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"Action by Churches Together" mission:  North Caucasus (2002)

Emergency aid to victims of floods in North Caucasus

Floods the strongest ever for the last 150 years hit nine republics and regions in North Caucasus this June and August: over 160 people died and 1500 disappeared; 11.274 houses were destroyed completely; 67.272 buildings were damaged. Thousands of people who lost their homes still remain in temporary asylums, such as public buildings, tents and other people's places. Regrettably, the aid received by the victims from the state and other sources could not help to solve even the most acute problems. Most of the victims have not been given the necessary help and stand in acute need of the essentials.

The authorities focused on restoring the ruined infrastructure of industry and public services, rather than giving priority to relief to the victims of the disaster. The families whose houses were completely destroyed were promised one-time cash indemnity of 50.000 rubles and those who lost their property were promised 20.000 rubles. Unfortunately, this money is not sufficient to buy all over again the essential household goods and clothes, for many victims have lost literally all. Few victims however have received this promised aid so far. The governmental program of building new houses in place of those destroyed and providing housing from the secondary market has not been financed adequately, nor does its pace and quality meet the interests of the victims. The only one-time subsidy received by almost all the victims everywhere are 3.000 rubles, including 2.000 rubles from the federal budget and 1.000 rubles from local budgets. Besides that, a small sum was given to pensioner victims by the Pension Fund of the Russian Federation.

Non-governmental organizations have also participated in giving aid to the victims of the floods. Political parties, Russia's constituent regions and non-commercial organizations sent humanitarian supplies to some affected regions. Aid in small quantities is also coming from international NGOs, mainly to the Stavropol Region. At the same time, one cannot help noting that in order to solve the most acute and urgent problems encountered by the victims they need aid much greater than given so far.

From July to September 2002, the Russia Round Table (RRT) implemented a project for emergency aid to victims of the disastrous floods in North Caucasus. The financial support was given by the Action by Churches Together (ACT), Geneva and international Christian agencies.

In carrying out the project ACT/ROC/RRT brought relief to the victims of the floods who stand in the greatest need, such as old and disabled people, pensioners and large families in the most affected areas, sometimes difficult of access.

Stavropol kray, Kochubeevski region, Barsukovskaya settlement.

Olga Mikhailovna Gorokhova lives with her family of six members. The oldest two members of the family are grandmothers aged 75 and 86, both disabled, veterans of the World War Two. Each of them receives a pension of 1,000 roubles ($ 32 USD) per month. Olga Mikhailovna is secretary in her village administration with a salary of 21 USD a month, her husband Aleksandr Ivanovich is driver in the local psychiatric clinic with 32 USD salary. Her son and daughter in law are employed, but with very low salaries as well.

Olga Mikhailovna's family lived in the Stavropol kray not their whole life. Until 1992 they lived in Troitskaya settlement of the Chechen Republic. They had a large house which they built with their own hands. They were forced to leave Chechnya due to persecution of Russian-speaking citizens and the highly criminal situation: their neighbors were killed by the bandits, when they refused to sell their house for a ridiculous amount. Threatening to kill her, the bandits forced Olga Mikhailovna to sell her house for $260 USD.

Olga Mikhailovna and her family did not want to leave the Caucasian land, which they considered their home and moved to Barsukovskaya settlement, located in the neighboring to Chechnya Stavropol kray. In 1993 the local authorities provided them with land where they started to build a house. For years the Gorokhov family have been building their new home, and last year finally managed to cover the saman (combination of straw and mud) walls with bricks. As most of the housing in the North Caucasus, the house was not insured.

On June 21, 2002, for the second time in her life Olga Mikhailovna lost her home, which took so much toil to build and all her property.

Now Olga Mikhailovna and her family rent a small space, which they pay for using the money they received as compensation from the authorities: single payment of 3,000 Rb. per person. From this money they pay the rent and have bought some cloths and useful appliances.

Republic of North Ossetia, Mozdok.

Sarrah Vladimirovna Zadorozhnaya turned 73 the current year. Her husband Ivan Kuzmich is 78, disabled (1 category) veteran of the World War Two. They have no children - nobody to support them.

All her life, since she was 16 years old, Sarrah Vladimirovna worked in a book store. Books were her love and most of her small salary she spent buying them.

