Head of the UNICEF team to Gori, Mr. Sheldon Yett, described Gori as a ghost town. “There was some shell damage to buildings, plus signs of widespread looting.”
The majority of Gori residents, including women and children, left the town for Tbilisi immediately after the city was shelled. Those who stayed behind were mainly elderly people, unwilling or unable to leave their houses. Many basic services in the city have ceased to function.
“There is an urgent need to provide people with food now. We are particularly concerned about the people living in villages to the north of Gori town,” Minister for Regional Affairs, David Tkeshelashvili said in a meeting with the UNICEF assessment team.
The UNICEF team stated that schools and kindergartens in Gori remained intact, but it was unable to access school and kindergartens in villages outside of Gori. UNICEF was advised by Georgian Government officials that schools and kindergartens in villages to the north of the town have been destroyed. A similar situation is reported in South Ossetia.
Mr. Sheldon Yett stated that one of UNICEF’s main priorities was to get children back to school in order to give them a sense that normality was returning. “We have ordered in education and recreation kits to supply 40,000 displaced children.”
The team also visited two hospitals from which 13 children had been evacuated to Tbilisi. The hospitals were unaffected by the conflict.
UNICEF also discussed the issue of land-mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) with Gori authorities and is now trying to mobilize resources in order to raise awareness and start education programmes about the dangers these pose.
According to UN estimates up to 128,000 persons have been displaced within Georgia as a result of the conflict. About 60 per cent of them are children and women. The majority of the displaced persons are housed in about 600 collective centres in Tbilisi. Another 30,000 people fled to the Russian Federation.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
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Maya Kurtsikidze, Communication Officer, UNICEF Georgia, Tel: (995 32) 23 23 88, 25 11 30, Fax: (995 32) 25 12 36, E-mail: email@example.com, mob: (995 99) 53 30 71