Georgia: UNICEF rushes vaccines to children displaced from South Ossetia

25 August 2004

A week after fighting between government troops and separatist forces displaced thousands in the South Ossetia region of Georgia, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is rushing vaccines to immunize 1,600 evacuated youngsters against measles, mumps and rubella.

The agency is working with the Georgian Ministry of Health in the four-day campaign aimed at reaching displaced children between the age of one and 15.

“It is absolutely essential to immunize children against measles to avoid any possible outbreak of epidemics during an emergency situation, given the high number of children concentrated in one place,” said Ingrid Kolb-Hindarmanto, UNICEF Programme Coordinator in Georgia.

In addition, UNICEF is providing 1,300 Vitamin A capsules for displaced children to strengthen their ability to shake off illness, as well as essential drugs and hygiene supplies such as soap and shampoo for up to 2,700 displaced women and children. It is also providing syringes and vaccine containers and child health cards to ensure that every vaccination is properly recorded.

In a bid to help restore a sense of normalcy to the conflict-traumatized children, the agency last week sent 35 school kits and 10 football kits, as well as information materials for parents and social workers to local authorities for distribution to the 970 displaced people housed in nine sanatoriums and hotels in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region in southern Georgia.

Another 55 school kits, together with sport and recreation equipment, will be distributed to local authorities in the other four regions hosting displaced women and children in the coming days. Each kit serves 40 students and contains basic school supplies as well as more sophisticated materials, like a set of laminated posters for teaching math and reading. The kit comes in an aluminium box, which itself can double as a blackboard.