World Vision calls for ceasefire, protection of civilians, in Georgia conflict

By agency reporter
August 9, 2008

As fierce fighting continues in Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region, international aid agency World Vision is calling for the international community to help broker an immediate ceasefire.

"Thousands of civilians are in harm's way right now, including women and children," warned David Womble, World Vision's national director for Georgia.

"The U.N. Security Council must make this matter a priority, and help broker an immediate ceasefire between the parties. If fighting continues, thousands of families will be forced to flee, and we could be faced with a humanitarian crisis."

To avoid any further civilian casualties and suffering, World Vision is calling for the United Nations Security Council to work to broker an immediate ceasefire. It also urges that combatants abide by international law and protect civilians, particularly children and women, who are most vulnerable.

The agency is concerned that civilians fleeing the conflict zone to the north and the south must be afforded safe passage and that humanitarian corridors be set up immediately so aid workers can safely access civilians and provide life-saving assistance.

In particular, it says UN agencies must be allowed access into the conflict zone to help coordinate the humanitarian response and maintain the necessary security communications to allow for humanitarian operations.

The United Nations, regional actors and key international stakeholders should advance the mediation of a long-term political solution that will end the conflict and address the humanitarian conditions resulting from the fighting, says World Vision.

Meanwhile, Tskhinvali, the main city in South Ossetia, has reportedly been cut off by fighting and remains inaccessible.

"We're hearing reports that the entire water supply to Tskhinvali has been shut off. Potable water is the number-one humanitarian need right now for the city and surrounding areas," said Womble.

World Vision has a small amount of pre-positioned emergency supplies in Georgia and is poised to assist people fleeing south. The agency also has programs in the Russian Federation's North Ossetia region, which borders the conflict zone, and is preparing for an influx of displaced people to the north as well.

The Christian aid agency has worked in Georgia since 1994, focusing on community development and the needs of children in difficult circumstances. Current programs include microfinance for poor entrepreneurs, support for street children and children with disabilities, food for work, HIV and AIDS prevention and assistance for returning migrant workers. World Vision does not have current programs in South Ossetia but assists more than 15,000 children in Abkhazia, another breakaway region of Georgia. The agency's 155 staff in Georgia are accounted for and safe at the present time.

World Vision also has worked in the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation since 1995, including peacebuilding and economic recovery projects in North Ossetia.

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