Second UNHCR airlift reaches Georgia; aid for 40,000 being distributed

News Stories, 15 August 2008

© UNHCR/Y.Mechatov
UNHCR has distributed blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans to some 1,500 people from South Ossetia now living in a collective centre in Tbilisi, Georgia.

GENEVA, August 15 (UNHCR) Urgent supplies are on the ground for up to 40,000 people affected by the South Ossetia conflict as the UN refugee agency's second airlift arrived in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on Thursday.

To date, a total of 66 tonnes of relief supplies have arrived in Tbilisi from UNHCR's central emergency stockpile in Dubai. Items such as tents, jerry cans, blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans are being delivered to the neediest people in and around Tbilisi.

Some 2,000 people have so far received UNHCR's aid, including 1,500 displaced people from the breakaway region of South Ossetia who are now living in a former hospital building in the Georgian capital. Other beneficiaries include some 300 vulnerable Georgians from South Ossetia who had been transferred to Tbilisi from Gori some 60 kilometres north of the Tbilisi and just south of the boundary with South Ossetia as well as people displaced within Gori.

Meanwhile, UNHCR continues to call for free and unhindered humanitarian access and safe passage for uprooted civilians and the aid workers trying to help them. That need was underscored Thursday morning when two UNHCR vehicles were hijacked at gunpoint on the outskirts of Gori.

The UNHCR team was on an assessment mission in the Gori region to identify areas of displacement and to assess the immediate needs of people forced from their homes by the conflict which erupted last Friday.

The team was stopped just outside Gori, where people in unmarked uniforms threatened the two UNHCR staff members and forced them at gunpoint to leave their vehicles and hand over the keys. The two later made it safely back to Tbilisi. Later, authorities called from Gori to say they had recovered the vehicles.

Despite Thursday's incident, UNHCR is moving ahead rapidly with field assessment missions and the distribution of assistance. "The needs are great, especially for the most vulnerable such as children, women and the sick," said the agency in a press release issued Thursday. "There are newborn babies and women in advanced pregnancy among the displaced. Immediate needs include medications for people suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Sanitation and hygienic items as well beds and mattresses are in great demand."

A third UNHCR airlift flight is scheduled to land in Tbilisi on Friday morning. In addition, UNHCR is scheduling two flights to Vladikavkaz in the Russian Federation next Tuesday and Wednesday. A UNHCR-chartered Antonov-12 is scheduled to bring mattresses, kitchen sets, water tanks, blankets, jerry cans and soap for displaced South Ossetians.

The total number of people uprooted in the conflict is approaching 115,000, according to the latest figures provided by the two governments. Russian officials in North Ossetia indicate some 30,000 people from South Ossetia are still in the Russian Federation. Georgian officials report that up to 15,000 people have fled south into Georgia proper from South Ossetia. In addition, some 68,000 people are displaced in Georgia proper, including most of the population of Gori.




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Displacement in Georgia

Tens of thousands of civilians are living in precarious conditions, having been driven from their homes by the crisis in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia.

On the morning of August 12, the first UNHCR-chartered plane carrying emergency aid arrived in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the first UN assistance to arrive in the country since fighting broke out the previous week. The airlift brought in 34 tonnes of tents, jerry cans, blankets and kitchen sets from UNHCR's central emergency stockpile in Dubai. Items were then loaded onto trucks at the Tbilisi airport for transport and distribution.

A second UNHCR flight landed in Tbilisi on August 14, with a third one expected to arrive the following day. In addition, two UNHCR aid flights are scheduled to leave for Vladikavkaz in the Russian Federation the following week with mattresses, water tanks and other supplies for displaced South Ossetians.

Working with local partners, UNHCR is now providing assistance to the most vulnerable and needy. These include many young children and family members separated from one another. The situation is evolving rapidly and the refugee agency is monitoring the needs of the newly displaced population, which numbered some 115,000 on August 14.

Posted on 15 August 2008

Displacement in Georgia

Ingushetia: Internally Displaced Chechens

When fighting broke out between government troops and rebel forces in Chechnya in 1999, over 200,000 people fled the republic, most of them to the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia. Today, tens of thousands of Chechens remain displaced in Ingushetia, unwilling to go home because of continuing security concerns.

As of early December 2003, some 62,000 displaced Chechens were living in temporary settlements or in private accommodation. Those living in settlements face constant threats of eviction, often by owners who wish to use their buildings again.

Another 7,900 displaced Chechens live in tents in three remaining camps – Satsita, Sputnik, and Bart.

The authorities have repeatedly called for the closure of tent camps and the return of the displaced people to Chechnya. Three camps have been closed in the past year – Iman camp at Aki Yurt, "Bella" or B camp, and "Alina" or A camp. Chechens from the latter two camps who did not wish to go home were allowed to move to Satsita camp or other existing temporary settlements in Ingushetia.

Ingushetia: Internally Displaced Chechens

Pakistan Earthquake

The UN refugee agency is providing hundreds of tonnes of urgently needed relief supplies for victims in northern Pakistan. UNHCR is sending family tents, hospital tents, plastic sheeting, mattresses, kitchen sets, blankets and other items from its global stockpiles. Within a few days of the earthquake, just as its substantial local stocks were all but exhausted, UNHCR began a series of major airlifts from its warehouses around the world, including those in Denmark, Dubai, Jordan and Turkey.

UNHCR does not normally respond to natural disasters, but it quickly joined the UN humanitarian effort because of the sheer scale of the destruction, because the quake affected thousands of Afghan refugees, and because the agency has been operational in Pakistan for more than two decades. North West Frontier Province (NWFP), one of the regions most severely affected by the quake, hosts 887,000 Afghan refugees in camps.

While refugees remain the main focus of UNHCR's concern, the agency is integrated into the coordinated UN emergency response to help quake victims.

Pakistan Earthquake

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