Georgia: One year after the conflict

Published: 12 August 2009 0:00 CET

Rita Plotnikova and Manana Kubaneishvili/IFRC

The hostilities that erupted in August 2008 between Georgia and Russia left thousands of people homeless without any income.

While more than three-quarters of those displaced have returned to their homes, some 30,000 people internally displaced people (IDPs) from South Ossetia will remain in collective centres and in temporary housing in Georgia for an indefinite period.

Their needs and vulnerabilities - provision of proper shelter, heating, water and sanitation, clothing as well as basic health care and psychosocial support - remain a matter of humanitarian concern. Poor sanitary conditions in the collective centres continue to cause respiratory diseases, stomach and skin problems.

Food and clothes

Today the Georgian Red Cross is monitoring the situation in collective centres. For the past year it has provided food, clothes and footwear, blankets and hygiene parcels for IDPs as well as psychosocial support and training. It continues to provide support in two centres in Gardabani, a town 40 kilometres south-east of Tbilisi.

Tina Nebieridze, 61, and her family of five occupy two tiny rooms at the collective centre they share with 130 other families.

Like many at the centre, they have no reliable sources of income. On a lucky day, her son and his wife can find temporary work, but that does not happen often. Nina gets a pension of 80 Lari (50 Swiss francs) but this, together with the the monthly state allowance of 14 Swiss franc per family member, barely pays for their food. While they can access health services, they are often unable to afford essential medicine.

“It is all gone now”

“We are farmers,” Tina says. “All my life I have been growing vegetables and fruits. In our garden in Kekhvi (South Ossetia) we used to grow a lot of apples, peaches and pears. By selling our products we used to earn enough for a living. Wheat flour was probably the only thing we used to buy in the shop. It is all gone now. The garden, the home, the job – all lost.”

The Georgian Red Cross is complementing the state and other organizations’ support efforts through its health and care programme. In April and in July, 324 persons at the centre received personal hygiene parcels containing soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, powdered detergent, kitchenware detergents, tissues and feminine hygiene items. The Estonian Red Cross supported this humanitarian action.

“Volunteers helped us make this operation quick and efficient,” says Shorena Tsiklauri, head of the Georgian Red Cross branch in Gardabani. “They registered beneficiaries, cross-checked the data with the supplies and packed the goods.”

“We wanted to help”

Nino Makharadze, a nurse, and schoolteacher Mzia Ketelauri became Red Cross volunteers in August last year. “In those days, the Red Cross was organizing temporary shelter and provided food for the arriving families,” recalls Nino. “We wanted to help and were welcomed to join in.”

Mzia has since undertaken disaster preparedness training and has been involved in several operations. “At times it was not easy,” she says, “but when I see the results, I want to do more with the Red Cross.”

Memories of war, financial worries and an uncertain future have placed enormous psychological strain on adult IDPs. Within the current Red Cross programme on health and care, 282 women and 132 men from IDP communities in Georgia have received training in first aid, hygiene and psychosocial support.

The horrors of war

Tina Nebireidze attended the course. “It was useful for all of us who had passed through the horrors of war and now live in hard conditions with a load of those memories and little hope for the future,” she says.

The Georgia Red Cross responded quickly to the outbreak of hostilities, helping vulnerable through its headquarters, local branches and volunteers, while coordinating its efforts with the authorities.

It was supported throughout by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which released 233,690 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to aid the response. More than 8,400 people received psychosocial support, food, second-hand clothes, blankets, cooking equipment and other relief items.

According to a UNHCR report published in July 2009, the conflict caused the displacement of 138,000 people from South Ossetia and other conflict-affected areas. Some 10,000-15,000 were displaced within South Ossetia itself. In addition, 36,000 were displaced from South Ossetia to North Ossetia, most of who are now believed to have returned to their places of origin.

Some 1,100 are reported to have remained in private accommodation in North Ossetia where the Russian Red Cross, with support from the ICRC, continues to provide assistance to 112 refugee families.