Tblisi, Georgia, August 22, 2008
—With homes destroyed and harsh winter weather just a few months away, it is likely many who have fled the recent violence in South Ossetia and surrounding areas will be unable to return before spring, World Vision warned today. With nearly 160,000 civilians displaced in all, the Christian aid agency expects the region’s humanitarian needs to continue for six to 12 months.
“Once winter comes, it is likely the roads will be blocked and the weather conditions too extreme for displaced families to return to their communities,” said Ashley Clements, World Vision’s emergency advocacy advisor. “So if people are not able to go home before winter, they will be forced to remain in displacement centers for months. As a result, World Vision’s emergency response may need to last as long as a year.”
Landmines laid during the recent conflict also pose a threat to those wishing to return home, especially children, and hinder full humanitarian access to some areas. For people who are able to return to their communities, damaged infrastructure may prevent a return to normal livelihoods. Those who stay in Georgia must endure life in displacement shelters, many of which lack running water, heat, electricity and windows.
“Children in some Georgia shelters are sleeping on bare concrete because these abandoned buildings lack bedding and other basics,” Clements said. “World Vision will be providing mattresses to help, as well as continuing our distributions of food, hygiene kits and other basic necessities.”
Meanwhile, World Vision staff who visited Gori this week found that the population had received little humanitarian assistance, particularly people in villages outside of the city. Earlier this week, the organization was able to provide its first food and emergency supplies to 1,000 residents of Gori and plans to increase distributions to the hard-hit city, along with more isolated families in surrounding villages.
Even families not directly displaced have been economically impacted by the crisis, World Vision has found. Poor entrepreneurs in Georgia who receive small loans through the agency’s microfinance program, for example, have found it difficult to buy supplies and to sell their finished products because of blocked roads and lack of access to markets further afield.
To address the specific needs of displaced children in Georgia and North Ossetia, World Vision is planning Child-Friendly Spaces
to offer them a safe place to play and regain a sense of normalcy, as well as talk with trained counselors about what they have experienced. In Tbilisi, the organization is also addressing the special needs of pregnant and nursing women and their infants who have been forced to flee the violence.
As a leading relief and development agency in Georgia, World Vision is appealing for $4.2 million for its response and plans to assist 45,000 displaced people in Georgia — along with additional families in North Ossetia.
To donate to World Vision’s emergency response in Georgia and North Ossetia, go to www.worldvision.org
or call 1.888.56.CHILD.ENDWorld Vision staff in Georgia and North Ossetia are available for interviews. Please contact Rachel Wolff at 253.394.2214 or Rwolff@worldvision.org. :: More about the conflict in Georgia
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.