UN organizes campaign to help Georgia's children return to school

5 September 2008

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is organizing a campaign to ensure that all children in Georgia can start the new school year this month, following the recent conflict in the Caucasus country.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is organizing a campaign to ensure that all children in Georgia can start the new school year this month, following the recent conflict in the Caucasus country.

“We are concerned along with the rest of the humanitarian community that not all children will be able to return to classes on time,” UNICEF's Robert Cohen told reporters in Geneva today.

That is why the agency is teaming up with the Government and other partners to launch a back-to-school campaign, ahead of the start of the new school year, set to begin on 15 September.

Mr. Cohen said that given the recent conflict, the big challenge is to ensure that the children among the internally displaced persons (IDPs) can return to school.

More than 158,000 people were displaced during the conflict that began in Georgia on 8 August – about 128,000 within Georgia and some 30,000 who fled to Russia.

“UNICEF views the return to school in September as a golden opportunity to help children begin to recover from the trauma of war and restore their hope in the future,” said Mr. Cohen.

Noting that many of the schools and kindergartens had been occupied by IDPs, he said that ensuring that the schools are ready and that the IDPs can be sheltered in appropriate conditions is a major problem.

It has also distributed over 1,000 “school in a box” kits that will provide learning materials for some 80,000 children, 700 recreation kits for 63,000 children, and materials to raise awareness of the risk of mines and unexploded ordnance.

In partnership with the non-governmental organizations World Vision International and Everychild, UNICEF has set up child-friendly-spaces to give them opportunities to play and learn, providing psycho-social support, organized recreation and sports.

These spaces seek to help uprooted children overcome the stress that many of them experienced during the conflict and the programmes will continue until formal schooling resumes.

“UNICEF is working with the government to ensure that children get back to school,” said Giovanna Barberis, UNICEF's Representative in Georgia. “Until then, UNICEF will be providing free psycho-social support, mine-risk education, nutrition and hygiene, and water and sanitation for children in need.”

 

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