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Desperate Georgian town getting help from United Nations

Nelson Alcantara, Special to eTN  Aug 19, 2008

Citing that it was responding to an urgent request from the Georgian government, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) last weekend had sent a truckload of food to the town of Gori.

"We understand the food situation in Gori has now become desperate," Lola Castro, WFP's Georgia Country Director, said last Saturday.

According to the United Nations, the WFP is supplying high-energy biscuits (HEBs) and sugar, while the non-governmental organization World Vision International is sending canned meat, buckwheat, pasta and tea.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week voiced his deep concern at the impact of the fighting on civilians, and called for “safe and unimpeded access for humanitarian actors to all conflict-affected areas.”

The UN also stated that its High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had estimated that close to 115,000 people have been uprooted from their homes since heavy fighting began over one week ago in South Ossetia between Georgian and South Ossetian forces. Russian forces have also become involved there and in the separate region of Abkhazia in north-western Georgia.

Last week Wednesday, the UN said WFP airlifted 34 metric tons of HEBs -- donated by the European Union -- from the UN Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Brindisi, Italy, and “they have already reached some 18,000 people in and around the capital Tbilisi.” A further 58 tons of HEBs arrived at the city last Saturday.

“The agency has located bakeries situated close to where internally displace persons (IDPs) have concentrated and is supplying wheat flour to make bread to be distributed to the hungry,” the UN said. “WFP, which has so far sent food assistance for 34,000 people forced from their homes, is also providing supplies for soup kitchens to enable people to eat hot food.”

The UN estimates that approximately 30,000 South Ossetians are believed to have crossed the border into North Ossetia, part of Russia, and WFP is monitoring the situation from its office in the North Ossetian capital of Vladikavkaz.

With the help of France, the nine-day war between Georgia and Russia has ended. The conflict erupted on August 7 when Georgia launched an assault to retake its Russian-backed separatist province of South Ossetia which then led to a massive counter-offensive by Russia.

Desperate Georgian town getting help from United Nations
Image by Christian Fredrik Borchsenius

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