Conflict in Georgia: International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement brings emergency assistance to displaced and wounded

Published: 12 August 2008 0:00 CET

"Tens of thousands of civilians have been caught up in the armed conflict involving Georgian, South Ossetian and Russian forces. Members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement are mobilising to help people in North Ossetia and Georgia, who have fled the fighting, and residents who remain in South Ossetia. 

According to the Georgian Red Cross Society (GRCS), at least 1,000 displaced people have found refuge in public administration buildings, schools and other public places in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, and another 2,000 in other regions of Georgia.

The Georgian Red Cross task force, operating 24 hours a day, is collecting information from its branches, governmental organizations and other sources about the number of internally displaced people arriving in Tbilisi and surrounding areas, and their needs. The Georgian Red Cross has begun distributing emergency relief items to some 700 displaced persons, and continues its assessments. They have also mobilised volunteers to recruit additional blood donors and have launched a national public fundraising campaign.

In North Ossetia, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Russian Red Cross are providing hygiene articles, blankets, clothes and other assistance to people who fled from South Ossetia.

The Russian Red Cross' branches in Vladikavkaz and Beslan have mobilized 16 staff and 50 volunteers for the distribution operation. They are also caring for and helping to provide shelter for around 750 unaccompanied minors. Experts and volunteers who were involved in caring for victims of the Beslan school attack will be mobilized to provide emotional and psychological support to the displaced. The Russian Red Cross has also started a national fund-raising campaign.

In situations of armed conflict, the ICRC leads the Movement's humanitarian response. The ICRC has launched a preliminary appeal for 8 million Swiss francs to meet the emergency needs of around 50,000 people affected by the armed conflict. The appeal aims to ensure surgical and other medical care for the wounded, as well as emergency aid for people displaced in North Ossetia and Georgia, and, if possible, civilians remaining in South Ossetia. The ICRC continues to seek safe and unimpeded access to South Ossetia, where ongoing hostilities have prevented humanitarian organisations from moving around and providing assistance.

An ICRC medical team will reinforce local surgical staff, in particular those working at Gori's civilian hospital. The Norwegian Red Cross is sending a rapid deployment surgical unit, staffed by a 12-member team, into Georgia. The ICRC is also working with the North Ossetia branch of the Russian Red Cross to provide emergency aid for families who have fled the fighting. In addition, it continues to seek access to all people captured or arrested in connection with the fighting.

The Federation's representative in Tbilisi is closely monitoring the situation and is in regular contact with both the ICRC and the GRCS. The International Federation, working in coordination with the ICRC, is looking at ways to support the Georgian and Russian Red Cross operations to assist people who have fled the hostilities.