Tblisi, Georgia, August 13, 2008
—As violence in and around South Ossetia continues, World Vision teams in both Georgia and the Russian Federation are responding to the increasing humanitarian needs of children and families who have fled the conflict zone. Some 100,000 people in all are estimated to have been uprooted from their homes, and are in need of shelter and emergency support.
In North Ossetia, World Vision is providing medical supplies such as bandages, crutches, pain relievers, syringes and antibiotics to the wounded through partners. The Christian humanitarian agency also plans to open Child-Friendly Spaces to provide children with a safe and structured environment where they can obtain informal education and interact with other children.
“People are continuing to arrive in North Ossetia by the busload, and many civilians are wounded,” said Siobhan Kimmerle, World Vision’s national director in the Russian Federation. “World Vision has also found that many families have been separated from their loved ones in the chaos.”
Meanwhile, the Christian humanitarian agency continues to assist civilians who fled south into Georgia proper.
“The humanitarian needs here are growing exponentially, faster than the combined agencies can keep up,” warned David Womble, national director of World Vision in Georgia. “We continue to look at the tip of the iceberg.”
World Vision’s team in Georgia has been asked by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Program and the government of Georgia to increase its response as quickly as possible to meet the immediate food, non-food and health needs of internally displaced people. Even as 95 official collection centers have opened in Tbilisi and surrounding areas, thousands of displaced people remain unregistered and lack access to shelter or food.
According to Russian officials, more than 30,000 people have fled into North Ossetia and more than 150 public buildings are providing temporary shelter.
“World Vision is especially concerned about the longer-term needs of children who have seen and experienced the horrors of war,” Kimmerle said from North Ossetia. “In addition, school is starting in two weeks, so we are considering how best to assist children as they start the academic year in communities where they have been given temporary shelter.”
One young mother named Shushanik arrived from South Ossetia with her 3-year-old son: “I was scared out of my mind. Bullets were flying around like hail,” she told World Vision staff in North Ossetia. “I hope my son is too young to remember this war,” she said.
The public can help by calling 1.888.56.CHILD or visiting www.worldvision.org
ENDWorld Vision staff are available for interviews. 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.