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UNICEF Deeply Concerned About Welfare of Children and Women in S. Ossetia

The U.N. Children's Fund says it is deeply concerned about the impact the conflict in Georgia is having on children and women in the breakaway region of South Ossetia. UNICEF is renewing its call for humanitarian access to the region. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

An official with the U.N. Children's Fund, who has just returned from a mission to Georgia and Russia, says she raised concerns about access to South Ossetia with government officials in Russia.

Maria Calivis, UNICEF Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, says she told officials her agency was ready to provide life-saving interventions in South Ossetia as soon as it was allowed to enter the territory.

She says she has received worrying reports from private aid agencies about the situation of families trapped in the region.

"Some of them are running out of basic supplies," said Calivis. "We understand that EMERCON is presently covering, delivering major assistance, but especially in reconstruction and that delivery is not reaching everywhere. And, the NGO's [non-governmental organizations] express their concern for the unexploded ordnances that they have heard when they came in contact with local authorities."

Calivis says UNICEF is ready to begin a mine awareness campaign as soon as it is granted access to South Ossetia.

She says high-level discussions are underway and she is hopeful the authorities will soon allow U.N. agencies into the territory. She says U.N. expertise will be of great benefit to the population.

"We have identified what is needed is the provision of psycho-social support which is a whole service to be established," said Calivis. "It is in mine education. Some basic hygiene and sanitation supplies. And, I think the most important that we keep hearing is get ready, have children be ready to go to school. As you know this has proven to be and it is one of those interventions that gives a sense of normalcy to the family and to children."

Calivis says much is being done to help the thousands of people displaced by the war between Georgia and Russia. But, she says much remains to be done.

She says the level of anxiety among the displaced is rising. She says they face an uncertain future and are demanding more information about what is going to happen. She says they want to know when they can go home. And if they cannot go home, they want to know where they will go.