The Georgian Red Cross Society (GRCS) has mobilized more than 1,000 volunteers across the country to bring emergency assistance to people displaced by the recent fighting.
According to the GRCS, more than 50,000 people have fled their homes to find refuge in collective centers and public buildings in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. Another 30,000 have sought refuge in shelters in eleven districts of Georgia. In each district, Georgian Red Cross staff and volunteers are delivering services such as emergency relief, social assistance, blood donations while all the time conducting needs assessments to ensure an effective response.
Akaki Chikvinidze, 18, is one of the 120 Georgian Red Cross volunteers who have been active in Tbilisi since the start of the crisis. “My place is here, with the Georgian Red Cross,” he says, “helping the people who suffered from the war.”
Four mobile volunteer groups have been distributing humanitarian aid in more than 20 collective centres in Tbilisi. They are also ascertaining the most urgent needs of the people who fled to some 50 other centres. Many volunteers must provide their own transport for Red Cross distributions and in some cases house displaced people in their own homes.
The GRCS volunteers in Tbilisi have been divided into groups which perform four types of activities: logistics, communication, needs assessments and fundraising. The logistics group is responsible for the distribution of humanitarian aid as well as the collection and transportation of donations. The communication group is actively promoting the GRCS ‘hot line’ phone number and bank account number to the general public and collecting information on current activities.
The needs assessment groups are collecting vital information from displaced people so that assistance from the GRCS matches people’s needs. The fundraising group is responsible for managing the GRCS mobile donation boxes and collecting food from restaurants and shops.
“The crisis in Georgia has sparked a generous outpouring of assistance from the public as well as the spontaneous rallying of hundreds of young volunteers to support the Georgian Red Cross,” notes Elkhan Rahimov, Federation Representative to Georgia. “Their contribution is invaluable to the emergency operation for the displaced.”
The Georgian Red Cross is also coordinating humanitarian aid provided by Red Cross and Red Societies from Turkey, Italy, and Norway, among others. The Norwegian Red Cross, working within the framework of the ICRC operation, has provided a field hospital.
In Rustavi, 25 kilometres southeast of Tbilisi, Georgian Red Cross volunteers are setting up a camp for displaced persons delivered by the Turkish Red Crescent.
Georgian Red Cross staff and volunteers are also helping to set up a soup kitchen sent by the Italian government and staffed by 25 Italian Red Cross members. As of Thursday, 21 August, the soup kitchen will provide 12,000 people affected by the conflict with two hot meals a day.
North Ossetia: Russian Red Cross brings relief and psychological support to displaced people
Margarita Plotnikova, International Federation
Russian Red Cross (RRC) volunteers and staff have been working non-stop to bring emergency relief as well as essential psychological support to people displaced by fighting in South Ossetia. RRC specialists have visited 12 camps for displaced so far to register people and assess needs.
According to local authorities, more than 5,700 displaced people (including just over 2,500 children) have been accommodated in 28 sites in North Ossetia, including schools, rest homes, sanatoriums, churches, monasteries and host families.
A significant part of the RRC support is psychosocial where people displaced from South Ossetia can find emotional release after fleeing North Ossetia, unable, in many cases, to take any possessions with them.
"Based on our experience with traumatized populations during the past four years, we aim to provide psychosocial support to these people, distribute humanitarian aid, organize and involve them in some social life through various activities," says Lilia Chibisenkova, Russian Red Cross programme coordinator. "The North Ossetian Red Cross staff has the skills and knowledge to reassure people exhausted by the conflict, and help them at this critical time.”
“The Russian Red Cross has garnered significant experience in psychosocial support. Their specialized staff and volunteers are able to put this experience to excellent use in this situation with people traumatised after fleeing from their homes” explains Jaap Timmer, head of the Federation’s regional office in Moscow.
The Russian Red Cross staff in North Ossetia consists of 20 people. In North Ossetia, ten to twenty Red Cross volunteers are involved in operations at all times. They are working closely with the ICRC to distribute humanitarian assistance to the displaced.
The Moscow headquarters of the Russian Red Cross has launched a national appeal for contributions in kind and money, as RRC resources are being stretched to the limit, points out Lilia Chibisenkova. Extra resources will also be needed to address the psychological burn out of exhausted RRC staff themselves, and train more volunteers.
ICRC’s leading role
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), working within its mandate of leading the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s response in situations of armed conflict, has been spearheading the effort to assist thousands of people forced to flee their homes and supporting medical facilities across Georgia. Over the past week, it has brought more than 430 tonnes of food and other relief items into Georgia. Last week, the ICRC launched a preliminary appeal for 8 million Swiss francs to meet the emergency needs of around 50,000 people affected by the armed conflict, including surgical and other medical care for the wounded in North and South Ossetia and in Georgia. It is also supporting the Georgian and Russian Red Cross Societies in their emergency operations, and in restoring family links.
Kizilay sends convoys of humanitarian aid to Georgia
Ayberk Yurtsever, Turkish Red Crescent Society
Working in coordination with the Georgian Red Cross, the ICRC and the International Federation, the Turkish Red Crescent Society (Kizilay) has sent humanitarian aid to Georgia, including food, water, tents, blankets, clothing, kitchen utensils and beds.
“Kizilay is focusing on urgent nutrition, shelter and health services,” says Yuksel Mahir Araz, Head of the seven-member TRCS Relief Team in Georgia. TRCS staff also participated in emergency relief distributions in Tbilisi.
Kizilay is also pre-positioning a 150-bed field hospital and a medical team in the town of Sarpi, on Turkey's border with Georgia, in case it is needed. The facility is capable of providing health services for up to 500 people – including surgery, nursing and X-rays and includes a polyclinic and a pharmacy.