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"Action by Churches Together" mission:  North Caucasus (winter - spring 2003)

Aid to victims of floods in North Caucasus

In summer 2002, North Caucasus was hit by the strongest flood for the last 150 years. Dozens of thousands of people in nine republics of North Caucasus lost their houses, farms and livelihood. We informed our readers earlier about the consequences of the flood, the progress of work to remove the debris and the aid given to victims. As we wrote, under a joint program of the international Action by Churches Together (ACT) and the Russian Orthodox Church, aid was given to the poorest victims: in the period from July to November 2002, a project was carried out to distribute 40.301 standard packages of foodstuffs and hygienic essentials.

At present another project is underway for the reconstruction of houses. Aid is being given in repairing 372 damaged houses belonging to the most needy victims, who are 1.489 in total. The effort covers the most affected areas. These are the Predgorny District in the Stavropol Region, the town of Mozdok in the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, and the Nadterechny District of the Chechen Republic. In the period from December 2002 to January 2003, the proposed houses were inspected, the defects were identified and listed, and a list of the necessary building materials was compiled. The list of beneficiaries was drafted by the project staff with the help of the local authorities, social services, and ROC parishes and approved by the regional authorities.


The beneficiaries are the most needy victims of the flood who have no means of their own and who did not receive an adequate governmental or other aid for the repair of at least some part of their house. At the moment of the aid distribution, these people stayed in their half-ruined and dampened houses, barns, tents, and in temporary asylums in schools, hospitals, etc.

The beneficiaries have a common status; they all are low-income people with income below the poverty line, which is 1.680 rubles (USD 54) in North Caucasus. The table below shows how aid is distributed according to social status. (Note: many beneficiaries can be put in several categories at the same time, but the table shows only one as categorized by the local social services).

The desperate state of these people is described in the real stories of several families.

Gvardeiskoye settlement in the Nadterechny District, Chechnya

House No. 40 in the Central Estate of the village. Living in it is a large and united Chechen 8-member family of the Inarkayevs. They have never been well off, but still managed to give shelter to two relatives whose house was destroyed in Grozny in 1999. The pension of the mother Zulai is their only regular income. Her two sons and three daughters keep going by occasional jobs or work in the vegetable garden.

During the flood in June 2002, the Terek River burst its banks and flooded the settlement; nobody had been warned to be prepared. Fortunately, no one of the Inarkayevs was washed away; the women managed to get out of the house and went to stay with their relatives at the nearby village. The men stayed behind at the attic to guard their property.

First the Inarkayevs thought that the water in their house was their only trouble. Only later they noticed that a landslide destroyed their vegetable garden and some of their farmstead. It turned out that the flood destroyed much of their property, domestic appliances and food reserves at the cellar. The house itself sank to one side but remained standing. There were cracks in the walls, the roof, ceiling and floors were damaged. The dampness in the house did not dry up during the summer, and new cracks appeared every month. Zulai's rheumatism went from bad to worse; she developed bronchopneumonia; her daughters suffered from continued colds and rheumatic aches.

The Inarkayevs appealed to the local authorities for help. The special commission for assessing the damage recognized them as victims and promised to include them in the list of those to receive assistance for house repairs and money compensation. However, they have never received any help; the federal budget gave money only to those whose houses were completely destroyed.

Town of Mozodk, Republic of Northern Ossetia-Alania

Mozdok became one of the epicenters of the flood. Among those who did not receive adequate help from the authorities and had to drag out a miserable existence in their damaged houses was Anna Smekalina, who lived together the her son and his two children in October Street, 46 at Mozdok. She sent a letter to the project office. It's full text is given below, with some minor explanations in brackets. Her story is one of the dozens of thousands of stories which can be told by victims of the floods in North Caucasus.

"I am Anna Smekalina, born 1923, a pensioner and a veteran of the Great Patriotic War. During the hard years of war, I helped our soldiers in the battlefield: I carried wounded soldiers from the battlefield, dressed their wounds and brought them to the rear. Even in those years I did not experience the horror and fear I felt in June 2002 when our house was instantly filled with water almost up to the roof.

