August 24, 2008

An MSF emergency team based in Tbilisi has been able to gain access to the separatist province of South Ossetia and visit Tskhinvali hospital there. MSF, which already provides support to displaced people in Tbilisi, has offered to provide medical assistance in South Ossetia.

A Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) emergency team based in Tbilisi has been able to gain access to the separatist province of South Ossetia and visit Tskhinvali hospital there. MSF, which already provides support to displaced people in Tbilisi, has offered to provide medical assistance in South Ossetia.

Intense fighting broke out in Tskhinvali, the “capital” of the separatist province of South Ossetia, on August 7, and the situation has been slowly returning to normal in the aftermath of the peace accord signed by Russia and Georgia. Up until now, however, access to Tskhinvali had been impossible; MSF was not authorized to go there. Finally, on August 23, an MSF team was able to visit Tskhinvali hospital, where it met with that institution’s directors.

“The two deputy medical directors told us that local medical teams had been coping with the emergency under highly difficult circumstances,” said Filipe Ribeiro, MSF emergency program coordinator, “and that the Russian authorities had very quickly rushed large quantities of material assistance to the scene.”

During the visit, the MSF emergency team noted that a field hospital had been set up under tents within the confines of the hospital. The most severe cases have been transferred to North Ossetia, and relief supplies have come in from Russia, as well. In spite of this, “The exact nature of any additional possible needs hasn’t been determined yet,” said Riberio. Discussions are continuing as to what assistance MSF can offer health care centers and other hospitals in South Ossetia.

MSF Activities in Georgia
The clashes in Georgia also have caused massive displacement. MSF emergency teams in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, have been treating patients in many sites where displaced persons have gathered. MSF doctors have seen 497 patients since August 14. The teams have distributed 582 hygiene kits, which include soap, toothpaste, sanitary towlettes, washing detergent, candles, matches, and drinking cups, and 113 kits for child care, with pillows, talcum powder, and other supplies. Needs are being assessed in other regions in Georgia, including Imeretia and Samegrelo, where support is expected to be delivered soon.

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