CHF providing humanitarian flood relief in Georgia

Lack of roads force aid efforts to the air
Government relies on helicopters to distribute aid as more rains destroy roads

By Mary Makharashvili

As aid from Italy, the United States and other countries arrives for communities ravaged by recent flooding, damaged roads and additional rains have forced aid providers to increasingly rely on helicopters for distribution.

On Monday, Italy announced it will send humanitarian aid for flood victims valued at Euro 300,000 (USD 385,000).

According to the Embassy of Italy in Georgia a military transport plane delivered the cargo, including ninety tents, four-hundred blankets and clothing, on May 3. Four Italian rescue officers, who arrived in Tbilisi together with the goods, will deliver and control the distribution of the cargo together with Georgian officials.

On May 4 a second lot of humanitarian aid is to be delivered to Georgia from Italy.

In an interview with The Messenger Italian Ambassador Fabrizio Romano said that he is very proud to participate in the relief program. "This is our share done with kind-hearted feeling toward the friendly Georgian nation," the Ambassador said.

The United States, Germany, Azerbaijan, Norway, and Latvia have also sent humanitarian aid to the flooded regions. According to Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Bidzina Bregadze, Georgia also expects to receive humanitarian aid from Germany and Latvia.

On Tuesday, the government reported that a 50 meter section of Kutaisi-Alpana-Mamisson road between Imereti and Racha had been destroyed by a flood following more heavy rains.

On Saturday, April 30 the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, Richard Miles saw off a truck loaded with USD 50,000 of humanitarian relief supplies to western Georgia. Affected populations in the regions of Imereti, Svaneti, Racha-Lechkhumi and Samegrelo received the aid.

According to information released by the USAID/Caucasus Mission, the goods have been distributed through CHF International, a U.S. Government-funded international development organization.

In an e-mail interview Country Director of CHF-Georgia, Patrick Sommerville, told The Messenger that aid providers found the heaviest damage and destruction in the Lentekhi Rayon (Lower Svaneti), Tsageri Rayon, Oni (Racha), Mestia, and the village of Joneti.

According to CHF, as of April 30, they had counted 61 destroyed houses, 278 damaged houses, and 173 families that required evacuation in these areas.

CHF's response included food, hygiene and bed kits to nearly 300 families in Lenteki, Tsageri, and Joneti on Easter Sunday. "Particularly in those areas cut-off from the destruction of roads and transport networks, the need is high to provide immediate assistance of basic food and non-food items," said Sommerville.

CHF's response is funded by USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and is intended to address the urgent needs of the most critically affected communities.

As for the distribution of additional goods by CHF, Sommerville says that this is in progress and his organization is working in close coordination with governmental authorities and other international NGOs.

"We estimate that the most critical needs still exist in villages still cut-off from transportation in Lenteki," he said. Estimates by the World Food Program indicate that this may be as many as 45 of the 60 villages in the District.

"Transporting goods to these locations is possible only by helicopter, and we understand that the government has already initiated this," he said, listing the most critical needs as food, hygiene materials, blankets and other non-food items. Sommerville noted "there will be substantial long-term damages in these areas to agriculture, livestock, shelter."

According to CHF, Tsageri villages have similar issues. "Our information about Upper Svaneti is patchy at this point, but we understand that strong needs exist in this region," Sommerville said.