Tblisi, Georgia, August 9, 2008
—As the conflict in South Ossetia continues, Christian humanitarian agency World Vision began providing emergency assistance today to displaced civilians—most of them women and children—who managed to flee to Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi.
“Our staff have been hearing some truly heartbreaking stories—children who got out but their parents didn’t, for example,” said David Womble, World Vision’s national director in Georgia.
World Vision provided essential food including canned meat with vegetables, pasta, canned fish, vegetable oil and iodized salt, along with emergency items such as bars of soap, toilet paper, wet napkins, towels, bed sheets and large woolen blankets to some 170 people, mainly women and children, who escaped the violence in Gori and villages in South Ossetia.
The agency’s relief team met one 36-year-old mother who escaped the violence from Gori with her two children: “I have seen war, but what I saw today was terrible. I haven’t seen anything like that in my life. I was shocked. What are we going to do now?” she told World Vision staff.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has declared a 15-day “state of war” as clashes continue in South Ossetia and against military targets in Georgia.
World Vision is working with the United Nation’s World Food Program, and will continue to coordinate closely with the UN and other organizations as more people flee southward toward the Georgian capital.
“UN agencies and NGOs will meet tomorrow [Sunday] to discuss the increasing humanitarian crisis and how the humanitarian actors can coordinate an effective response,” explained Womble.
Other World Vision operations in Georgia, as well as its projects in Abkhazia, have been suspended for the time being, as all efforts are now focused on the humanitarian relief effort.
More than 2,000 displaced people are currently being served at eight Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) locations identified by Georgia’s Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation. Three are located in Tbilisi and five in other districts of the country. The number of displaced people is expected to rise as the violence continues.
ENDTo speak with World Vision staff in Georgia or for more information, please contact Rachel Wolff at 253.394.2214 or Rwolff@worldvision.org.
Notes to Editor:
- World Vision has worked in Georgia since 1994, focusing on community development and the needs of children in difficult circumstances. Current programs include microfinance for poor entrepreneurs, support for street children and children with disabilities, food for work, HIV and AIDS prevention and assistance for returning migrant workers. World Vision does not have current programs in South Ossetia but assists more than 15,000 children in Abkhazia, another breakaway region of Georgia. The agency’s 155 staff in Georgia are accounted for and safe at the present time.
- World Vision also has worked in the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation since 1995, including peacebuilding and economic recovery projects in North Ossetia.
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. We serve all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit www.worldvision.org/press.