Tblisi, Georgia, August 11, 2008
—As the fighting in South Ossetia and surrounding areas enters its fifth day, international relief and development agency World Vision continues to provide emergency relief to women and children who have fled to Georgia’s capital, as well as medical supplies to the city’s main hospital.
Many families are arriving to Tbilisi however they can — whether by foot or by car — and with nothing but the clothes they are wearing.
An 11-year-old boy from the village of Ergneti in the Gori region arrived at a displacement center in Tbilisi with his parents and 4-year-old sister.
“There were rockets in the sky and it was like lightning all the time,” he told World Vision staff. “When we were going from Ergneti to Gori to visit my aunt, they dropped a bomb on the way and the building blocks started to shake. We got scared and we immediately came to Tbilisi,” he continued.
World Vision has reached some 700 people since Saturday with essential food such as canned meat, pasta, vegetable oil and iodized salt, along with hygiene kits and blankets. The extent of humanitarian suffering was described by World Vision staff as “heartbreaking and profoundly disturbing.”
There are now 23 centers set up for those fleeing south — half of which are in Tbilisi, and the rest in towns and villages nearby. World Vision is working with the United Nation’s World Food Program (WFP) to meet the needs of displaced people in 11 centers, while carrying out needs assessments in all the Tbilisi centers, with a special focus on the needs of the children.
“We will mobilize supplies from outside the country as well, but of course all of this depends on a cessation of attacks on Georgia. We need all parties to observe an immediate ceasefire,” said David Womble, World Vision’s national director in Georgia.
According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of internally displaced people in Georgia and South Ossetia could be up to 20,000 people. World Vision is working with the WFP, the UNHCR and other organizations to coordinate relief efforts.
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 and has 155 staff in the country. The agency has also worked in the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation since 1995, and has peacebuilding and economic recovery projects in North Ossetia.
World Vision is advocating for the following: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.
- The United Nations Security Council must work to broker an immediate ceasefire.
- All combatants must abide by international law and protect civilians, particularly children and women, who are the most vulnerable.
- Civilians fleeing the conflict zone to the north and the south must be afforded safe passage.
- Humanitarian corridors should be set up immediately so aid workers can safely access civilians and provide life-saving assistance.
- In particular, U.N. agencies must be allowed access into the conflict zone to help coordinate the humanitarian response and maintain the necessary security communications to allow for humanitarian operations.
- The United Nations, regional actors and key international stakeholders should advance the mediation of a long-term political solution that will end the conflict and address the humanitarian conditions resulting from the fighting.