Saturday, July 29, 2006

Mystery Illness in Chechnya

From Prague Watchdog, a new PW/RFE/RL broadcast on a Chechnya-related issue that doesn't go away (my tr.):

July 28th 2006

Following is a part of programme broadcast by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty's North Caucasus Service on June 27, 2006. For more programmes see (in Russian only).

Authorities to give disabled status to Shelkovsky district children affected by strange illness

Baudi Martanov, presenter: While the republic’s authorities are occupied with politics, declaring an amnesty and making statements about Putin’s third term, the residents of Chechnya are living with the problems that have appeared as a result of those politics and the war. One of the problems is a previously unknown illness which has affected children in Shelkovsky district. The local authorities now intend to give twenty children of the group disabled status. However, it’s not known what name will be given to the illness when the documents are drawn up. Suryana Martanova reports:

Suryana Martanova: Of the more than one hundred children who contracted the unknown illness in Shelkovsky district back in December, it’s these twenty who are in the most serious condition. Doctors still don’t know what illness will appear on the official papers when they’re ready.

Last year, schoolchildren in five villages of Shelkovsky district fell ill. They were mainly girls, and a few teachers. The first village where the illness appeared was the village of Starogladkovskaya, where several girls fainted at a school parade. After being brought round, they experienced nausea, weakness of the legs, panic attacks and crying for no reason. Similar cases were subsequently recorded in four other villages. And by mid-December some 80 people had been admitted to various hospitals in the republic suffering from the same symptoms.

The doctors thought it was food poisoning and began to treat the patients accordingly. However, by late December the number of people affected by the illness exceeded 100. The analyses sent to neighbouring republics gave no answer to the question of what the illness was. A team of doctors headed by Zurab Kikabidze, deputy director of the Serbsky psychiatric hospital, arrived from Moscow. They stated that no toxic substances were found, and that consequently the children’s illness originated in the stress caused by military operations. The doctors concluded that it had a psychological basis, and resembled asthma.

After this, the children were rushed to various sanatoria in the North Caucasus. An official statement appeared in the public media, saying that the children felt well. No further announcements about their condition were forthcoming. Zinaida Magomadova, deputy head of the Chechen Parliament’s Committee of Public Health has stated that the problem has not been solved, and is being hushed up by the authorities. According to her, the children are still suffering from the illness, pointing to the fact that it is unlikely to have a psychological basis, while the injections of dimedrol and other medications are of no benefit – some of the children still lack sensation in their legs.

Suryana Martanova, Radio Liberty, Chechnya.

The transcript, and its translation into Russian, were made jointly by Prague Watchdog and Radio Liberty. English translation by David McDuff.
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