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International Aid Rushed to Victims of Terrorist Massacre in Russia - 2004-09-07


U.N. and International Aid Agencies are rushing humanitarian assistance to help victims of the tragic hostage-taking in a school in Beslan in Russia's North Ossetia Republic. The World Health Organization, UNICEF, The International Committee of the Red Cross, and Swiss Development Cooperation recently carried out a joint assessment of needs.

The assessment team visited three hospitals in Vladikavkaz and one in Beslan. The U.N. Children's Fund has sent two trucks of medical supplies to hospitals in both areas to treat hundreds of children injured in the Beslan school terrorist siege. The trucks are expected to arrive Wednesday and Thursday.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has sent four surgical teams to help the injured. And, the World Health Organization is coordinating the distribution of medical supplies and monitoring blood donations to make sure they are safe.

Official figures put the number of dead at 336 and more than 400 injured. Many of the victims of the hostage-taking are children. About 200 people still are unaccounted.

A UNICEF Spokesman, Damien Personnaz, says the traumatic impact of this tragedy for the survivors and their families is enormous. He says his agency is putting into motion an Emergency Plan to provide psychological counseling and support for those in need.

"What we can provide is some technical expertise to try to get two or three psycho-social specialists from either Russia or from abroad to come to the local place, train some local counselors who can speak the language, who know the situation and who sometimes know the children so the children and their parents can trust them and afterwards to follow up for one or two years because it takes time," he said.

In the meantime, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched a preliminary appeal for nearly $700,000 to finance the costs of treatment for 2,000 people during the next 12 months.

A Red Cross Spokeswoman, Marie-Francoise Borel, says one part of the appeal will go to alleviate post-traumatic stress through consultations and stays at rehabilitation centers. She says the funds also will be used to cover physical rehabilitation for those injured in the violence.

"The physical rehabilitation obviously will have to be adjusted to each case," she said. "This may mean stays in hospitals. It may mean specialized equipment, etc. We also aim to strengthen some of the Russian Red Cross programs, for example, the visiting nurses program. Now the visiting nurses are professional nurses of the Russian Red Cross and they are specialized in home care. And, some of this care can be given probably in peoples' homes. They do not all have to be put in specialized centers."

Ms. Borel says the Russian Red Cross is asking for medical equipment such as respirators and blood transfusion material for hospitals in Beslan and Vladikavkaz. She says the agency also is collecting toys, bed linen and clothes.

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