Getting aid to Georgia difficult

By August 18, 2008

Georgia (MNN) — President Bush has reiterated that Russia must honor its commitment to withdraw its troops from Georgia. He's calling Georgia a "courageous democracy" and again stressed the importance of respect for its sovereignty. He said the Georgian people have cast their lot with Western democracies and said the West will not "cast them aside."

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed support for Georgia's territorial integrity and called Russian actions in Georgia disproportionate. She spoke after talks in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, who expressed doubt that residents of Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia will ever accept being part of Georgia.

As the political posturing continues, the human crisis continues. World Vision is responding.

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.

World Vision's Rachel Wolfe says, "The estimates right now from the UNHCR is that at least 100,000 people have fled both to the south and the north. The good news is that World Vision is on the ground in both directions."

In North Ossetia, World Vision is providing medical supplies such as bandages, crutches, pain relievers, syringes and antibiotics to the wounded through partners.

Wolfe says there's more to this crisis than homelessness and hunger. "Many, many families have been separated. We're seeing that on the ground. There's a need that goes beyond the basics. And especially for the children, World Vision wants to make sure that they have safe places to go to talk about what they've experienced, to start playing and having a normal routine again. And that's why we're setting up these Child-Friendly Spaces."

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 more than 100 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.

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