Secretary-General confers with advisers, diplomats on Georgia

16 August 2008

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today in New York met with his top advisers regarding the United Nations' approach to the current situation in Georgia.

Mr. Ban is also speaking separately with the President of the Security Council, the body's five permanent members and Irakli Alasania, the Permanent Representative of Georgia to the UN.

In a related development, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is responding to an urgent request from the Georgian Government by sending a truckload of food to the town of Gori, which the agency has not been able to reach due to insecurity.

“We understand the food situation in Gori has now become desperate,” said Lola Castro, WFP's Georgia Country Director.

The agency is supplying high-energy biscuits (HEBs) and sugar, while the non-governmental organization World Vision International is sending canned meat, buckwheat, pasta and tea.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that close to 115,000 people have been uprooted from their homes since heavy fighting began over one week ago in South Ossetia between Georgian and South Ossetian forces. Russian forces have also become involved there and in the separate region of Abkhazia in north-western Georgia.

Some 45,000 people have fled Gori and are heading towards the capital Tbilisi, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). Facilities for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Tbilisi and its outskirts are said to be in poor condition, with their residents – many of whom are very poor – are reliant on Government and international help for their survival.

Last Wednesday, WFP airlifted 34 metric tons of HEBs – donated by the European Union – from the UN Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Brindisi, Italy, and they have already reached some 18,000 people in and around Tbilisi. A further 58 tons of HEBs arrived at the city today.

The agency has located bakeries situated close to where internally displace persons (IDPs) have concentrated and is supplying wheat flour to make bread to be distributed to the hungry. WFP, which has so far sent food assistance for 34,000 people forced from their homes, is also providing supplies for soup kitchens to enable people to eat hot food.

The agency is leading the coordination of food assistance and plans to offer logistical support to other aid partners. Prior to the start of the conflict, the agency was providing food to over 212,000 people, mainly in poor rural communities, as well as to schoolchildren, tuberculosis patients and people living with HIV/AIDS.

Approximately 30,000 South Ossetians – 80 per cent of whom are women and children, according to UNICEF – are believed to have crossed the border into North Ossetia, part of Russia, and WFP is monitoring the situation from its office in the North Ossetian capital of Vladikavkaz.

 

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Georgia: UN continues to press for humanitarian access to victims

As urgent supplies continue to arrive for those affected by the conflict in Georgia, the United Nations refugee agency has repeated its call for free and unhindered humanitarian access and safe passage for uprooted civilians and the aid workers trying to help them.