Nearly 40,000 children in need of urgent assistance in GeorgiaNEW YORK, 22 August 2008 – UNICEF today voiced its concern over the situation of nearly 40,000 children affected by the conflict in Georgia.
The UN agency warned that living conditions, psycho-social issues and nutrition had become threats to the well-being of displaced children.
UNICEF’s Representative in Georgia, Giovanna Barberis, said that according to UNICEF assessments, the collective centers where children live are not suitable for habitation. They do not satisfy minimum requirements for sanitation, hygiene and building safety. Most of the centers are located in dilapidated buildings, which often have no toilets, no glass in the windows, sporadic electricity and running water.
“The infants living there urgently need complimentary food, and the older children require nutrition-rich food such as fruit and vegetables. There is also a need for diapers and other hygiene supplies, as well as recreational equipment. Instances of head lice, chicken pox, and fungal infections have been reported. There is virtually no regular health services, or access to medicine, nor psycho-social support”, she said.
The UNICEF assessment teams reported evidence of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, such as wide-scale sleep disorders among the children in the visited centres. The majority of children were experiencing emotional distress, as many were going through very difficult conditions. Fears, insomnia, neurosis and headaches were common complaints reported by children.
Barberis stated that the trauma experienced during this period would have a negative impact on children and may have long-lasting effects.
In terms of specific health requirements for the displaced children, UNICEF reports there will shortly be a need for medicine and immunization services.
UNICEF has been active in providing basic food, water and hygiene supplies, as well as bedding to the displaced women and children.
To address the psycho-social conditions of children, UNICEF will set up child friendly spaces in collective centres in and around Tbilisi. These spaces will offer children care and protection and will help them slowly return to normal life. In addition, child friendly spaces can also serve as makeshift schools, while UNICEF will be working towards getting children back to school in time for the opening of the school year in mid September.
Together with its partners UNICEF has agreed on the initial distribution of 400 “school-in-a-box” kits and 300 water and hygiene kits to collective centres in east Georgia. “The “school-in-a-box” kit supplies will be used to boost the establishment of child friendly spaces in collective centres as well as to support initial psycho-social activities with children and young people,” UNICEF said.
UNICEF is also preparing to respond to immediate needs for complimentary food items for the estimated 4,200 displaced children aged 6-24 months in collective centres. Along with this, UNICEF continues to advocate for exclusive breastfeeding with the Georgian authorities, and has already expressed its concern over the large amounts of breastmilk substitutes that are arriving as humanitarian aid in the country.
UNICEF estimates that out of the 128,700 people displaced within Georgia, 38, 610 are children under the age of 18 years, and 5,700 are under two years of age.
For further information, please contact:
Maya Kurtsikidze, Communication Officer, UNICEF Georgia, Tel: (995 32) 23 23 88, 25 11 30, Fax: (995 32) 25 12 36, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, mob: (995 99) 53 30 71