Gori is getting back to normal, but displaced people still need urgent assistance
29 August, 2008
The life in the town of Gori near the conflict zone of South Ossetia, Georgia is getting back to normal again. Shops are open, people are returning back but signs of war are still visible - destroyed houses, burned apartment blocks, broken windows.
This is not the only thing that is different from what was here weeks ago. A tented camp housing up to 1000 people has been set up on the edge of the town for the displaced people coming back from Tbilisi to the area closer to their houses.
UNICEF, UNHCR, WFP, IRC and other agencies are working to ensure the basic standards for tented camps are observed with regard to water and sanitation, food and non-food items.
But for 10 year old Solomon Surameli, this is not the place he wants to live. Solomon is from the village Brotsleti that has been heavily affected by the conflict and Solomon with his parents was forced to flee and to leave his house.
“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. They stole from the houses whatever was there and they burned them. There is nothing interesting for me to do here. I sit around all the time, playing by myself with my toys. I want to be in my village”, told us little Solomon.
What Solomon was missing the most was the cross, the present of his mom, that he left in his house in Brotsleti. Solomon hopes that one day he will be able to go back to his house to regain his cross and his lost childhood.
Meanwhile in the tent camp Solomon should have an opportunity to play and to develop. To fill this gap UNICEF in partnership with the World Vision International and Everychild has set up child friendly spaces in the camp to provide psychosocial support, and to organize recreation, informal learning and sport activities for the displaced children.
This will help them to overcome the trauma and stress experienced as a result of the conflict and to have a sense of normality. The play and education activities will help them to get prepared for schooling to be resumed in mid-September.
“UNICEF will work with the Government to ensure that children are back to school but at the same time we have to safeguard that the displaced women and children have a decent return and proper accommodation”, said Giovanna Barberis, UNICEF Representative in Georgia. “Psycho-social support for those in need, mine-risk education, nutrition and hygiene, water and sanitation will be among the major areas of intervention for UNICEF in the coming weeks”, added Barberis.
Natela Shoshiashvili is from Gori itself but her house was bombed and completely destroyed like many other houses nearby. She was lucky enough and fled before bombs hit her house. Her neighbours were not that lucky and many, including children, died during this bombing. Natela with two little children fled first to the nearby village and then to Tbilisi. After Gori was reopened she went back but her house was destroyed and she moved to the tent camp. Natela lost everything but a hope that one day she will be able to rebuild her house as well as the shattered life of her family.
For people like Natela UNICEF and partners have distributed essential supplies to meet the basic needs of the displaced living in the tent camp. On 29 August UNICEF distributed 340 family kits for 1100 people. Each family kit contains items such as water bucket, jerry cans and soaps.
“I did not have anything to bathe my children and now I can do it”, said Mariam Burduli after receiving UNICEF Family kit.
“I could not bathe my one year old child”, said Natela Gokadze from Tirdznisi village. “This family kit will be a big help”.
According to UNICEF estimates, approximately 4,200 IDPs are currently residing in 22 collective centers in Gori. However, a majority of the displaced, approximately over 50,000, still remain in collective centers around Tbilisi.
UNICEF estimates that approximately 46,380 children and their family members have benefited from UNICEF’s direct assistance since the beginning of the conflict in August.