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Concern for thousands of children and women in need in Georgia and Russia

© © REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Some of the estimated 100,000 people who have fled their homes as a result of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict.

NEW YORK, 14 August 2008 – UNICEF is deeply concerned by the escalation of hostilities in South Ossetia, where reports indicate large numbers of civilian casualties. Women and children are a high proportion of those caught in the conflict and seeking safety.

discuss the aid effort for people affected by the conflict.

“The scale of fighting took people completely by surprise,” UNICEF Georgia Deputy Representative Benjamin Perks said, adding that most of those affected are being “housed in collective centres, while others are being housed with their families or other host families.”

Meeting basic health needs

UNICEF has joined the international community in calling for an immediate end to hostilities and appealed to all parties to ensure the safety and protection – including access to humanitarian assistance – of all civilians, particularly women and children.

 

© © REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili
A woman holding her baby cries near a damaged home.

“We are trying to ensure that all children have basic health and hygiene needs taken care of,” said Mr. Perks. “We have a particular problem … with institutionalized children and children with disabilities who have also been affected by the conflict – and we’re making sure that social services are able to provide support for the especially vulnerable children who do not have the protection of a family.”

Mr. Perks added: “A number one concern [is] that the huge escalation in violence and conflict will have a psychological impact not only on children, but on their parents as well.”

Programmes of cooperation

UNICEF is working closely with UN agencies on the ground, assessing the situation and immediate needs. At present, access to the zones of conflict is extremely difficult. Offers of humanitarian assistance have been made by the UN to the governments of Georgia and the Russian Federation.

UNICEF has offices in Tbilsi, Georgia, and in Moscow, and Vladikavkaz (North Ossetia) in the Russian Federation, where it is working closely with government counterparts and partners in the implementation of country programmes of cooperation. They are closely monitoring the situation and have regular contact with the relevant government authorities.

“We need to be able to respond very rapidly to ensure a resumption of normal childhood activities for children and ensure that protection mechanisms and health standards are in place for them,” said Mr. Perks.

 

 

 
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