UNHCR begins aid distribution in western Georgia

News Stories, 20 August 2008

© UNHCR/C.Bruguera
A UNHCR-chartered Boeing 707 carrying 15,000 blankets, 3,000 kitchen sets and 6,000 jerry cans is unloaded in Batumi.

ZUGDIDI, Georgia, August 20 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Wednesday began distributing aid to thousands of people in western Georgia for the first time since the recent conflict. The aid was flown in on Tuesday because it was impossible to access the area by road convoy or train.

UNHCR trucks supported the first food distribution by World Food Programme (WFP) to vulnerable people scattered within a 100-kilometre radius of Kutaisi, Georgia's second largest city. Tomorrow, UNHCR will provide non-food items such as jerry cans, kitchen sets and blankets for some 3,000 people.

"UNHCR today chaired a coordination group on tomorrow's aid distribution, which will involve all relevant partners in order to ensure the maximum coverage on the ground," said Alessandra Morelli, head of an emergency team based in the western Georgia town of Zugdidi.

Initial assessments show that about 15,000 people are in urgent need of help, including those displaced earlier this month from the Georgia breakaway region of Abkhazia and internally displaced people from conflicts in the 1990s.

When the armed conflict over the other Georgia breakaway region of South Ossetia broke out on August 8, the area between Abkhazia and Georgia proper was a secondary flashpoint, triggering the flight of thousands of civilians.

They had not received any help until today because of the difficulty of accessing the area with large amounts of humanitarian aid. But on Tuesday, UNHCR flew in 200 tents, 15,000 blankets, 3,000 kitchen sets and 6,000 jerry cans to the town of Batumi. The agency has already distributed aid to tens of thousands of displaced people in the Tbilisi area, including on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, UNHCR has been working with its sister agency, WFP, and international aid agencies to try and identify the needs of the displaced and to differentiate between the old and newly displaced.

Swift delivery of assistance to IDPs in western Georgia will not only have an immediate beneficial impact for people in need but should also help prevent further movement towards Tbilisi, where facilities are strained. UNHCR teams have visited more than 550 collective centres in Tbilisi to assess the locations, numbers and needs of beneficiaries.

By Melita H. Sunjic in Zugdidi, Georgia

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

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

Food cuts in Chad camps expose refugee women and children to exploitation, abuse

A funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations in refugee camps in eastern Chad by up to 60 per cent. As a result, Sudanese refugees in 13 camps in the east now receive about 850 calories per day, down from the minimum ration of 2,100 calories daily they used to get. The refugees are finding it difficult to cope. Clinics in the area report a significant spike in malnutrition cases, with rates as high as 19.5 per cent in Am Nabak camp.

WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

In the meantime, the refugees experiencing ration cuts have few options. Poor soil quality, dry conditions and little access to water mean they can't plant supplemental crops as refugees in the less arid south of Chad are able to do. To try to cope, many refugee women in eastern Chad are leaving the camps in search of work in surrounding towns. They clean houses, do laundry, fetch water and firewood and work as construction labourers. Even so, they earn very little and often depend on each other for support. In the town of Iriba, for example, some 50 refugee women sleep rough each night under a tree and share their some of their meagre earnings to pay for a daily, communal meal.

They are also subject to exploitation. Sometimes, their temporary employers refuse to pay them at the end of the day. And some women and girls have resorted to prostitution to earn money to feed their families.

Ration cuts can have an impact far beyond health, reverberating through the entire community. It is not uncommon for children to be pulled out of school on market days in order to work. Many refugees use a portion of their food rations to barter for other essentials, or to get cash to pay school fees or buy supplies for their children. Small business owners like butchers, hairdressers and tailors - some of them refugees - also feel the pinch.

WFP supplies food to some 240,500 Sudanese refugees in the camps of eastern Chad. Many have been in exile for years and, because of their limited opportunities for self-sufficiency, remain almost totally dependent on outside help. The ration cuts have made an already difficult situation much worse for refugees who were already struggling.

Food cuts in Chad camps expose refugee women and children to exploitation, abuse

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Since January 2014, a funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations by 60 per cent in refugee camps in southern Chad. The reduction comes as thousands of refugees from Central African Republic (CAR) continue to arrive in the south - more than 14,000 of them since the beginning of 2014. Many arrive sick, malnourished and exhausted after walking for months in the bush with little food or water. They join some 90,000 other CAR refugees already in the south - some of them for years.

The earlier refugees have been able to gain some degree of self-reliance through agriculture or employment, thus making up for some of the food cuts. But the new arrivals, fleeing the latest round of violence in their homeland, are facing a much harsher reality. And many of them - particularly children - will struggle to survive because WFP has also been forced cut the supplemental feeding programmes used to treat people trying to recover from malnutrition.

WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

Photojournalist Corentin Fohlen and UNHCR Public Information Officer Céline Schmitt visited CAR refugees in southern Chad to document their plight and how they're trying to cope.

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

South Sudan: UNHCR and WFP Visit with Aid  Play video

South Sudan: UNHCR and WFP Visit with Aid

The heads of UNHCR Antonio Guterres, and WFP's Ertharin Cousin visited South Sudan in April 2014, to raise awareness of the conditions faced by the people of South Sudan due to the ongoing violence.
Georgia: Hope at lastPlay video

Georgia: Hope at last

For more than 16 years those displaced by the Georgia-Abkhaz conflict lived in destitution. Now, for the first time in years, they have real hope for the future.
Georgia: More than Summer CampPlay video

Georgia: More than Summer Camp

A UNHCR-sponsored camp near the Georgian town of Gori helps youth displaced by last year's war regain self-confidence and independence.