Relief for Georgia's Displaced Families


August 11, 2008

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Brutal fighting has driven at least 158,000 Georgians from their homes. Mercy Corps is responding to the needs of Georgia's displaced people with distributions of food and critical supplies to hundreds of families around the cities of Tblisi and Gori.

You can help us rush critical assistance to those affected by the region's worst violence in years.

"Civilians are the innocent victims caught in the middle of this conflict," said Randy Martin, director of Mercy Corps' Global Emergency Operations team. "Tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes, and are in desperate need of basics like shelter, food and fuel."

Mercy Corps has distributed food to hundreds of people in displacement camps around Georgia's capital, Tblisi. These food packages include basic supplies like buckwheat, sugar, rice and baby food. We are also planning to distribute hygiene kits in the same camps over the coming days, as well as expanding our work to deliver shelter and household items.

On August 18, a Mercy Corps emergency response team made it through Russian checkpoints into the besieged city of Gori. Our staff, who are now beginning operations in the area, report seeing damage to buildings and hearing from local citizens about their needs for food, water and hygiene items. Our emergency response team is currently negotiating permission to distribute hygiene kits and women's supplies to nearly 600 households in villages just outside of Gori.

"Right now the critical need is relief," said Jim White, Mercy Corps' vice-president of program operations. "But as the fighting subsides and displaced people return home, we will focus on longer-term recovery — of housing, schools, and livelihoods — and then on reconciliation among people on all sides of this conflict."

Fighting started after months of heightened tensions in the semi-autonomous region of South Ossetia. The fighting escalated when Russia sent troops and tanks into the area. Although a cease-fire is currently in place, there are reports of continued violence and looting, and inter-ethnic tensions are running high.

Mercy Corps has worked in Georgia since 2000. Our programs support rural development by helping farm families increase production, gain access to financing and form farmer groups that help families connect to markets and information. Mercy Corps has also helped cultivate young leaders working to build an inclusive, multi-ethnic society in Georgia.

Mercy Corps was on the verge of launching a new program in South Ossetia aimed at increasing interaction between ethnic Ossetian and Georgian youth when the conflict began.

With your help, we can help displaced families weather the current conflict and begin rebuilding their lives. Please make an immediate contribution to our Emergency Response.