International Rescue Committee Begins Aiding Civilians Fleeing Violence in Georgia
How You Can Help: Donate now to help the IRC assist victims of the crisis in the Georgia region and other displaced people around the world.
Thousands of terrified residents of Georgia's embattled breakaway region of South Ossetia are reported to be on the move - leaving behind destroyed homes and trapped or missing relatives. Most are seeking safety in schools and other public buildings in neighboring North Ossetia, which is part of Russia.
Earlier today, the IRC's team in Vladikavkaz distributed bedding, soap, shampoo, cleaning supplies and kitchenware at two schools sheltering 120 children, mothers and teachers who were evacuated from South Ossetia last week as tensions were mounting.
"Most of their immediate needs are being met by local authorities and communities so we're filling in gaps at this stage," says the IRC's Caucasus director, Thomas Hill. "But we fear conditions will decline as more refugees arrive and overwhelm existing accommodations."
Hill said one school that he visited expects to receive 50 more new arrivals in the coming days even though they are already at capacity. "The school will have no choice but to put displaced families in a gymnasium where there are no toilets, showers or clean drinking water," Hill says.
Another looming concern is that the next school term in North Ossetia begins September 1. "Everyone currently seeking refuge in a school will need to be relocated," says Hill. "Authorities are considering tent camps, but with cold weather on the horizon, that can only be a temporary solution."
Hill says those who made it to North Ossetia are more preoccupied with finding loved ones they left behind than anything else. "I talked to several extremely distressed women today who have received calls from family members still trapped in rubble or cut off by fighting and begging to be rescued," says Hill. "I would say most are hopeful that they will be reunited with their families, but others fear their loved ones are lost."
Active in the Caucasus since 1994, the IRC maintains a staff of 85 aid workers in the region, some based out of North Ossetia, who carry out infrastructure and economic recovery programs. The team is closely monitoring the crisis in South Ossetia, will continue distributing needed relief items, and is ready to expand aid efforts throughout the region.
The IRC participated in a needs assessment Saturday with UN agencies and other international and Russian aid organizations in North Ossetia. The groups are now meeting regularly to coordinate an effective humanitarian response. An IRC team will travel to Georgia early next week to survey needs there.How You Can Help
Donate now to help the IRC's Emergency Response Team assist victims of the crisis in the Georgia region as well as refugees and other displaced people around the world.Learn More
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Media Contact: Melissa Winkler, IRC Emergency Communications Director, melissa.winkler@theIRC.org, +1 646-734-0305