During the flood she and her husband lost not only the house and property, but also her main treasure - books, which were destroyed by the water.

This disaster was a great stress for her. Her husband fell ill and is practically bed-ridden. In the few weeks following the flood they were almost starving, having no money to buy food. Now they live in a tiny rented space, which they pay for using the reimbursement they received for lost house and property.

Except for the aid from ACT/ROC/RRT Sarrah Vladimirovna and her neighbors received no other help from humanitarian agencies.

Sarrah Vladimirovna says that the authorities promised to build a new house on their land. But so far they built only the basement. She does not think that the house will be finished before winter. And if the house is built, neither she nor her husband will have the money to buy furniture, gas stove, refrigerator or any other useful home appliances. The reimbursement they received is obviously insufficient for these purposes. As she says, these funds are only enough to pay for the small rented room, buying a stove to keep warm in winter, other indispensable things, medicine and food.

Stavropol kray, Predgorny region, Suvorovskaya settlement.

Anna Vasilievna Novikova is 72 years old. She lives with her daughter Tatiana and her son-in-law. They have been building their house in the settlement for seven years and now they have to start anew.

Until 1994 Anna Vasilievna and her husband lived in Grozny, Chechen republic. For thirty seven years she worked there as a cook. But they had to leave Grozny, forced out by the unprecedented crime wave and ethnic cleansing of the non-Chechen nationalities. The bandits threatened to kill the family if she wouldn't sell to them her house. She had to sell the bandits her house of a $ 20,000 USD value for one meager thousand dollars. Her daughter left Chechnya even earlier.

They decided to start a new life not far from Chechnya - in the Suvorovskaya settlement of Stavropol kray, where their daughter lived. Anna Vasilievna led a very miserable existence with a pension of $30 USD per month (much below existence minimum). Poverty and stress from all they had to go through ruined the health of these elderly people. Anna Vasilievna's husband died in May, 2002.

According to Russian Orthodox tradition, Anna Vasilievna planned to invite her relatives and friends on the fortieth day after her husband's death, in order to pay homage to his memory. She prepared all the dishes for the dinner of mourning late on the eve of the commemoration day - June 20, and went to sleep very tired.

Around midnight the family was woken up by terrible barking of the dogs, which saved their lives. She looked out of the window and saw huge waves coming from the river Kuma, which was quite near her house. They all managed to get on the roof, where they spent the night in total darkness listening to the rush of water and praying that the flood would not reach the roof. By morning the water level decreased and they left the roof. They saw that theire house was half-buried in dirt, furniture became broken wood, other property was also lost and clothing was so sodden, that became totally useless.

The inspectors sent by the authorities stated that the house was not suitable for living and was not to be rebuilt, since it was located in the area, where further flooding was highly possible. She was informed that her family will be provided with funds to purchase second-hand housing.

Now, three months later she lives together with her daughter in a small damp little house, which they used as a barn before. Anna Vasilievna received a small single compensation from the authorities - 3,000 roubles ($95 USD), made up of 1,000 roubles from the local budget and 2,000 roubles from the federal. All the money had to be spent to adapt the barn for living. 2,000 roubles ($64 USD) was paid to her by the Pension Fund. Except for the aid from ACT/ROC/RRT she received no other help either from state or humanitarian agencies.

Olga Mikhailovna, Sarrah Vladimirovna, Anna Vasilievna and members of their families who suffered from floods received emergency aid from ACT/ROC/RRT - personal kits with food and means of hygiene.

In total, personal kits were received by 12.580 people in the Stavropol Region and the Republics of North Ossetia, Karachayevo-Cherkessia and Chechnya. Each kit contained the following:

  • Flour - 1 kg
  • Sugar - 1 kg
  • Buckwheat - 1 kg
  • Rice - 1 kg
  • Macaroni - 1 kg
  • Vegetable oil - 1 l
  • Caned milk - 1 p
  • Tea - 1 p
  • Shampoo - 1 p
  • Toilet paper - 2 rolls
  • Soap - 3 p
  • Washing powder - 1 p
  • Tooth brushes - 1 p
  • Tooth paste - 1 p

The aid given by ACT/ROC/RRT helps victims of the floods not only to solve their current material problems but also use the small financial means received from the state for preparations for the coming winter.

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