Chechnya is one of the most underdeveloped regions in Russia, ranking 79 out of 80 in the human development index of Russian regions (a listing that takes into account life expectancy, education and income) in 2010.
Within Chechnya lies Karpinka, a small settlement in the South East of Grozny. Life here is hard. Since the conflict, unemployment has dramatically increased. Most men make a living by dismantling metal parts at petrochemical factories and selling them, but this exposes them to high levels of radiation and increases their risk of getting radiation poisoning.
During the war, Petimat and her family fled to Ingushetia, a republic neighbouring Chechnya. Despite fleeing for their lives, tragically, they were still not able to avoid death; Petimat’s husband was diagnosed with cancer and died in 1999. Her world was thrown upside down, but with three sons to look after who were just eight, five and one years old at the time, she had to find the strength to carry on.
Their lives are not easy. Petimat’s minimal salary as a canteen worker is not enough to support them all, and they rely on the allowance that her youngest son receives as a result of losing the family breadwinner. This is just 5,700 rubles per month (about 58 GBP) and will stop when he turns 18 next year. Her sons have high ambitions: her eldest is studying to become a lawyer, her middle child is studying sports and the youngest is at a programming college. They require smart clothes, books and stationary – all of which Petimat struggles to buy.
“I’ve realised how helpless I am,” says Petimat, “but I should go on as I have three sons who need my support.”
Next week, we’ll be sharing what project we are implementing in Karpinka and how it will help families like Petimat’s.
Read more of our health case studies.