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Archive for the ‘Caucasus’ Category

Georgia Crisis: A trip to Gori

Posted by Kate Sands Adams on 28 August, 2008

IRC surveys homes destroyed by recent bombings in Gori, Georgia.
The IRC surveys homes destroyed by recent bombings in Ruisi, one of the villages surrounding the town of Gori, in Georgia. Photo: Eric James/The IRC
Eric James The IRC

Eric James The IRC

Eric James blogs from Tbilisi, Georgia, where he is coordinating International Rescue Committee programs for people uprooted by crisis in the region.

“We won’t go back until it’s safe,” is the refrain I hear every day from people who fled for their lives nearly three weeks ago amid intense fighting between Georgian, Russian and assorted other forces.  Roughly 160,000 people are newly uprooted in addition to a sizeable group of 250,000 displaced from conflicts dating back to the 1990s.  Those who fled the most recent crisis left with little more than the clothes on their backs.   In some communities, 95% of the population hit the road. The city of Gori, which had 50,000 residents, is one such place.  An hour west of the capital Tbilisi, we went there to see conditions this week and look at the possibility of helping people return and recover.

The main motor-route through Georgia, which connects the capital with the western part of the country, was busy with traffic on this day.  There were large commercial trucks, mostly from Turkey, along with a number of security and aid vehicles. We also saw some displaced people returning to towns and villages that no doubt escaped major damage.   On the horizon, a large black cloud rose from a train that had reportedly hit a landmine left by Russian forces. 

Immediately upon entering Gori you can see bombed out apartment blocks.  They are scorched black all over and turned inside out.  Streams of paper and other personal belongings litter the front grounds.   In the center of town, most buildings are intact, unlike the town centers just to the north in South Ossetia where there was heavy fighting.  Instead, it seems that a few bombs were dropped here to scare people and make a point.  Then, troops entered with their tracked vehicles, shooting buildings at random and ordering residents to leave.  Apparently the threat from landmines in Gori has been assessed as “low” because troops did not have much time to place them. Yet we were told that a woman who was out picking grapes and two children had been killed by landmines only the day before. 

Jason Snuggs/The IRC

Eric James (right) takes notes on what’s needed to help communities like this one in Gori rebuild. Photo: Jason Snuggs/The IRC

Gori and villages surrounding it are ever so slowly coming back to life.  In the center of town we visited the City Hall. There, a hundred or more people, ready to go home, were waiting on the steps for buses to nearby villages.  We talked to a few families who told us they are eager to restart their lives, but remain very worried about the future.  “Look, the Russians are still only 7 kilometers away,” said one man with alarm.

Our team traveled further west to Ruisi, a village of 6,000 people.  Already a dry place at this time of year, fields were burning and smoke was rising as we drove past scorched trees and underbrush.  In Ruisi, we met with the mayor and talked about the crisis over homemade cherry juice.  He told us that the fighting disrupted the farmers’ harvest.  He also said the farmers are afraid to go to their land, which is so close to the Russian troops.   On August 12th, the Russian military dropped several bombs in the area and then occupied Ruisi.  The mayor took us to see one of the houses that was destroyed. It was a direct hit which made it look like Hollywood had done it up as a set.  Part of the house was burnt and ripped open. The rest had been vaporized.  Houses across the street were also badly damaged.  We looked into one living room which had debris and dust everywhere.  All glass was shattered and the ceiling sagged with its panels ripped apart.  We met an elderly man and woman there. The man told us he was inside the house when the explosion happened.  I imaged that his ears must still be ringing.  The woman dressed in black, I suppose his wife, could only shake her head and motion to the ground and sky.  “Why did they do this?” she finally asked.

Posted in Caucasus, emergencies, war | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Missing persons / North Ossetia

Posted by Peter Biro on 21 August, 2008

South Ossetian refugees looking at lists of missing persons IRC photo
Photo: Thomas Hill/The IRC
The IRC’s Caucasus director Thomas Hill took this picture of South Ossetian refugees looking at lists of missing persons outside a shelter in neighbouring North Ossetia. On 12 August, Hill traveled with a group of colleagues from the North Caucasus aid community to assess refugee needs in Alagir, an industrial town west of the North Ossetian capital Vladikavkaz. Alagir is one of the first entry points for the many thousands of refugees who have poured over the border from the embattled Georgian enclave.

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.

Posted in Caucasus, howtohelp, refugees, war | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Relief for refugees from South Ossetia

Posted by Peter Biro on 15 August, 2008

distributions at the Mikhailovskoye school in Vladikavkaz
                                                                                                  Photo: Thomas Hill/The IRC
Last week, the IRC’s team in the North Ossetian capital Vladikavkaz distributed hygiene articles, bedding, cleaning supplies and kitchen utensils at two schools sheltering 120 children, mothers and teachers who were evacuated from South Ossetia as tensions mounted between Russia and Georgia. The IRC’s Caucasus director Thomas Hill took this photo of distributions at the Mikhailovskoye school in Vladikavkaz.

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.

Posted in Caucasus, emergencies, howtohelp, photos | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Children fleeing war / Georgia

Posted by The IRC on 14 August, 2008

Thomas Hill/The IRC

Many of the refugees in North Ossetia are children who need qualified psychological assistance. Photo: Thomas Hill/The IRC

In the aftermath of fighting between Russia and Georgia in Georgia’s embattled breakaway region of South Ossetia, thousands of people have fled to neighboring Russia’s North Ossetia region, where they require immediate assistance.

“Many of the refugees are children who have witnessed bombing and fighting and therefore need qualified psychological assistance,” says the International Rescue Committee’s Caucasus director, Thomas Hill.

The IRC has joined forces with a Russian aid group to help. Story just posted on the IRC Web site here.

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.

Posted in Caucasus, children, emergencies, howtohelp, war | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Working Toward a Better Life in Chechnya

Posted by Kate Sands Adams on 13 September, 2007

Vakha and students
Photo: The IRC
Two new stories from the war-ravaged republic of Chechnya, just posted on the IRC Web site:

The IRC and  the Chechen business community join forces to help unemployed Chechens find jobs, cut crime and rebuild towns. Link

With entrepreneurial spirit, a flair for giving manicures, and help from the IRC, one young woman has found a way to lift herself and her family out of poverty. Link

Posted in Caucasus | Leave a Comment »

 
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