I and my son Anatoly Smekalin, born 1956, a disabled worker, and his children, son Sergey, born 1986, and daughter Inna, born 1982, escaped that terrible flood in the attic. We thank God that our clay-straw house lined with brick did not collapse, and we survived.

Later rescuers came to us (the Emergency Ministry rescuers evacuated people by boats and helicopters), and I and my grandchildren were brought over to the land. We went to my daughter for the night, though she herself lives in strained circumstances. We stayed with her for a month. All this time my son stayed on the roof of our house.

When the water subsided, a terrible picture opened before our eyes. Though the house remained standing, the walls between rooms, made of clay and straw bricks, disintegrated, the foundation and the outer walls cracked all over. The separated kitchen collapsed altogether. All the belongings, foodstuffs and clothes disappeared.

But we could not sit idle. We began as much as we could to restore our house, using the money the government gave us for the reconstruction of the damaged house (30.000 rubles - 970 USD) and the compensation for the lost property (4.000 rubles - 130 USD). With the same money, which is evidently not enough for everything, we bought winter clothes and some pieces of furniture and some food.

After all this suffering, I and my son felt a considerable deterioration of health. So we had to spend money on medicines and treatment.

We could not of course complete the repair of our house because we have no building materials, nor money to buy them.

We need help very much.

Respectfully, Anna Smekalina".

Predgorny Disctrict, Stavropol Region

Marina Pankratova lives in Prokhladnaya Street, 3, at the Yasnaya Plyana village. Her family is an example of three factors combined; each of them is enough for her to be put in the category of socially unprotected people:

  • Large family, as she has three sons, 5,12 and 16;
  • One-parent family, as she alone supports her children;
  • Low-income family, as her only small income comes from peddling. Besides, she receives an allowance for children in the amount of 70 rubles (2,25 USD) for each child a month.

For already seven years now the Pankratovs cannot finish the reconstruction of their house. In spring 2002, using their savings and the help of their relatives, they managed to do a redecoration. During their school holidays, the sons helped their mother to paint the walls, to hand wallpaper, to paint the floors and to white the ceiling. Marina says that each of the sons arranged a small corner for himself to be his own little master. They finished the repairs in June 2002.

The Pankratovs did not know about the coming flood till water suddenly flooded their house on June 21, 2002, and rose at half a meter above their floor. The entire redecoration work was destroyed. It was dangerous to remain in the house, but the Pankratovs had nowhere to go to. The gas-fire-heating boiler in the cellar was broken, and the wall began to crack and grow musty because of dampness. The furniture, clothes and the food reserve were damaged.

The Pankratovs spent all the aid given by the government, 5.000 rubles (160 USD), to repair the heating. There was no money left to repair the walls, ceilings and floors, and the family had to stay in their damaged house without any conveniences.

Lyubov Kishkina lives in Shkolnaya Street, 33-4, at the same village. She shares a one-storey house with three more families. The Kishkins family stands in the greatest need of all to restore their quarter damaged by the flood.

Lyubov is a widow who supports a son, who goes to high school, and a sick daughter, 26, and her 4-year-old granddaughter. Their only source of income is Lyubov's pension of 1.010 rubles (32 USD) and her salary of 580 (19 USD) rubles as a hospital orderly.

The summer 2002 flood became a great tragedy in Kishkins' life changing it drastically. In June 2002, a rain poured for 36 hour in a row, causing first a flood and then continued landslides. The foundation of their house was undermined, the walls and the roof cracked, the floor fell in and their scanty belongings were damaged. But the most terrible thing was to come later. Lyubov's husband together with their neighbours dug derivation canals day and night. The shock and the strain took their toll. He had a stroke and soon died.

The local administration repaired the porch washed away by the flood, otherwise it was impossible to take the coffin out. It was the only help the Kishkins received from the authorities. Because of a confusion in drafting lists of victims, the Kishkins family was not included. At present the authorities promise to give them help in spring 2003.

At present the Kishkins family has to live in damp rooms with cracked walls, broken floor and ceiling, without any money to repair them.

Of great help were food and hygienic packages distributed to these families and their neighbours by the ACT and the ROC in summer and autumn 2002. They were included in the ongoing program for house reconstruction. They have already received building materials and started repairing their houses. At the request of the project staff, the local administration has assigned construction workers to some of them.

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