UN seeking nearly $59 million to aid Georgian conflict victims

18 August 2008

The United Nations and its humanitarian partners today appealed for $58.6 million to meet the needs for the next six months of almost 130,000 people affected by the recent crisis in Georgia.

“I hope the international community will show itself fully ready, capable and willing to help provide critically-needed assistance to the people of Georgia,” said Catherine Bragg, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), donors have already pledged $23 million towards the appeal, which will support the aid efforts of nine UN agencies and 16 non-governmental and international organizations.

Food, health and nutrition, protection, shelter and non-food items, as well as water, sanitation and hygiene are among the most urgent needs for the victims of the conflict, which began over a week ago when heavy fighting broke out in South Ossetia between Georgian and South Ossetian forces.

The ensuing hostilities, in which Russian forces also became involved, uprooted close to 118,000 people from their homes, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

OCHA says the humanitarian response has been challenging due to limited access. Those affected have also gathered in numerous sites making it difficult for both the Georgian Government and relief agencies to locate them and identify their needs.

There have also been reports of property destruction, looting of assets and civilians traumatized by the conflict. “While the most acute phase of the violence appears to have passed, until there a firm peace in the country we must be prepared to respond to a critical and fluctuating humanitarian situation,” said Ms. Bragg.

The limited access to the affected areas means that the airlifting of goods is still required, and it is the only way to get supplies to the western part of the country. On Sunday, a UN convoy of relief supplies managed to enter the town of Gori for the first time in the past two weeks, bringing with it high-energy biscuits, jerry cans, kitchen sets and blankets.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has stressed the importance of providing appropriate health care and safe drinking water, sanitation and accommodation for those affected, adding that there have been no reported outbreaks of communicable diseases among the displaced so far.

Authorities in both Georgia and Russia have indicated that they currently are able to cope with the health needs that may arise, the agency said. WHO has offered both governments its assistance and is in constant contact with officials to monitor the health situation.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has spent the past several days conferring with his top advisers regarding the situation in Georgia, as well as with the President of the Security Council, the body’s five permanent members and the Permanent Representative of Georgia to the UN. The last of those meetings took place today, when he met with the United Kingdom’s Ambassador to the UN.


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Secretary-General confers with advisers, diplomats on Georgia

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.