|"Action by Churches Together" mission: North Caucasus (autumn 2004 - winter 2005)|
Aid to victims of the terrorist action in Beslan
The special program of rehabilitation aid to victims of the act of terrorism in Beslan will be completed in March 2005. This program has been organized under the aegis of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations and with support from the Action by Churches Together international Christian organization and has been carried out by the Round Table for Religious Education and Diakonia.
The program was prepared and implemented in the period from September 2004 to February 2005 with the help of the North Ossetian Ministries for Health, Education and Emergencies, as well as local hospitals, schools, special experts and Russian Orthodox Church parishes.
It began with a detailed examination of the aid already being given to the victims of the tragedy in Beslan and identification of the parameters and nature of possible aid. The need for such work was dictated by the desire both to give victims as useful and needful aid as possible and to avoid any duplication of the effort made by other organizations as victims and various institutions in the republic had already received some funds, foodstuffs, clothes, equipment, medicines and many other things both from Russia and other countries.
The negotiations held and the situation examined in Beslan showed that victims received and would continue receiving material and financial aid from the federal and local authorities and from various public organizations and individuals. Yet one of their most acute needs appeared to lie in long-term medical and psychological rehabilitation.
As for the first medical aid, the hospitals in North Ossetia had been already supplied with all the necessary equipment, medicines and disposables for such aid by mid-September 2004. A considerable part of this equipment and items had been brought in as humanitarian aid from various regions in Russia and from other countries. The work of doctors was complicated by the fact that some of this equipment and medicines had no description in Russian or no certification in Russia and could not be used in their medical practice. As some of the equipment and medicines came in too large quantities or were simply useless they had to be shelved without being utilized. Moreover, the most serious patients had to be sent to clinics in other regions in Russia.
At the same time, the hospitals were lacking certain equipment and everyday hospital essentials they needed for the rehabilitation and further treatment of victims, while the wounds received by former hostages and the stress they experienced will have to be attended to and accompanied by medics for many months and years to come. According to North Ossetian specialists, almost all the hostages will become patients in local medical institutions and will have to undergo long treatments for various diseases provoked by wounds and chronic diseases which tend to develop under stress. Doctors in North Ossetia feared that after the first actions of aid to the victims the public would forget about them and the responsibility for their further treatment and rehabilitation would come upon the local healthcare bodies alone, which will not be able to give qualified aid without necessary equipment.
Therefore, the greatest need that North Ossetian hospitals felt after admitting victims of the terrorist action was not the first aid equipment, but equipment for medical rehabilitation as well as such hospital essentials as beds, couches, chairs, blankets, bed linen, refrigerators, etc.
By mid-September 2004, the crucial need for a systematic psychological rehabilitation of victims as well as their families and friends had become manifest. At that time, the victims of the tragedy and their families had almost no opportunity for getting professional psychological aid they needed so much. There was only one psychological counselling room in which patients were received by 1 to 4 psychologists from several psychological scientific centers in Russia. It was set up by the Moscow-based Serbsky State Scientific Center of Social and Forensic Psychiatry at the out-patients' clinic under the Central Clinic in Beslan.
There was nobody else to give professional psychological aid on a regular basis as local doctors and psychologists did not have the necessary experience and equipment, while specialists from other regions in Russia and other countries, who came immediately after the tragedy, virtually ended their work in October. Moreover, in the opinion of victims, local doctors and teachers, the work of these specialists who came to the region on a short-term mission was not always effective. Many of them failed to win patients' confidence due to lack of knowledge of local customs, while some of them could not speak plain Russian altogether.
Some of the former hostages and their relatives were sent for rehabilitation to health centers, health resorts and rest homes in other regions in Russia and to other countries, but these trips, a few weeks or months long, were too short to provide long-term rehabilitation aid.
The hostages and their families suffered a sever shock. Most of them are still unable to come to their senses and need to be accompanied medically and psychologically on a regular basis. Clearly, this should be long-term aid because psychological problems and traumas last a long time. Stress, fear and negative emotions - this is the background against which thousands of people live in Beslan. More specifically, most of nearly 700 schoolchildren who were taken hostage do not want to continue going to school, and only 250 of them have resumed studying. In general, the psychological condition of the schoolchildren in Beslan is very serious - they have taken the tragedy very hard. Their condition is aggravated by the fact that Beslan is a very small town, and almost all its people are relatives, friends or neighbours of the victims.
According to local specialists, professional psychological rehabilitation aid should be given first of all to children as the most vulnerable category of the victims. The best place for it is school. Every school in Beslan was supposed to have a psychologist on the staff and a psychological counselling room since 2003 as was decreed by the Ministry of Education for every school in Russia. In reality however, these rooms did not work in Beslan as the local schools had no funds to acquire the necessary furniture, equipment and methodological aids. At the same time, it was clear that the services of such rooms were needed not only by former hostages who were to continue studying in other schools in Beslan, but also almost all schoolchildren in these schools.
Therefore, a thorough examination of the situation showed that to give effective long-term rehabilitation aid to victims of the terrorist action the program had to focus on giving aid to the following:
The parameters and nature of the aid were negotiated with beneficiaries, as well as North Ossetian Ministries of Healthcare, Education and Emergencies. The program provided for giving the aid in three lines.
In the first line, the required medical equipment and hospital essentials were given to five North Ossetian hospitals involved most of all in the medical and rehabilitation aid to victims. The only hospital in Beslan and four clinics in Vladikavkaz received medical equipment and hospital essentials used for the treatment and rehabilitation of victims. All the equipment provided by the project conforms to the requests and expectations of the beneficiaries. It is high-technology equipment much in demand by specialists. It has the necessary certificates, directions for use and on-line technical and consultative support for doctors using it.
In the second line, the required equipment, furniture and educational aids and textbooks were given to nine school psychological support rooms in Beslan. The rooms are arranged in six general education schools, a boarding school, a school kindergarten and a psychological service of the local education administration in Beslan. These rooms either did not work before the project started or worked inefficiently for the lack of necessary equipment, furniture and technique aids. The choice of all things provided by the project, including equipment, game and rehabilitation articles, armchairs, couches, audio and video equipment, was made on the basis of recommendations by the Russian Ministry of Education.
In the third line, methodological support and aids were given to teachers, psychologists and doctors in Beslan. An intensive training seminar on rehabilitation of children in school was conducted in Beslan. It was attended by 24 people, including school psychologists, mentor teachers and school administrators. Among the participants were also school psychologists working in school psychological support rooms arranged under this program. The program of the seminar included lectures on various related issues, training for practical skills, an analysis of specific cases from practice and individual consultations for participants. The plan, methods and coordinators of the seminar were negotiated with the North Ossetian Ministry of Education which assigned facilities for the seminar. Among the participants in the seminar were also representatives of the DECR MP and the dean of the Russian Orthodox Church parishes in North Ossetia.
Support was also given to the work the Serbsky State Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry carried out in Beslan for the psychological rehabilitation of victims and raising the level of North Ossetian specialists. Its staff are engaged in methodological and scientific assistance to North Ossetian specialists on a regular basis and reception of former hostages and their families.
A special mention should be made of the designated and long-term character of this rehabilitation aid program. The hospitals and school psychological support rooms which received the necessary equipment, as well as the teachers, doctors and psychologists who have raised their professional level will work and give professional aid to those who need it even after this program is completed. This aid also represents a contribution to the development of local infrastructure of healthcare and public education.
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