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Concerns over human impact of war in Georgia

Text by Leela JACINTO

Latest update : 2008-10-25

With an estimated 100,000 people displaced by the war between Russia and Georgia, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern over the humanitarian situation and called for an end to the lawlessness in Georgia.


Nearly a week after the conflict erupted over South Ossetia, the humanitarian situation in Georgia is still murky, but the reports emerging from the war zone have raised international concerns.


In a statement released Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was “extremely concerned” about the humanitarian situation, particularly its impact on the civilian population in Georgia, which has suffered “loss of life and injury, significant damage to property and infrastructure.”


Following Tuesday’s ceasefire agreement between Russia and Georgia, humanitarian aid from countries such as the US, France and Canada has arrived in Georgia. Some major international aid agencies, such as the British charity Oxfam, have started distributing aid although the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said the security situation in some parts of the country was hampering aid efforts.


Some of the most affected parts of the country - such as the breakaway province of South Ossetia and the Georgian city of Gori - are also the least accessible, making it difficult to nail the exact humanitarian fallout of the conflict.


Official accounts of the war’s death toll vary widely and there has been no independent confirmation of the figures. Russian officials have put the death toll at 2,000 people – most of them Ossetians with Russian passports, according to Russian authorities. Georgian officials on the other hand, put the death toll in Georgia at 175 people, mainly civilians.


Displaced people with harrowing tales


UN officials estimate that nearly 100,000 people have been displaced by the current conflict, many of them from South Ossetia and Gori.


According to Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the UN’s refugee agency, nearly 80 percent of the population of Gori - a city with a pre-conflict population of 50,000 - had fled.


Watch FRANCE 24's report from our team in Gori


Fleeing civilians have been recounting incidents of looting and destruction of homes and villages.


Some of the worst accounts have been emerging from refugees from South Ossetia.


Reporting from Georgia, FRANCE 24’s Robert Parsons described the situation as “tense” with Georgian refugees from South Ossetia giving accounts of random violence by Ossetian militas. “I met a Georgian woman, about sixty years old, who was fleeing her village to join other refugees towards Tbilisi,” said Parsons. “She said that the Ossetians were shooting randomly, stalling livestock and burning houses.”


Days after the conflagration, the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali was a scene of devastation Thursday, with desperate citizens struggling to carry on with their lives amid the burned out ruins of the city.


The New York-based Human Rights Watch reported its researchers in South Ossetia had "witnessed terrifying scenes of destruction in four villages that used to be populated exclusively by ethnic Georgians.”



Date created : 2008-08-14