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Conditions Worsening For Displaced in Georgia

The International Committee of the Red Cross says tens of thousands of people are in need of emergency help in conflict-ridden parts of Georgia, including the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from ICRC headquarters in Geneva the agency describes conditions as worsening for those affected by the armed conflict involving Georgian, Russian and South Ossetian troops.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says the lack of access to the victims of war is the biggest problem facing aid agencies. It says the situation is particularly critical for thousands of people who are trapped in South Ossetia and have been without assistance for nearly a week.

The Red Cross says it has reports of large-scale human suffering and destruction of infrastructure there. But, there is little the agency can do to help because its pleas for safe, unimpeded access to the Georgian breakaway region so far have gone unheeded.

Red Cross Spokeswoman, Anna Nelson, tells VOA lack of access to these people is a big concern. But, she says an estimated 60,000 people elsewhere in Georgia who fled their homes also require emergency assistance.

"Mainly, we are talking very much about basic needs-water and sanitation," Nelson said. " We are hearing today that in Tblisi the centers where a lot of displaced people have taken shelter and have been staying are now full, so tented camps are being set up by the government in empty spaces out near the airport and other areas. So, of course in those type of situation and in the public buildings where people are staying, water and sanitation will be a big priority in the days to come."

Nelson says insecurity is limiting what the Red Cross can do. For instance, she says a surgical team that had gone to the Georgian town of Gori on Wednesday was forced to leave because of a bomb alert, which caused panic among the local people.

"While our team was in Gori, they visited two hospitals," Nelson said. "One was pretty much empty or closed. The people there had been evacuated. They visited another hospital. But, then due to security concerns, they were not able to actually support any of the surgical staff there in performing their duties. When they were out on the streets they said they saw signs of a lot of destruction and a lot of abandonment.

Nelson says the surgical team plans to visit one of the hospitals in Tblisi where a number of the wounded were taken from Gori. She says the Norwegian Red Cross is sending in a field hospital, which has a capacity for up to 20 beds and can be quickly assembled.

The Red Cross spokeswoman says an air bridge between Amman, Jordan and Tblisi is in full swing. This, she says, will allow daily relief flights to bring in urgently needed food and essential non-food items, such as hygiene kits, tarpaulins and blankets.