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Georgia: 200,000 meals cooked in under three weeks.

07-10-2008 Feature

Thousands of displaced people in Gori cannot meet their basic needs. Even preparing meals has become a challenge to them. The Italian Red Cross offers them a lifeline.

 

ICRC/J.Barry/ge-e-00350  
 
Gori, a kitchen in a camp for displaced people. Georgian and Italian Red Cross workers preparing meals for displaced people. 
    The Georgian Red Cross Society put in place a soup-kitchen programme as part of its humanitarian response to needs of civilians caught up in the recent crisis. Within the scope of the programme, the Italian Red Cross set up its soup kitchen in Gori, in a tented camp sheltering displaced people. The soup kitchen began preparing meals for the displaced on 2 September. On 23 September, it prepared its 200,000th meal and by 27 September the figure had risen to 215,700.

Fifteen Italian Red Cross workers have been producing 3,600 meals daily, half at lunch time and half in the evening, helped by a Georgian cook who makes sure that the food – which includes pasta, meat, eggs, beans, rice and fruit, to ensure a balanced diet – appeals to Georgians. Georgian Red Cross volunteers hel p prepare and distribute the meals.

" We are very pleased to have a Georgian cook with us, " says Barbara Demartin, of the Italian Red Cross. "  At the beginning people said they were not accustomed to the taste of Italian food. Now, we are able to give the meals more of a local flavour. It also means that as we scale down our own staff, more and more Georgians will be involved in running the kitchen. "

At lunch time in the camp, one person from each tent comes to the kitchen to fetch food for the whole family. They come back at dinner time for their second meal. Meals are served in containers, which can then be packed into bags and carried back to the families in the tents. Food for the soup kitchen is either donated or purchased locally.

Meals are not only delivered to people in the tented camp in Gori but also to displaced families housed in nearly 30 collective centres in Gori and Tbilisi.

 Making the best of a tough situation  

Although families who fled the conflict in August are beginning to return to their villages north of Gori, many more are staying put in the camp, waiting for security to improve before going home.

" There is enough food, but it is not the most important thing. What really matters is for us to be able to go back home,” says Mariana Tushishvili, from South Ossetia, who left her village at the start of the war.

Without the means to cook for themselves, the displaced in Gori depend on the soup kitchen. It will continue providing them with this vital service until they are in a position to return to their homes.

On 25 September the soup kitchen stopped providing meals to collective centres in Gori as the local authorities and non-governmental organizations began assuming responsibility for this task.