Christian Relief Agency Helping War Victims

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CWN.org -- As the United Nations and European nations send food and humanitarian aid to the embattled country of Georgia, a Christian relief agency is on the ground helping locate pockets of internally displaced people and bringing them assistance.  

France announced Monday it was sending a planeload of humanitarian aid to Georgia, and the United Nations food program said it had begun distributing aid over the weekend to thousands displaced by the country's conflict with Russia.

The German government also said it would spend about 1 million Euros on humanitarian aid for the region, where many have fled heavy fighting between Georgian and Russian troops in the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia.

World Vision, a Christian relief agency, is working with the international community to provide emergency assistance to displaced civilians-most of them women and children-who managed to flee to Georgia's capital, Tbilisi.

"Their basic needs are water and food, they're coming with nothing," David Womble, World Vision's national director in Georgia told CBN News in a phone interview.

To hear more of David Womble's comments about the situation in Georgia click on the player above.

World Vision is giving out food including canned meat with vegetables, pasta, canned fish, vegetable oil and iodized salt, as well as handing out emergency items such as bars of soap, toilet paper, wet napkins, towels, bed sheets and large woolen blankets to mainly women and children, who escaped the violence in Gori and villages in South Ossetia.

Womble says the fighting has taken a 'very, very, human toll' on the citizens of Georgia and South Ossetia. "It's more than what you see on TV, but individual people are experiencing trauma that nobody should ever have to experience."

"On Saturday when we conducted our first food distribution there were two girls aged 8 and 10 who had escaped South Ossetia, but they have no idea where their parents are. Their parents didn't escape and they don't know if they are alive or dead. Today, I was attending a coordination meeting and the Minister of Health of Georgia was there and he told me about a four-year-old girl who has third degree burns all over her body and she has no surviving family members." So, this has taken a very, very human toll. It's more than what you see on TV, but individual people are experiencing trauma that nobody should ever have to experience."

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has declared a 15-day "state of war" as clashes continue in South Ossetia and against military targets in Georgia.

World Vision is working with the United Nation's World Food Program, and will continue to coordinate closely with the UN and other organizations as more people flee southward toward the Georgian capital.

"UN agencies and NGO's will continue to discuss the increasing humanitarian crisis and how the humanitarian actors can coordinate an effective response," explained Womble.

Other World Vision operations in Georgia, as well as its projects in Abkhazia, have been suspended for the time being, as all efforts are now focused on the humanitarian relief effort.

More than 2,000 displaced people are currently being served at eight Internally Displaced Persons locations identified by Georgia's Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation. Three are located in Tbilisi and five in other districts of the country. The number of displaced people is expected to rise as the violence continues.

The French Foreign Ministry said the decision to ship 33 short tons of supplies, including tents, grew out of concern for the growing number of victims and displaced persons and the "considerable damage" caused by the conflict. It said the 250-seat Airbus A-340 aircraft can bring home French nationals and other Europeans trapped in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital.

Long-simmering hostilities blew up into heavy fighting after U.S.-backed Georgia launched an attack late Thursday to regain control over South Ossetia. Russia sent in troops and bombed Georgian sites outside the conflict zone.

The U.N.'s World Food Program said Monday it had already distributed 10-day food rations to about 2,000 displaced people living in Tbilisi.

The Rome-based agency said distribution continued, mainly for people outside the capital - although these were harder to reach because of Russian air strikes.

The agency, which has been providing food assistance to Georgia for 15 years, has been drawing on food aid stocks from existing programs.

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