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… this Child who died

by Dagman Murtazalie –
Asst. Program Dir., The Salvation Army, Nazran, Ingushetia

Compelled by God’s love and sincerely seeking to do God’s will, we will be consumed by a total commitment to mission.

It is often all too easy to read cold statistics from a fierce war, with daily casualties, and quickly skim past statements like: “Since the beginning of military operations in the Chechen Republic, 27 infant children of displaced Chechen residents have died in one small, remote Sleptsovaskaya village.”  Here is the story of one affected family, caught up in the cycle of malnutrition, hypothermia and lack of adequate medical aid.

Little Mohammed (Mom-medick) Khasukhanov was born in Grozny, Chechnya in the sacred month of Ramadan, 19 December 1998. He died one week short of his first birthday in the small remote Ingushet-ian village of Ordzhenikidge, also in the month of Ramadan. Mommedick was the 27th refugee infant to be buried in this tiny hilltop cemetery, near a small refugee tent village.

Mohammed’s mother Luisa fled with her children and several relatives from the Russian bombardment of Grozny. She left her husband and her mother behind in the basement of their small Grozney home. It took three attempts to reach Ingushetia after having to retreat twice when their refugee column came under fire. In an attempt to save the life of her small child and ailing elderly relatives, she faced a future of no food, inadequate weather protection, a lack of housing and stark poverty.

In early December the family was given space in one of the tents in the Severniy Camp, near the village of Ordzen-ikidge, about 50 miles west of Nazran. Twenty-six people, including 11 children, called unheated tent #18 of block 15 their home. Little blue-eyed, red haired, Mommedick was the youngest and dearest member of this crowded household. It was here that he took his first steps, while holding his grandfather’s hand. He was the joy of the tent and the inhabitants were secretly planning a birthday party for him. His sisters had taken up a collection to buy him a mandarin orange for his first birthday.

On the morning of December 10th Mommedick wouldn’t eat and suffered severe diarrhea. The baby was taken to a medical non-governmental organization (NGO) in another camp and was apologetically told that they had no medicine for infant gastrointestinal problems. They prescribed an antibiotic, though nobody knew where to obtain the medicine. As the child got worse, the parents brought him first to a clinic in the village and then later to a hospital in Nazran. 

Mommedick stopped breathing in the hospital and there were no supplies to resuscitate him. He died, a helpless victim of malnutrition, cold, a lack of medicine and a war that few people understood. He is buried in a small cemetery in a country where he was simply another IDP (internally displaced person).

Nobody knows if Mommedick’s father or grandmother survived the bombing of Grozny. Their sacrifice is lost on their small and innocent son.

This is but one small story of one refugee family. It is only a single statistic in a war with thousands of tragedies. It is representative of the innocent victims of war that The Salvation Army is seeking to help areas surrounding Chechnya. Our dedicated Salvation Army members from Rostov-on-Don (Russia) and Stavropal  (Russia), under the leadership of Regional Officer Captain Geoff Ryan, are seeking to address human suffering in the name of Jesus. They care not of the religious tradition of the starving and cold people, only that Christ’s love requires them to act.

A Salvation Army Assistance Center has been opened in Nazran. Medicine and food has been purchased, along with delivery vehicles, clothing and blankets. People are being helped.  They can do no less. International assistance is coordinated through The Army’s International Headquarters.

(As retold by Mike Olsen)

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