Displaced women and children in Georgia need urgent help
By Mariam Betlemidze
Children of different ages play in the yard of Tbilisi kindergarten. More than 24 hours have passed since they left the conflict zone with their parents and relatives; some of them still fear entering the building.
Four-year-old Giorgi Djebisashvili was being baptized in church of the city of Gori when bombs fell nearby. Undeterred by the shelling outside, and the crying and howling inside, the priest did not stop the service. When the christening finished, and the father with his both children came out, fire surrounded the church. Sound of explosions was still heard from the different places in the town.
“We wanted our mother to be with us,” Giorgi’s elder sister Nino recalls. “Father rapidly pushed us towards the car and we moved off. From then I do not remember anything…”
Meanwhile, Zinaida Jebiashvili was at home in Medvriskhevi village watching the news on TV and waiting for family members to arrive. The news anchor broadcast that Gori had come under fire and the church, which was near a military base, had been bombed.
“I came out and started screaming and calling out the neighbors to help me. I was almost sure that I would never see my husband and children alive,” Zinaida Djebisashvili said, with tears in her eyes. “Soon my husband’s car appeared and that was like a miracle to me. Then military helicopters appeared above our village and shelling began in our place too. So we, together with our villagers, fled to Tbilisi.”
According to the UNHCR estimates, nearly 120,000 people, many of them children and women, have been displaced as a result of the recent escalation of the conflict in and around South Ossetia, Georgia. The conflict has affected large numbers of people, especially children and women. Many have been killed and wounded; in addition, large numbers of people have left their homes.
In Georgia, most of the internally displaced persons have been accommodated in 170 temporary facilities such as kindergartens, schools, public and governmental buildings. However, many of the facilities lack basic conditions such as toilets, potable water and electricity.
UNICEF has already rushed nutritional and hygiene supplies, and water purification tablets to more than 4,000 people. UNICEF is also planning to airlift school-in-a-box, recreation kits for children, basic family kits and water and sanitation materials for approximately 6,000 families in the coming days.
Provision of psycho-social services for internally displaced children is another important area where UNICEF is planning to be involved. Many children appeared to be eyewitnesses of shelling that have had an enormous impact on their psycho-social conditions.
Roland and Maya Mindiashvili’s three children Fatima 11, Milana 8 and Khatuna 6, were among those who were caught by heavy shelling, twice, when trying to flee their village Kemerti. When shelling in nearby villages started, Roland and Maya were sure that this wouldn’t last for long and decided to hide their children in the basement. But when the fighting came closer Roland sold his tractors, bought a car from his neighbor and started off towards a safe place.
“While driving, one of the helicopters was following us,” Maya recalls. “We thought it was going to bomb us. The children were looking through the window and saw several houses exploding. Children were asking me: ‘will we die if the bomb falls on our car’?”
Fatima, the eldest daughter, says that she tries not to think about what she had seen during the last days in South Ossetia. “I want to serve as an example for my younger sisters, who still cannot sleep at night without sedatives.” Parents say their children are having nightmares and sometimes ‘jump’ while they are sleeping.
In an empty room of the former building of the Ministry of Finance, in Tbilisi, they have no beds and mattresses. Milana and Khatuna do not have shoes, and wear dirty clothes. They do not have their basic hygiene needs met and they do not know if they will have enough food for all family members.
However, in their words this is a minor misery that they feel now. Having happily survived from bombing they feel safe now and dream to return home. “No matter that our house is looted, burned, or destroyed we still want to be back home,” says Maya Tvauri, patting on her elder daughter’s blond head. “Having passed through this ordeal now I realize how good it is to be alive,” adds Maya. “We do not ask for any help but we urge for peace that will give us a chance to build our lives again...”