Skip to comments.American in Tbilisi (email)
Posted on 08/21/2008 2:36:15 PM PDT by MarMema
Greetings from Tbilisi. I returned from Yerevan last Friday after spending four days there. My friend was actually evacuated by her organization and had to wait for official permission to return to Tbilisi, which we received on Friday morning. We were on our way back to Tbilisi within an hour.
A major problem now is internally displaced persons (IDPs). There are both Georgian and Ossetian villages within the disputed area of South Ossetia (which is important in the discussion of South Ossetia being absorbed by Russia, since some people have told me "well now they got what they wanted and are part of Russia," which is erroneous on many levels). IDPs have come from within the conflict zone as well as from Gori region, where the Russians pushed into Georgia proper and occupied. There have been reports of looting and raping, which, if not being carried out by Russian soldiers, is ultimately their fault since they are in control of that area. Videos on youtube.com apparently show South Ossetian irregulars looting banks and other things.
The total number of IDPs is not exact, but the UN has approximated 130,000 people. Since I don't start work officially until Monday, I have been using this time to volunteer with different aid organizations that work with IDPs. Before leaving for Yerevan even I volunteered with World Vision, packing up dry goods that would last each recipient 10 days. On Sunday and Monday I drove around to different IDP centers doing needs assessments for UNHCR. This involved determining some demographic data (how many people, gender breakdown, socially vulnerable groups, health needs) and whether or not there was water, gas, electricity, beds, mattresses, sheets, food, clothing, access to medical care etc. There was a wide variety among the centers, which are largely schools and kindergartens (i.e. will have to be emptied before the school year starts in September). Some places were ok and people had access to running water and electricity and had some gas balloons on which to cook. In others, there was no water, no electricity, and no toilets even. In another one, there was 1 toilet for 122 people, including a pregnant woman and some infants. I saw people literally sleeping on concrete and with no changes of clothes. The IDPs seemed really in shock at the same time that they were incredibly appreciative of the support they were receiving. The local population has been delivering clothing and food to IDP centers, though how long that will continue is unknown. The local government has been distributing to some centers bread and sausage. Two problems are the lack of refrigerators and the lack of cooking pots, pans, and ovens/stove tops.
On the first day of this work, my friend and I decided to stop by the police station and see if they had a map of Didi Dighomi, an area I rarely go to. They did not, but what we got instead was a uniformed female police officer who helped us for the whole day to find places and interview people. She was awesome. On the second day of the needs assessment, I was driver and translator, conducting everything in Georgian. Yesterday I volunteered with Save the Children as part of an assembly line to put together bags of personal hygiene items, including detergent, soap, towels, a toothbrush, shampoo, etc. I will find a way to contribute tomorrow and Friday as well.
Another big problem is the fires that have been started in Georgia's Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park (the first one in the Caucasus region). Access to the park from Tbilisi is apparently being blocked by the Russian occupation, though Turkish fire fighters have been able to access the park from the west. Reporting today indicated that the Russian military forces will pull out of Georgia proper (and stay in South Ossetia) on the 22nd. I am looking forward to that happening very much so that relief and reconstruction efforts can reach those areas that were directly bombed or occupied (unlike Tbilisi). I have heard that the Russian government is providing aid in/around Tskhinvali, but as far as I know that has not been independently verified.
Thank you to everyone who has sent me messages of support and concern. In general, I am fine and am very glad that I returned to Georgia to be involved in helping people. I have attached some information that indicates what organizations are taking donations and how the humanitarian assistance is being organized. I encourage you to look at it. It is possible to directly donate to some organizations.
Thank you Marmema for posting your emails from your friends in Georgia.
God bless and May God save the brave people of Georgia!
There have been reports of looting and raping, which, if not being carried out by Russian soldiers, is ultimately their fault since they are in control of that area. Videos on youtube.com apparently show South Ossetian irregulars looting banks and other things.
Just like an army from 1000 years ago.
Send me the list!
Please see this press-release (there are some funds being set up in Georgia as well, but this one would probably be the closest to you);
NEW YORK, Aug. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Board of Directors and the Board of Advisors and Officers of American Friends of Georgia, Inc. condemn in the strongest possible terms the invasion of Georgia by the Russian Federation. We urge the immediate cessation of the bombing,
strafing and shelling of innocent civilians. All issues should be submitted to the United Nations as soon as possible. The Russian actions are intolerable and totally uncivilized.
The West abandoned independent Georgia in 1921 when Stalin’s communists invaded democratic Georgia. The West must not refuse to help Georgia today.
Our office in Georgia reports huge damage and destruction and many casualties. We stand ready to assist in any possible way. Funds are desperately needed. Friends of Georgia may send contributions via our
AFG is a public IRS Sec. 501[c]  charity established in 1994 by Americans and Georgian-Americans and is now supported by people from all over the world who have joined us to provide practical humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable citizens of the country of Georgia.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.