The United Nations Children's Fund says more attention must be paid to
the educational, psychological and physical needs of children who are
among the main victims of the war that erupted between Georgia and
Russia just over a week ago. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.
to estimates by the Georgian and Russian governments, nearly 120,000
people have been displaced in Georgia and the breakaway region of South
Ossetia by the recent conflict with Russia. The UN Children's Fund
says a large proportion of those who fled their homes are women and
No exact figures are available on civilians killed and
wounded in the conflict. But aid agencies agree many women and
children are certain to figure among the casualties.
special advisor on Central European countries, Gordon Alexander, says
lack of access and safety on the ground is hampering the ability of aid
agencies to help those in need.
He says homeless people are being sheltered in centers that are ill equipped to deal with their needs.
are kindergartens, places for IDPs [internally displaced people]," said
Alexander. "The actual physical infrastructure of these places is where
our assessment teams are saying is not in good shape. Sanitation
issues, water supply, electricity - it is a big issue. So, making
sure that all of these 170 centers are equipped well, I think will be
one of the concerns that we are doing there."
UNICEF is involved in immediate relief action, but the agency also is
planning for the next stage. He says UNICEF is thinking about the
coming winter and what will need to be done should the affects of the
conflict continue for the long term.
He says many children are
traumatized by the war and taking care of their psychological, as well
as physical, needs is of utmost importance. He says education plays an
important role in the healing process.
"We are also moving
towards a new school year in the area and UNICEF would like to set a
goal to try to get every displaced child back into school by the new
school year," said Alexander. "It is creating that sense of normalcy
that we really need to have. It is an important haven, not only for
the children, but also for parents. I think getting that going, but
also getting the social support and interaction is also a major
School in Georgia and Russia begins in early
September. Alexander says it will be problematic to find enough
classroom space since many kindergartens are being used to house
He says UNICEF soon will be airlifting
relief supplies to Georgia. It will include bottled water, hygiene
kits, hundreds of schools in a box and recreational kits for children.