Shock and sorrow in the eyes of displaced children
By Maya Kurtsikidze
But when fighting and bombing started Shorena with her two children – five-year old Jemal and seven-year old Beso were forced to leave their house and their land. Under heavy bombardment they left their village on 12 August and for a certain period they were hiding in the St George Church. But even the church was not a safe place for them and with the help of Georgian soldiers Shorena with children managed to escape. The whole village was destroyed during the bombardment, many people were killed. Shorena first moved to the relatives and then joined others in the tent town for IDPs near the Tbilisi airport.
A few tents accommodating up to 200 people from Gori and nearby villages are located in an open area under the burning August sun. At night it is windy and chilly. Many children got cold already. There is water but toilets and bathrooms are just being installed. Most of the people, including children have difficult living conditions. The IDP camp is largely maintained by the government but this is not enough. Additional humanitarian aid is already on its way.
Shorena’s elder son Beso was not there when we came to visit them. He went to see the doctor with his father as he is still suffering from the shock caused by heavy bombardment. Younger Jemal feels better. He was playing with the toys but we could see the shock and sorrow in his eyes.
“What can we do now?”, asked us Shorena. “What I want most of all is to get back to my house, let me work on my land”, she said.
While we were talking with the doctor of the camp Medea Margishvili, Eteri Kostanova, 14, from Gori came to seek her asssistance. She suffered from the nervous shock as when a bomb hit the nearby house, windows in her house were broken, everything was destroyed and fell on her while she was lying in the bed. She was thrown away by the force of the blow. Eteri fled the home town with her family and managed to reach Tbilisi through the fields and forests nearby.
Eteri is not the only one. The doctor told us that nervous shock and related complications were among the major health problems faced by most of the IDPs here.
Lasha is only 10 months old and later her mother Teona would tell him how she was teaching him to walk in the IDP camp. “Come on Lasha…one, two, three…” Teona was helping him to make a few steps and Lasha was doing quite well but then he fell down and we rushed to get him up again. Now we all tried to help Lasha to walk “One, two, three…well done Lasha”, we clapped enthusiastically.
Lasha with her mother Teona are from the Karaleti village near Gori. Their house was burnt and they were lucky to flee the fire.
“Lasha has been crying all night long” said Tamuna, “maybe he still remembers the sound of the explosion. He also does not have the normal bed to sleep”, she added.
From the tent town we went to another IDP collective centre located in the Industrial College in Tbilisi suburbs. The college already housed old IDPs who fled another breakaway province of Abkhazia some time ago. Newly arrived IDPs have difficult living conditions here as well. There are no beds and they are lying on the floor. In better cases the family has one bad and family members sleep in turns.
A sigh of relief came as UNICEF distributed 100 beds for children to four collective centers in Tbilisi, including the Temka collective centre as part of its immediate response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Georgia, UNICEF.
It means that four year old Bella Beruashvili and her two year old brother Aleko who were cheerfully playing in front of the college will normally sleep in bed this night. Bella and Aleko were lucky enough as they did not see the bombing and destruction with their own eyes. They fled their house before the fierce fighting broke out. Their dreams are different: Aleko wants to become a footballer. Four years old Otiko Demurishvili holds gun and when asked why he plays with the gun he replied: “I like it, I want to become a soldier and to fight”.
One year and eight months old Luka Bidzinashvili was less fortunate than Bela and Aleko. Luka and his mother were hiding in the forest nearby Gori for nine days. When they ran out of food, they decided to go out of the forest but while moving towards Tbilisi they were detained by the Russian soldiers patrolling nearby. Luka and his mother spent a few hours there and afterwards they were released and arrived in Tbilisi. Aleko and his mother now live with their relatives and they came to the Temka collective centre to visit their friends.
Most of the IDPs here were forced to flee their houses twice. First they fled from Tskhinvali when the first round of fighting broke out in early 90s and now again they were forced to leave their rebuilt houses. Most of their houses were burnt again.
As part of its immediate response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Georgia, UNICEF Georgia distributed hygiene kits, folding beds, towels and bottled waters to over 4,000 persons who were forced to flee their homes as a result of the recent outbreak of hostilities in and around South Ossetia, Georgia.
We visited Beka in the Iashvili Children’s Hospital in Tbilisi. He has been in shock these days and now he is trying to get back to normal. Beka looked at us like asking everybody “Why? What I have done wrong?” His parents told me that Beka still had to go through repeated surgery on the head.
It would be difficult for these children to forget what happened but what should be done is to support them in overcoming trauma and distress they have gone through. According to the UN estimates 60 per cent of about 128,603 displaced are women and children.