hunger made a final distribution of emergency rations to 2,000 people at the end of May.

However, access to food still remains problematic for the most vulnerable. Our current priority therefore is to develop programs that help families establish small-scale businesses to regain sustainable employment and autonomy. After evaluating motivation, professional skills, and the precariousness of living conditions, Action Against Hunger identifies beneficiary families who have been encouraged to define a personal project, such as opening a hair salon, a bakery, a garage, or a tailoring business. Once the project is deemed viable, Action Against Hunger’s teams provide the families with the materials necessary to start their small enterprise, both tools and capital. The teams also provide continuous management guidance and market research training. The results have been extremely encouraging with families quickly gaining the ability to generate steady incomes.

This success has allowed these families to regain their dignity and to start paying off debt that they have often incurred.

In mountainous and isolated areas in southern Chechnya, the population traditionally consists of cattle farmers and beekeepers, the majority of whom lost their animals during the war. In addition to loss of their stocks, these farmers are isolated, complicating their ability to restore their businesses in order to become autonomous and self sufficient again. Action Against Hunger is helping these beneficiaries rebuild their lives. Approximately 200 households have received dairy cows, sheep, chickens, or hives of bees. Families can sell the offspring of livestock or or their products and also diversify their own diets by consuming milk, cheese, beef, eggs, and honey while, little by little, they reconstitute their livestock.

Improving access to water and hygiene standards in schools, hospitals, and uchastocks

Although Chechnya is showing signs of recovery, lodging and public services aren’t usually a priority in the reconstruction process. For example, certain hospitals suffered considerable destruction but continue to receive patients without having been renovated. Because of that, appropriate cleanliness isn’t guaranteed to assure an adequate standard of care for patients. This year, Action Against Hunger brought aid to eight health structures, including the reconstruction of water supply and heating systems as well as latrines, the organization of educational sessions focusing on personal health and hygiene, and the distribution of material to disinfect and clean buildings.

Similarly, on the outskirts of Grozny, schools that were destroyed during the war are still attended by hundreds of pupils even though they lack basic access to water or latrines. Action Against Hunger teams are also reconstructing sanitary installations, which will be ready for the next academic year. The teams also conducted hygiene education throughout the past school year and distributed hygienic products such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and toothbrushes to 1,500 children.

Finally, Action Against Hunger is intervening in the uchastocks, lawless residence zones where oil factory workers lived before the war. These factories closed, and newly landless Chechen families moved onto their properties. Without the support of an urban policy that would have foreseen the need for access to public services, these habitants are fighting to cover their primary needs. They live in temporary and often unsanitary shelters, have little access to clean water, to health care, or to education. These vulnerable populations are suffering from major health problems due in part to bad hygiene or to contaminated water supplies In response, Action Against Hunger’s teams have constructed sanitary infrastructures such as public latrines or communal bathhouses. At the same time, the teams are educating families in good health and hygiene practices, while also distributing materials to store water delivered by cistern trucks along with products that are essential for hygiene and household maintenance.