World Vision assists women and children fleeing conflict in Georgia



    TBILISI, Georgia, Aug. 11 /CNW/ - World Vision is providing emergency
relief supplies to women and children who managed to flee to Georgia's
capital, Tbilisi, as the plight of thousands of civilians caught up in the
fighting in and around South Ossetia continues.
    "Our staff have been hearing some truly heartbreaking stories - children
who got out, but their parents didn't, for example," said David Womble, World
Vision's national director in Georgia.
    World Vision is supplying essential food such as canned meat, pasta,
vegetable oil and iodized salt, along with hygiene kits and blankets. It is
also providing medical supplies to Tbilisi's main hospital. The relief and
development organization is working with World Food Programme (WFP), United
Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and other organizations to
coordinate relief efforts.
    "We will mobilize supplies from outside the country as well, but of
course all of this depends on a cessation of attacks on Georgia. We need all
parties to observe an immediate ceasefire," Womble said.
    According to the UNHCR, the number of internally displaced people in
Georgia and South Ossetia is estimated to be between 10,000 and 20,000 people.
There are now 12 centres set up for those fleeing the violence, half of which
are in Tbilisi, and the rest in towns and villages nearby. World Vision is
currently carrying out needs assessments in all the centres in Tbilisi, with a
special focus on the needs of the children.
    "I don't need anything, but peace," an 11-year-old boy from Ergneti
village in the Gori region, told World Vision staff. He escaped with his
4-year-old sister and his mother, and his father later arrived to join the
family.
    "There were rockets in the sky and it was like lightning all the time,"
he said. "When we were going from Ergneti to Gori to visit my aunt, they
dropped a bomb on the way and the building block started to shake. We got
scared and we immediately came to Tbilisi."
    World Vision is calling upon the international community to help broker
an immediate ceasefire as more people flee either north into Russia or south
toward the Georgian capital to escape the violence.

    
    World Vision is advocating for the following:

    -   The United Nations Security Council must work to broker an immediate
        ceasefire.
    -   All combatants must abide by international law and protect civilians,
        particularly children and women, who are the most vulnerable.
    -   Civilians fleeing the conflict zone to the north and the south must
        be afforded safe passage.
    -   Humanitarian corridors should be set up immediately so aid workers
        can safely access civilians and provide life-saving assistance.
    -   In particular, U.N. agencies must be allowed access into the conflict
        zone to help coordinate the humanitarian response and maintain the
        necessary security communications to allow for humanitarian
        operations.
    -   The United Nations, regional actors and key international
        stakeholders should advance the mediation of a long-term political
        solution that will end the conflict and address the humanitarian
        conditions resulting from the fighting.
    

    World Vision has worked in Georgia since 1994, focusing on community
development and the needs of children. Current programs include microfinance
for programs, support for street children and children with disabilities,
food-for-work initiatives, HIV and AIDS prevention and assistance for
returning migrant workers. World Vision does not have current programs in
South Ossetia but assists more than 15,000 children in Abkhazia, another
breakaway region of Georgia.
    The organization's regular operations in Georgia, as well as its projects
in Abkhazia, have been suspended for the time being, as all efforts are now
focused on the humanitarian relief effort.
    World Vision also has worked in the North Caucasus region of the Russian
Federation since 1995, including peace building and economic recovery projects
in North Ossetia.

    World Vision is a Christian relief, development and advocacy organization
dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome
poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion,
race, ethnicity or gender.





For further information:

For further information: To interview World Vision staff, please
contact: Britt Hamilton, (905) 565-6200 ext. 3973, (416) 275-1057 (cell),
britt_hamilton@WorldVision.ca; Yoko Kobayashi, (905) 565-6200 ext. 2151, (416)
671-0086 (cell), yoko_kobayashi@WorldVision.ca


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