TBILISI, GEORGIA (August 13, 2008) – The number of people in need of emergency assistance in Georgia is growing rapidly. CARE is working together with the local government and other aid organizations to provide food, water and sanitation, beds and other non food items to tens of thousands of people who fled their homes in the midst of conflict.
CARE is concentrating assistance in five areas around the capital city, Tbilisi, as well as in several locations throughout the districts of Borjomi Akhaltsikhe and eastern part of Georgia. Already, CARE has distributed food, hygiene supplies, and other non-food items to families, including those with children as young as a one month old.
"We do not yet know the full extent of need, and our assessments continue,” said David Gazashvili, CARE’s emergency director now in Georgia. “More and more people are seeking a safe place for themselves and their families. CARE calls on all parties to allow humanitarian organizations to reach people in need of assistance," he said.
More than 23,000 people, most from South Ossetia, are already registered in estimated 210 locations where internally displaced persons (IDPs) have fled in Tbilisi and nearby cities. The figure is expected to increase and reach perhaps 100,000.
In conversations with the people being assisted, CARE found most of them grieving deeply for their losses. One 50-year-old from the Tskhinvali region cried as she spoke: “Gas/petrol stations were exploded and we were unable to get any fuel. There was no other way but walk and leave our cars behind. We just fled with the clothes we wore, without bringing any things else with us. We were fleeing through the forest, hearing the jets bombing us. Twice the bombs hit so near, that all of us were covered with dust, unable to see each other. Several of us got injured and two died.”
“My 3-year old granddaughter asks me ‘when will we return home?’. Tell me what to answer? What should we do now that we are driven out of our homes? All our lives and property, created and built all these years, are ruined and devastated.”
CARE mounted an emergency response immediately in close cooperation with the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation (MRA), Tbilisi mayor and local government representatives to identify the exact number of IDPs and their specific needs.
A day after the crisis began, CARE started distributions and has provided water, food (including buckwheat, rice, cereal, vegetable oil, bread, pasta, salt, canned food, macaroni, sugar tea); baby food and supplies (milk powder, porridge, and diapers); and non-food hygiene items (soap, toilet paper, waste bags, women’s sanitary items, basins, and towels) to around 2,000 people in Tbilisi and nearby towns.
“Beyond the money necessary for this emergency relief phase, additional funds will be needed for long-term rebuilding. It is crucially important to mount a strategy for a response that will enable these people to provide for themselves and their families and to live in dignity and peace,” said Jonathan Puddifoot, CARE Country Director in Georgia.
“Winterization is crucial. Temperatures in Georgian regions can fall to -30 degrees in winter. In Tbilisi it usually falls to around -5 degrees. Displaced people must be housed in shelters which have heating, and are thermally insulated. Water supplies and food stocks must be protected from frost damage, people must be clothed appropriately, and sanitation systems must function in the frost. People will continue to need food and non food items as well as more structural support (medical, educational, financial and legal).
“Of course most people will yearn to return to their homes. It will necessary to repair housing and infrastructure (schools, water supplies, bridges etc.), but this will not be possible until negotiations ensure mine clearance, disarmament and safe passages,” Puddifoot said.
He added that some displaced people may need to adapt long term to a new environment, and would need skills training, jobs, housing and land acquisition, funds for relocation, and help integrating into new societies. Others will need help to return to and refurbish their original homes, and to plant and restock farms, re-capitalize businesses, and create new trade linkages.
Read more about CARE's response to the violent conflict between Georgia and Russia.
Lurma Rackley; [email protected]; (404) 979-9450 (US)
David Gazashvilli; [email protected]; 995-95-633-690 (Georgia)
About CARE: Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE has more than six decades of experience delivering emergency aid during times of crisis. Our emergency responses focus on the needs of the most vulnerable populations, particularly girls and women. Women and girls are at the heart of CARE’s emergency relief efforts because our experience shows that their gains translate into benefits for families and communities.