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Georgia conflict: Humanitarian needs 'exponential'

World Vision teams are expanding our emergency response in Georgia and in the Russian Federation's North Ossetia region, focusing on the needs of children.

August 2008

Giorgi, 12, who has cerebral palsy, lost his wheelchair when he was forced to flee from violence in Georgia this month. World Vision staff members delivered the boy a new chair, enabling him to move around again on his own.
Giorgi, 12, who has cerebral palsy, lost his wheelchair when he was forced to flee from violence in Georgia this month. World Vision staff members delivered the boy a new chair, enabling him to move around again on his own.
Photo ©2008 Ana Chkhaidze/World Vision
"I had to run from the village holding my 12-year-old son Giorgi," says Bela, his mother. "He was totally shocked; he cried the whole way."

Giorgi has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. Bela recounts how she had to abandon the chair when the family fled their home after violence erupted in Georgia this month near their village, several miles from South Ossetia's capital, Tskhinvali.

Initially, the family hid in a basement that did not block out the terrifying sound of gunfire. When the shooting stopped, Bela carried Giorgi more than a mile to reach the main road in her escape. Since taking refuge at a relative's home in Tianeti, in northern Georgia, Giorgi has exhibited signs of shock, including a lack of interest in interacting with people.

'Tip of the iceberg'

World Vision teams responding to the current situation in Georgia and the Russian Federation have heard many disturbing stories similar to Bela's.

"The humanitarian needs here are growing exponentially, faster than the combined agencies [working in the region] can keep up with," says David Womble, World Vision's national director in Georgia. "We continue to look at the tip of the iceberg."

An estimated 115,000 people have been uprooted from their homes, and the need for shelter and emergency support in the region is increasing. Thousands of displaced people continue to lack access to shelter or food.

Georgia response


Help assist children and families who have been displaced by the conflict in Georgia.

As of Aug. 19, some 663 relief centers had been set up to assist those fleeing the violence; the number of displaced people registered in these centers is 104,000.

World Vision has been providing food aid to survivors in partnership with the World Food Program. We plan to assist nearly 48,000 displaced persons in more than 300 relief centers in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.

To date, our teams have delivered pre-positioned food to more than 9,000 of the displaced in more than 45 relief centers, and non-food emergency supplies to more than 3,700 in 23 such centers. Our teams additionally have donated medical supplies to the main hospital in Tbilisi.

North Ossetia aid


"People are continuing to arrive in North Ossetia by the busload, and many civilians are wounded," says 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."

So far, World Vision has delivered more than $20,000 in medical supplies to a Russian Orthodox Church in Beslan, to be dispensed in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia's capital city. Supplies include bandages, crutches, pain relievers, syringes, and antibiotics for the wounded.

Our team there additionally plans to open Child-Friendly Spaces to provide children with a safe and structured environment where they can continue an informal education and interact with other children.

According to Russian official statistics, more than 7,000 children were evacuated through North Ossetia from the conflict areas.

"World Vision is especially concerned about the longer-term needs of children who have seen and experienced the horrors of war," Kimmerle says 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."

World Vision in the region

World Vision has had a significant and growing presence in Georgia since 1994, operating relief, rehabilitation, and development initiatives implemented directly, and via local partners, across the country. VisionFund International, the microfinance arm of World Vision, has loaned nearly $24 million to boost the incomes of more than 17,000 of Georgia's poor so they can support their families.

Currently, we do not have programs in South Ossetia, but we assist more than 15,000 children in Abkhazia. We additionally have worked in the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation since 1995. Our work includes peacebuilding and economic recovery projects in North Ossetia.

Looking for hope

World Vision staff members deliver a new wheelchair to Giorgi.
World Vision staff members deliver a new wheelchair to Giorgi.
Photo ©2008 Ana Chkhaidze/World Vision

Children's needs also continue to be great in South Ossetia, where Giorgi and his mom have fled.

Bela recounts how she asked World Vision staff for a wheelchair for Georgi so he could leave the isolation of his bed and move around independently.

Two days later, our team was able to deliver a chair to the boy. As a result, says Bela: "This is the first time that Giorgi has smiled after leaving the village."

Yet the family's future appears as bleak as the basement from which they fled — they don't know where they will live, or how they will feed their children. Such is the plight of tens of thousands of children and families, caught in the crosshairs of this conflict.

Learn more


>> Read the latest about World Vision's relief efforts in Georgia.
>> Watch a video about street children in Tbilisi, Georgia's capital.

Two ways you can help

>> Pray for peace in Georgia and for the children and families affected by the strife. Pray also for aid groups like World Vision to reach the most vulnerable quickly.
>> Donate now to assist children and families who have been displaced by the conflict in Georgia.

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