August 14, 2008
In Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, and Gori, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) program manager Filipe Ribero has conducted several evaluations at sites where displaced persons are living. In the field, Ribero reports, there is a sharp contrast between a massive influx of international aid and the limited opportunities—for now—to provide assistance.
What is the current situation in Georgia?
The situation appears to be easing. However, the civilian population is still worried about prospects for a rapid return to normal. The recent confrontations have provoked fears that have yet to ease. Initially, the situation in Georgia was extremely tense, which complicated the ability to travel. However, in the last two days, we have been able to move around more easily.
Quite recently, we have noted the arrival of massive numbers of aid agencies, although our initial evaluations do not reveal acute needs for now. Georgian health facilities are managing, overall, to treat the wounded. We are ready to provide medicines, if necessary.
What are the needs of the populations displaced by the conflict?
We visited two sites where approximately 200 to 500 persons have gathered, around Tbilisi. Housed in public buildings, they lack water and basic supplies (jerry cans, hygiene supplies, and cooking equipment). We will also use mobile teams to provide medical care. Some 20 sites like those are believed to exist in and around Tbilisi. In the coming days, we plan to visit other sites with a medical team and to deliver basic supplies so that we can respond to identified needs immediately.
What did you observe in Gori?
The city is deserted. Most of the civilian population appears to have left. During that quick visit, we went to the military hospital, which is the only one currently functioning in Gori. Very few wounded patients are hospitalized at the facility. They were stabilized there and most were transferred to Tbilisi. We also wanted to conduct evaluations in the villages around Gori, but it was impossible to obtain access to those areas. We expect to return once the security situation permits. Similarly, we are still trying to enter South Ossetia to conduct evaluations, but that area remains inaccessible to all aid actors currently in Georgia.
What is the status of MSF programs providing health care to patients affected by drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB)?
The two programs in Georgia are still active. One is located in the autonomous region of Abkhazia. In Sukhumi, Abkhazia, our team remains on site and continues to treat the 80 patients admitted into the program. In Zugdidi, Georgia, the MSF volunteers who evacuated the city at the request of Georgian authorities have returned. However, it appears that some of the 120 patients admitted into the program have not returned to the outpatient centers for their treatment. Because MDR-TB is a highly contagious illness, they represent a risk to those around them.
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