United States airlifting emergency aid to Georgia
By Domenick DiPasquale
Washington -- The United States is beginning an airlift of emergency relief supplies into Georgia to help victims of the recent fighting there.
A C-17 cargo plane from the U.S. military's European Command will arrive in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi the evening of August 13 with medical supplies, according to the State Department's acting deputy spokesman Robert Wood.
A second C-17 flight will land in Tbilisi August 14 carrying 104,000 doses of antibiotics requested by the Georgian Ministry of Health. The value of these two C-17 shipments is approximately $1.28 million.
A second batch of 104,000 antibiotic doses sent by the Department of State via commercial air will arrive in Tbilisi before August 16.
At the White House August 13, President Bush announced that he has directed Defense Secretary Robert Gates to begin a humanitarian mission to Georgia led by the U.S. military. "This mission will be vigorous and ongoing," Bush said.
This latest U.S. assistance follows an initial $250,000 of emergency relief funding provided to Georgia through the U.S. Agency for International Development. The U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi also has released a pre-positioned disaster package valued at $1.2 million that includes tents, cots, blankets, bedding, basic medical supplies and hygiene items.
These U.S. relief efforts to aid the victims of the conflict are part of a larger flow of humanitarian assistance reaching Georgia from international organizations, other foreign governments and private charities.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has launched a preliminary appeal for $7.5 million that will be used to meet the needs of approximately 50,000 persons. A Red Cross flight with 16 tons of medical supplies and water treatment materials left Geneva for Tbilisi August 12. The ICRC is preparing to send a team of surgeons to Georgia to help treat victims of the conflict.
The ICRC also is working with North Ossetia's branch of the Russian Red Cross to provide emergency assistance for refugees who fled there from Georgia.
A relief flight chartered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) arrived in the Georgian capital August 12 carrying 34 tons of tents, blankets and food preparation kits that came from a UNHCR emergency stockpile in Dubai. The U.N. World Food Program announced it had distributed 10 days' worth of food rations to 2,000 displaced persons living in Tbilisi.
European countries have pledged or sent a variety of relief aid for Georgia. France is airlifting 30 metric tons of relief supplies into Tbilisi, while the German government has pledged one million euros ($1.5 million) of assistance.
Ukraine, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Australia also have announced their intent to provide humanitarian aid to Georgia.
Private charitable organizations in the United States and elsewhere are adding to governmental efforts. The American charity Save the Children, for example, plans to distribute food at 11 shelters for internally displaced persons in Georgia. Another charity, CARE, has begun to distribute food and personal hygiene items to several hundred refugees in Tbilisi and the city of Rustavi, where many persons displaced from the fighting have fled.
Even U.S. cities are offering to lend their support. John Hall, chairman of Atlanta, Georgia's Tbilisi Sister City Committee, said August 12 he is mobilizing local efforts to support Georgians affected by the Russian incursions.
"We will be gathering our friends to help secure and ship humanitarian relief," said Hall, who added that assistance will be coordinated through Dr. Kenneth Walker, an Emory University professor of medicine who currently is in Georgia.
Atlanta, Georgia, follows only New York City as home to the largest Georgian-national population in the United States.