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Georgia/Russian Federation: large-scale humanitarian aid still needed

13-08-2008 News Release 08/147

Geneva/Tbilisi/Moscow (ICRC) – Tens of thousands of people are in need of emergency help in areas affected by the armed conflict involving Georgian, Russian and South Ossetian troops, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Reports from Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia indicate large-scale human suffering and destruction of infrastructure. The ICRC has repeatedly requested safe and unimpeded access to South Ossetia in order to assess residents'needs and start distributing relief goods.

" It is imperative that we gain rapid access to South Ossetia so that we can bring urgent help to those in need, " said Dominik Stillhart, the ICRC's deputy director of operations.

According to government estimates, there are up to 60,000 people elsewhere in Georgia who have fled their homes and also require emergency assistance.

" We see a need for basic things, such as food, water and hygiene items at the shelter centres we are visiting both in and around Tbilisi and in Zugdidi, in western Georgia, " said Dominique Liengme, the ICRC's head of delegation in Georgia. " After two days of poor security conditions, one of our teams, which included surgeons, was able to go back to Gori today to evaluate and attend to medical and general needs there. Another is on its way to Zugdidi. "

In the Russian Federation, the ICRC estimates that at least 12,000 people fled to North Ossetia from South Ossetia, the vast majority of them women, children or elderly. Around half of the people who fled to North Ossetia have managed to contact the relatives they left behind by telephone.

" Some have been able to get through to their families in the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali, where people are using generators to charge their mobile phones. We hear that people in South Ossetia are in desperate need of wate r and basic supplies, and that many would like to get out but cannot, " said Rachel Bernhard, the ICRC's head of sub-delegation in Nalchick.

The ICRC has provided the hospital in the North Ossetian town of Vladikavkaz with another kit for treating war-wounded people, after distributing five such kits in recent days containing enough supplies to treat around 150 patients. It is also working with the North Ossetian branch of the Russian Red Cross to provide emergency assistance for people who fled from Georgia.

The ICRC has established an air bridge from its logistics centre in Amman, Jordan, to Tbilisi, with an initial shipment of 35 tonnes of relief supplies, including blankets, jerrycans, tarpaulins, buckets and hygiene items due to leave shortly. Future shipments will include rice and food parcels.

In addition to providing medical and emergency relief, the ICRC is assessing the tracing needs of people who have lost contact with their loved ones. ICRC staff have met with a number of civilians who are anxiously trying to locate their relatives and will work to restore links between family members separated from each other.

The organization also continues to seek access to all persons arrested or captured in connection with the fighting and reminds the parties to the conflict of their responsibility to protect civilians in areas under their control.

  For further information, please contact:
  Maia Kardava, ICRC Tbilisi, tel: +995 32 35 55 10 or +995 99 55 88 18 (mobile)
  Yuri Shafarenko, ICRC Vladikavkaz, tel: +7 867 253 0737 or +7 903 545 3534 (mobile)
  David-Pierre Marquet, ICRC Moscow, tel: +7 495 626 5426 or +7 906 708 4637 (mobile)
  Anna Nelson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 2426 or +41 79 217 3264 (mobile)