UNICEF in Emergencies & Humanitarian Action

UNICEF sets up centres for families who fled conflict in and around South Ossetia

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© UNICEF Georgia/2008/Volpe
Solomon Surameli, 10, is from the village of Brotsleti, which was heavily affected by the conflict in and around South Ossetia, Georgia. He lives in a tented camp for displaced people on the outskirts of Gori.

GENEVA, Switzerland, 5 September 2008 – When the conflict broke out last month in and around South Ossetia, Georgia, Solomon Surameli, a 10-year-old living in the frontline village of Brotsleti, fled south with his parents.

“I saw tanks coming, and the highway was encircled completely. I was very afraid. The bombs were thrown from the airplanes – there were six bombs dropped. The houses were burned,” said Solomon.

For the past few days, he has been living in a tent city for displaced people on the outskirts of Gori, one of Georgia’s largest cities.

With their destroyed buildings and burnt-out cars, the streets of Gori show the toll of the recent fighting. The tented camp on the outskirts has swelled to hold 1,200 displaced people, while another 3,000 people are living in 22 collective centres set up in schools and kindergartens.

Providing essential supplies

The tented camp is being jointly operated by UNICEF, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Programme and the International Red Cross. All of these partners are collaborating to provide displaced residents with water, food, blankets, bedding, medicine and other essential supplies.

UNICEF recently distributed family kits in the camp. Each kit contains water buckets, jerry cans, soap and other items.

Children are also being provided with opportunities to play and learn. In partnership with the non-governmental organizations World Vision International and Everychild, UNICEF has set up child-friendly-spaces that are providing psycho-social support, organized recreation and sports.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Georgia/2008/Volpe
On 29 August, UNICEF distributed 340 family kits for 1,100 displaced people living in this tented camp in Gori, Georgia.

Aid for children in Georgia

The purpose of these child-friendly spaces is to help displaced children overcome the stress that many of them experienced during the conflict. These programmes will continue until formal schooling resumes.

“UNICEF is working with the government to ensure that children get back to school,” said UNICEF’s Representative in Georgia, Giovanna Barberis. “Until then, UNICEF will be providing free psycho-social support, mine-risk education, nutrition and hygiene, and water and sanitation for children in need.”

Altogether, more than about 46,000 children and their families have benefited from UNICEF’s direct assistance since mid-August.

Regional Director visits North Ossetia

Meanwhile, UNICEF Regional Director Maria Calivis has visited Vladikavkaz in North Ossetia, Russian Federation, to assess the situation of conflict-affected children and women. The 30-31 August visit followed missions to Tbilisi and Moscow last week in which Ms. Calivis also discussed UNICEF’s response to the crisis.

While in North Ossetia, she met with government officials and representatives of other UN agencies and NGOs, as well as children and women who had to flee their homes due to the conflict.

In cooperation with local authorities in North Ossetia, UNICEF has identified areas where its assistance and expertise can be of particular value. These include psycho-social support, renovation and equipment of school facilities, establishment of child-friendly spaces and provision of School-in-a-Box kits.

“One of the main important things is that children return back to normal life and school is an environment that protects them,” said Ms. Calivis. “So it is important to help every child to go back to school.”


 

 

Video

29 August 2008:
UNICEF correspondent Kun Li reports on the situation of children and families at a camp for the displaced in Gori, Georgia.
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30 August 2008:
UNICEF correspondent Elizabeth Kiem reports on UNICEF Regional Director Maria Calivis's visit to North Ossetia, Russian Federation.
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4 September 2008:
UNICEF's Chris Schuepp talks to UNICEF Representative in Georgia Giovanna Barberis about the struggles faced by displaced families.
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