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UNHCR faces funding crisis in the Caucasus

Press Releases, 7 June 1996

A funding crisis threatens to disrupt important UNHCR programmes for over 1.1 million refugees and displaced people in Georgia and Azerbaijan, and 92,000 people displaced people from Chechnya in the Russian Federation, the agency warned Friday.

Director for Europe John Horekens said that UNHCR now has financial reserves of less than $10,000 for its programmes in Azerbaijan, and less than $20,000 for programmes in Georgia.

The ongoing UNHCR emergency operation for people displaced from Chechnya, and who have fled to the Russian republics of Ingushetia, Daghestan and North Ossetia, has uncommitted reserves of only $252,000 enough, Horekens said, to cover operations through July.

"Unless significant contributions are made in support of these activities, UNHCR will very soon be unable to commit any further funds," Horekens said. "The implications for the people who rely on our aid could be enormous. We once again urgently request governments to dig into their pockets."

Azerbaijan shelters some 230,000 refugees and over 660,000 internally displaced persons, most of them forced to flee as a result of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. There are 280,000 internally displaced people in Georgia, who were forced to flee homes in the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia because of conflicts there. UNHCR has requested US$16 million to cover 1996 operations in both countries. To date it has received US$5.3 million.

"UNHCR's programmes in the southern Caucasus focus on helping these often desperately poor people to become more self-reliant," Horekens said. "We're running projects to improve the shelter of the most vulnerable displaced families, and to increase their capacity to earn a living, by providing seeds and tools and the means to create small businesses. The main impact of these projects is in the Spring. If we don't have the money now, that could mean a year's delay. There's a significant political momentum towards finding solutions to the problems in the region, but it has to be accompanied by concrete humanitarian assistance or the whole process could be hurt. Failure to help will mean more uncertainty and despair, and much less hope for the whole area."

UNHCR also faces acute funding difficulties for its programme to help some 92,000 people who have fled the ongoing crisis in Chechnya (Russian Federation) for refuge in the Russian republics of Daghestan, Ingushetia and North Ossetia. An appeal for US$6.5 million to cover UNHCR's 1996 programmes has so far yielded only US$1.5 million, Horekens said.

"At this point we can no longer enter into agreements with implementing partners to provide services, because we simply do not have the funds to cover them," Horekens added. "Our need is urgent. We could see non-governmental organizations leaving this zone, because of the security difficulties and because we can't promise them resources. That would be disastrous. We badly need non-governmental organizations to be present on the ground."

UNHCR's aid to displaced families from Chechnya includes basic household equipment, plastic sheeting for shelter, medical kits, clothing, bedding, hygiene kits and other domestic items. Prefabricated buildings are under construction for shelter, and water, sanitation and heating projects are being implemented. Community services have been provided to the displaced persons, and schools set up. UNHCR has also supplied equipment and logistical assistance to local migration services.

On 30-31 May, UNHCR and other agencies jointly organized a conference on displacement and migration in the Commonwealth of Independent States. There, participants agreed to boost the capacity of CIS countries to manage movements of people more effectively, and with less suffering. "UNHCR's programmes in Azerbaijan, Georgia and the region around Chechnya fall squarely within the orientations that were agreed upon at that conference," said Horekens.

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Ingushetia: Internally Displaced Chechens

When fighting broke out between government troops and rebel forces in Chechnya in 1999, over 200,000 people fled the republic, most of them to the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia. Today, tens of thousands of Chechens remain displaced in Ingushetia, unwilling to go home because of continuing security concerns.

As of early December 2003, some 62,000 displaced Chechens were living in temporary settlements or in private accommodation. Those living in settlements face constant threats of eviction, often by owners who wish to use their buildings again.

Another 7,900 displaced Chechens live in tents in three remaining camps – Satsita, Sputnik, and Bart.

The authorities have repeatedly called for the closure of tent camps and the return of the displaced people to Chechnya. Three camps have been closed in the past year – Iman camp at Aki Yurt, "Bella" or B camp, and "Alina" or A camp. Chechens from the latter two camps who did not wish to go home were allowed to move to Satsita camp or other existing temporary settlements in Ingushetia.

Ingushetia: Internally Displaced Chechens

Displacement in Georgia

Tens of thousands of civilians are living in precarious conditions, having been driven from their homes by the crisis in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia.

On the morning of August 12, the first UNHCR-chartered plane carrying emergency aid arrived in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the first UN assistance to arrive in the country since fighting broke out the previous week. The airlift brought in 34 tonnes of tents, jerry cans, blankets and kitchen sets from UNHCR's central emergency stockpile in Dubai. Items were then loaded onto trucks at the Tbilisi airport for transport and distribution.

A second UNHCR flight landed in Tbilisi on August 14, with a third one expected to arrive the following day. In addition, two UNHCR aid flights are scheduled to leave for Vladikavkaz in the Russian Federation the following week with mattresses, water tanks and other supplies for displaced South Ossetians.

Working with local partners, UNHCR is now providing assistance to the most vulnerable and needy. These include many young children and family members separated from one another. The situation is evolving rapidly and the refugee agency is monitoring the needs of the newly displaced population, which numbered some 115,000 on August 14.

Posted on 15 August 2008

Displacement in Georgia

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