Chechnya and its neighbour to the west, Ingushetia, are small and poor Muslim-majority regions in the North Caucasus of the Russian Federation. The Chechen wars of the 1990s, triggered by independence movements in Chechnya and the brutal response by Moscow left an estimated 300,000 dead and nearly three-quarters of a million displaced, the majority of them in Ingushetia and Dagestan.
International Medical Corps has been working in the North Caucasus since 2000, providing primary health care, mother child health and psychosocial and mental health support to a corner of Russia emerging from the ruins of wars that have left poverty levels and maternal and child mortality rates stubbornly high. We also support programmes to prevent gender-based violence and conduct public health outreach on tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, drug abuse and smoking prevention.
Primary Health Care
International Medical Corps provides primary health care services in the North Caucasus through a chain of about 70 mainly rural primary health care clinics and mobile medical teams (MMTs). In addition to basic health care, these facilities also offer psychosocial consultations, health education, family planning, growth monitoring for children under 5, and child vaccinations to fight tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.
As part of our holistic approach to health care, our programmes also include a livelihoods component featuring such tasks as bee-keeping and greenhouse construction in the belief that easing poverty and generating family income are key ingredients to improving health indicators. Since our arrival in 2000, we have renovated clinics, trained health care staff and provided medical equipment throughout the region.
Psychosocial Support & Mental Health Care
As in many other areas of the world, International Medical Corps conducts psychosocial support programmes in the North Caucasus through primary health care facilities. We train health care workers to recognise signs of emotional stress and mental illness, how to screen beneficiaries exhibiting those signs, as well as the basic steps for support and rehabilitation. In places such as the North Caucasus, where populations have been subjected to armed conflict or displacement, we consider this component of our health care as especially important.
Public Health Outreach
Russia has a worrisome, two-pronged problem with tuberculosis: a particularly lethal and drug-resistant strain of the disease together with one of the world’s highest infection rates. The chaotic, over-crowded, unhygienic living conditions that so often accompany the lives of civilians trapped in areas of armed conflict sharply increased the risk of tuberculosis. Because of all this, International Medical Corps places a high priority on its vaccination programmes, especially its efforts to prevent tuberculosis. We work with the ministries of health in the North Caucasus to build preventative capacity, including immunisation, as well as expanding capacity to care for those who have contracted the disease. We also conduct programmes to address other public health dangers including HIV/AIDS and malaria.