ICRC special reportGeorgia: Paradise Lost
Georgia has undergone drastic changes in just a decade. In the wake of independence, civil war and two internal conflicts tore it apart just as it was about to establish itself as a sovereign state. Today it is a country stripped bare.
War has wrecked countless lives and the ensuing state of unresolved conflict continues to have crippling consequences for many victims. In the course of its 10-year presence, the ICRC has assisted them, and has also sought to address problems which affect the whole population as a result of the catastrophic economic situation.
In Abkhazia, where only four humanitarian organizations are present, a host of vulnerable people have no one but the ICRC to turn to for food and other basic goods. Over a third of the ICRC's 22,000 beneficiaries - sick, elderly and destitute people and children - would starve without this assistance.
Health care standards in both Georgia and Abkhazia have dropped frighteningly low. This is due to the overall shortage of medicines and medical equipment, lack of maintenance and continued training for medical sta ff, and more generally, the disintegration of the Soviet-style health structure which has not yet been replaced with a more efficient system. During the first quarter of 2001, ICRC support for hospitals enabled the following medical activities to be carried out:
some 400 major surgical operations, 12 of them war-related, in Abkhazia and 147 major operations, 18 of them war-related, in western Georgia;
transfusion of over 200 units of tested blood to around one hundred patients.
The spectre of a major public health catastrophe looms as water and sewage systems are nearing breakdown, especially in urban areas. In Sukhumi, for example, the local water board barely manages to keep water running for about 1 hour a day per household. Similar problems are preventing proper waste treatment and the water supply network is threatened by contamination.
Only two prosthetic/orthotic centres are functioning in Georgia, supported and financed by the ICRC since 1994. Some 2,800 patients are registered in Tbilisi and over 510 patients in Gagra; the proportion of war victims among these patients in Tbilisi is 24% against 71% in Gagra.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a major problem in Georgia. In places of detention TB prevalence is 200 times higher than in a normal environment. The ICRC is committed to decreasing the incidence of the disease by conducting an extensive TB control programme in the country's prisons, in close cooperation with the authorities. Since starting in 1998, the programme h as:
integrated some 1,300 detainees,
with a cure rate of 70-75% for those who completed their course of treatment in prison.
The ICRC's operations in Georgia are covered by its Southern Caucasus appeal (ICRC Emergency Appeals 2001, pp. 231-243) and amount to 26,940,401 Swiss francs (USD 15,550,015 / EURO 17,663,520). Contributions pledged and received as at 30 April 2001 amount to SFr 2,592,632 (USD 1,496,469 / EURO 1,699,864). Outstanding requirements stand at SFr 26,780,368 (USD 15,457,644 / EURO 17,558,594). The ICRC urges donors to come forward with funds for the programmes and activities described in this Special Report.