Tblisi, Georgia, August 15, 2008
—World Vision sent its first humanitarian assistance today to people in Gori, a city ravaged by bombing during the recent conflict in Georgia and the breakaway region of South Ossetia. The Christian humanitarian agency is providing the aid in coordination with the World Food Program and the Georgian Ministry of Finance.
The delivery consists of a 10-day supply of food for 1,000 people in Gori, a city that continues to be occupied by combatants. World Vision staff did not accompany the delivery for security reasons. Safe access for aid workers into conflict zones has remained a challenge since fighting escalated last week.
"Gori has been a no-go zone [for aid workers] since the conflict began, so we know those people who have remained are in dire conditions," said David Womble, World Vision's national director in Georgia. "We hope access will go smoothly, so we can increase the amount of urgent items we deliver to this conflict area."
As the number of people displaced by the conflict has increased to 115,000, World Vision is appealing for $2 million globally for its initial 90-day response in Georgia and North Ossetia.
Georgia's capital of Tbilisi continues to feel the impact of civilians fleeing south. In a recent 24-hour period, the number of official centers housing displaced civilians grew from 279 to 439, and displaced people registered with the government jumped from 20,000 to 50,000.
On Thursday in Tbilisi, World Vision distributed 10-day food supplies to more than 1,000 homeless civilians in eight displacement centers. Today, the organization distributed food to more than 2,000 people in two additional centers.
Elza, a 32-year-old mother of two who fled to Tbilisi from South Ossetia, described the horrors of war she and her children witnessed: "A minivan was bombed in front of my eyes and my neighbors died there. Nobody could even bury them because we were afraid for our lives," she told World Vision staff.
Elza described how she was forced to leave her mother-in-law behind during her quick escape: "We could not reassure her to go with us, and now we are receiving terrible news that our house has been razed. She has likely died there," she said.
World Vision is also active in North Ossetia and is providing emergency medical supplies for the wounded and planning to open Child-Friendly Spaces there to provide displaced children a safe place to play, re-establish a normal routine, and talk with trained counselors about what they have experienced.
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.