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Help for Beslan

MARGARITA PLOTNIKOVA
©INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION

The tragedy in Beslan has shaken the entire world. Some 338 people were killed during the siege; 90 people have not been identified and 75 may still be unaccounted for. Local doctors say that some 12,000 people, direct or indirect victims of the tragedy, will need psychological support in future. Since the beginning of the crisis on 1 September, the ICRC has been in touch with the authorities concerned and has brought in medical assistance to the hospitals in North Ossetia. This assistance continued in the following days and allowed the local medical staff to cope with the big influx of wounded.

As the full scale of the tragedy unfolded, the ICRC delivered medical stocks including anaesthetics, antibiotics, syringes, infusions, sterile bandages, surgical material and bed linen to the hospitals in Vladikavkaz where the majority of the victims were evacuated. “We have done our best to meet the specific needs reported to us by the doctors,” said Georg Cunz, head of the ICRC mission in the northern Caucasus. “Of course, we stand ready to provide additional medical and other aid if new needs should arise. This includes direct assistance for the families of victims.”

Based on the requests of the doctors and the analysis of the situation, the ICRC also delivered lung-ventilation machines, electric suction machines, laryngoscopes and a range of other items including a large surgical set. “This equipment is typically used in emergency and post-emergency medicine,” said Dr Cleto Chashi, the ICRC’s medical coordinator in the northern Caucasus. “For example, it will enable staff to monitor the patients’ status, to help them breathe and to inject medication.” Once the current emergency is over, the equipment will be used to monitor patients with complications arising from pneumonia or tuberculosis, or during routine operations.

The emergency needs have been basically covered but as time passes, long-term needs such as rehabilitation and psychological support will have to be addressed. Psychological support is an essential part of the international appeal launched by the Russian Red Cross and the International Federation to which the response has been substantial. Psychologists of the Russian Red Cross are working in close cooperation with specialists from the Serbsky Centre for Judicial and Social Psychology, the leading institute in the country that has a history of dealing with the effects of hostage taking in emergency situations, such as in the Moscow theatre in 2002.

International assistance to the victims in Beslan has been substantial. The aid arrived from various National Societies, including Danish, German, Norwegian Red Cross Societies and many others. Medical assistance was distributed to the hospitals in Vladikavkaz and Beslan, toys and other items have been distributed individually among the families in Beslan. The deputy head of the North Ossetian branch of the Russian Red Cross says: “We can’t hold back tears when visiting a family where four children were killed. We cry together with the relatives. They receive us very warmly, despite the unbelievable sorrow...” Overall, the Russian Red Cross gathered over US$ 3 million and has set up a public council to decide on the distribution of these funds.

“The tragedy in Beslan is another terrible chapter in the region where we have been working for over ten years helping to alleviate the suffering of civilian population affected by the conflicts,” says Marco Altherr, ICRC head of delegation in Russia. “We believe there are still needs for the ICRC to address in the northern Caucasus, and we plan to continue our activities to help the most vulnerable ones.”

MARGARITA PLOTNIKOVA
©INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION

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