The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has started providing food assistance to more than 2,000 people displaced by the escalating conflict in Georgia, where hundreds of people have been killed and thousands more have fled their homes since fighting began in the region of South Ossetia on Friday.
Over the weekend, in response to a request from the Georgian Government, WFP provided a 10-day food ration to more than 1,900 displaced people living in shelters in the capital, Tbilisi; more distributions are taking place today. WFP has been drawing on food aid stocks from existing programmes in Georgia.
“The number of people in need of our help is rising by the hour,” said WFP Georgia Country Director Lola Castro, adding that so far, 2,750 displaced people had been registered in Tbilisi alone. She said many more people were living with relatives or in unofficial shelters.
High Energy Biscuits
Today’s distributions are mainly targeted at people outside the capital. Many of the displaced have no access to cooking facilities therefore WFP will provide High Energy Biscuits, which require no preparation, over the coming days.
WFP will also offer its logistical support to other humanitarian organisations, using capacity from its existing food assistance operation in the country which was targeted at 212,000 people -- mainly poor rural communities -- as well as primary schoolchildren, tuberculosis patients and people living with HIV/AIDS.
Tens of thousands of people have fled South Ossetia over the past four days. Many of them have been displaced in other parts of Georgia. The Russian Government says about 30,000 people have crossed the border into neighbouring North Ossetia, inside the Russian Federation where the government says it will take care of the humanitarian needs.
On Sunday, WFP carried out a joint assessment with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Gori, which has also been affected by the conflict, and found the town – with a population of about 40,000 – to be almost deserted.
WFP has been providing food assistance to Georgia since 1993.