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Georgia/Russian Federation: first assessment of humanitarian needs in South Ossetia

20-08-2008 News Release 08/152

Geneva (ICRC) – Personnel from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are on their way to the capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali, to assess the need for humanitarian aid arising from the recent armed conflict.

The ICRC president, Jakob Kellenberger, who has just returned from a three-day visit to Georgia and the Russian Federation, said “Obtaining access for the ICRC to South Ossetia was one of the main objectives of my visit. We have indications that there are important needs in the region that still have to be addressed.” The ICRC president added that the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, had told him in Moscow on Tuesday that Russia supported the idea of the ICRC carrying out humanitarian work in South Ossetia.

Mr Kellenberger said that the organization had received a number of reports about people in South Ossetia in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. “Apart from assessing the needs of displaced people and the state of medical care, our priorities will be to restore contact between family members who have been separated by the conflict and to obtain information about people who remain unaccounted for,” he said. “Finally, we want to visit all those captured or detained in connection with the conflict to assess their treatment and living conditions.” He added that the ICRC would be coordinating its activities closely with the authorities on all sides.

On Sunday, the ICRC president visited Georgia, where the organization has been assisting thousands of people forced to flee their homes and supporting medical facilities across the country. Over the past week, it has brought more that 430 tonnes of food and other relief items into Georgia as it builds up its capacity to assist up to 25,000 displaced people.

“In Tbilisi, I visited a centre housing the displaced,” said Mr Kellenberger. “The families there are going through very hard times. The ICR C has already distributed food and other relief goods to about 7,000 people forced to flee their homes, in particular in Tbilisi, Gori and western Georgia. From the very start of the crisis, we were able to bring additional staff and supplies into the region, enabling us to react quickly and efficiently to people's needs. "

On Monday, Mr Kellenberger also visited a centre near the city of Vladikavkaz in North Ossetia that houses people who fled fighting in South Ossetia.

For further information, please contact:
  Yuri Shafarenko, ICRC Moscow, tel +7 495 626 5426 or +7 903 545 3534 (mobile)
  Jessica Barry, ICRC Tbilisi, tel +995 32 35 55 10 or +995 91 600 689 (mobile)
  Anna Nelson, ICRC Geneva, tel +41 22 730 2426 or +41 79 217 3264 (mobile)