The International Committee of the Red Cross says its delegates are
assessing the humanitarian situation in South Ossetia and have begun
administering to the needs of the resident population. The ICRC says a
17-member team, which arrived in the Georgian breakaway region on
Wednesday, surveyed conditions in the capital, Tshkinvali on Thursday
and is continuing its mission Friday. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA
from ICRC headquarters in Geneva.
The International Committee of
the Red Cross says its aid workers, contrary to some reports, found
that the main hospital in Tshkinvali was not completely destroyed,
though some buildings in this large complex were damaged.
The 17-member team includes a surgeon, orthopedic specialist, water and habitat specialist and an assistance specialist.
Cross spokeswoman, Anna Nelson, says the team is meeting with hospital
technicians Friday to see what needs to be done to improve the water
and sanitation supply systems.
"The team was told by doctors on
Thursday that all 223 people who had been wounded in the conflict and
taken to the hospital, had already been transferred to medical
facilities in the Russian Federation," she said.
"The team was able to
see more of the city on Thursday. They say that there seems to be
about half the normal population in the city. This is, of course, just
an estimate. Earlier reports had indicated that the city was mainly
empty so the number of people currently there could be an indicator
that some displaced have returned home," she continued.
In some parts of the
city, the Red Cross team reports seeing buildings destroyed, including
the library, windows blown out of buildings and covered with plastic.
In some of the buildings, it says the electricity and water supplies
are up and running with some occasional cuts.
supplies, such as oil and fruit juice can be found in the stores, but
residents are mainly receiving their meals from the Russian
government's emergency agency.
In the meantime, the UN refugee
agency reports High Commissioner, Antonio Guterres, is visiting South
Ossetia Friday, thanks to the intercession of Russian foreign minister,
Sergei Lavrov. Guterres is the first senior international official to
travel to South Ossetia since the conflict between Russia and Georgia
in early August.
UNHCR spokesman, Andrej Mahecic,
says his aim is to evaluate the humanitarian situation, get a
first-hand view of the conditions for the return of those uprooted by
the crisis, as well as the possibilities for humanitarian access.
will continue its humanitarian assistance based in a strictly
non-political approach while stressing the non-discriminatory nature of
humanitarian action for all of the people affected by the conflict and
emphasizing the right of return for all of the displaced regardless of
ethnicity, religion or political affiliation," he said.
While the Red Cross and UNHCR have been able to enter South Ossetia, other aid agencies continue to be sidelined.
United Nations is renewing its call for access to South Ossetia. It
says its many specialized agencies, such as the World Food Program and
World Health Organization, have resources that other international
agencies do not have. It says they would complement and add value to
the humanitarian work currently being carried out by the International
Committee of the Red Cross.