Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Georgians could face a hungry winter

The war between Georgia and Russia displaced many people two years ago. Many of those forced out of their homes because of the war depended on food from the World Food Programme. Due to budget cuts, the WFP had to stop its food distributions for Georgia. Now the WFP is warning that the displaced people in Georgia will face a very hungry winter unless more money arrives or someone else steps in.

From this post that we found at Transitions Online, writer Molly Corso tells us more about the food security situation in Georgia.

The “WFP is increasingly alarmed that the most vulnerable IDPs . . . will face a very bleak winter,” Huggins said in an e-mail interview with “Almost all IDPs live below the poverty line and more than 90 percent are dependent on external food aid.” Approximately 30,000 internally displaced persons from formerly Georgian-controlled strips of territory in breakaway South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been resettled in nearly 40 settlements since the 2008 war.

Seventy percent of that number received food aid from the WFP; the organization’s program was limited to IDP families who opted for government-provided housing. While many of these houses include small “kitchen gardens,” not all families have access to larger land plots that would allow them to earn money to supplement the 28-lari (about $13) per person monthly allowance they receive from the government. That means money for additional food runs scarce. Outside jobs are often not an option. Georgia faces a huge employment shortage; a problem compounded by the isolation of many IDP settlements from other communities.

Families who have not yet received an official IDP status – estimated by the government to represent one percent of all IDPs – have spent the past two years in even greater limbo, with little assistance from either donors or the government. In a 5 August report on Georgia’s IDPs, Amnesty International called on the government to do more to provide employment opportunities and better land for farming. The report argues that “there is no coherent state policy to tackle the general unemployment or unemployment among vulnerable groups such as the displaced.” The government, however, maintains that there is no risk of IDPs starving this winter without international food assistance.

But for IDPs like Lamara Kokoela, a pensioner displaced from the village of Kekvi in South Ossetia, such investments are a distant dream. Drooping corn stalks, their green stems dried to a pale yellow by the hot sun, surround Kokoela’s tiny cottage in Tserovani, an IDP settlement about 30 minutes outside Tbilisi. Bad soil quality and a lack of rain have left her family with practically no way to earn money from their garden plot, Kokoela said. “We don’t even have money for diapers [for our 9-month old granddaughter],” she said. Along with a chorus of neighbors, Kokoela asked why the government does not give IDPs more assistance.

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