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IDP Children Freezing in the Forest

Gela Mtivlishvili, Kakheti

Officially approximately 200 people from Shida Kartli and Tskhinvali Regions remain in Kakheti Region as IDPs. More than 120 out of this amount are warehoused in former educational institutions of Lagodekhi, Telavi and Sagarejo districts. Only those IDPs that live in so called IDP Centers are able to receive a small amount of aid within the framework of the UN Food Programme. However, those IDPs that live with their relatives and in abandoned houses often do not have even bread to eat.

Koba Subeliani, the Minister of Refugees and Accommodation, as well as other Government authorities claims every day that the Georgian Government does its best to improve conditions for IDPs. The TV companies are trying to persuade people that the government claim is true. The daily and evening news programs show authorities distributing humanitarian aid, food and various products that are needed by IDPs.  IDPs give interviews to various TV channels and say that the government is taking care of them; they say that they are like their living conditions and so on. However, the reality is far different than what they claim. The fact is that the IDPs that live in various regions of Georgia suffer as much as the IDPs that live in those IDP centers and these are rarely visited by foreigners. 

The Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation promised many times to provide IDPs in Telavi IDP centers with food. However, the IDPs are being supplied only by the Telavi district administration up to present time.  The IDPs say that they receive such a small amount of food that they are having serious problems with their health.

“They give us food and provisions in small portions. For instance, we receive sugar once in 20 days. This amount of sugar is anticipated for one family but if all family members drink tea every day this sugar will end in a week. There is not even a chance of finding a job at a mere salary as an ordinary worker, laborer, says Tamar Gorelishvili.

Those IDPs that live with their relatives and those who live in abandoned houses face even a more serious ordeal. They are provided by food and products of first need by their associates and neighbors.  However, these IDPs told us that notwithstanding the support from associates, sometimes they do not have even bread to eat.
Their conditions are deteriorated by the fact they have not received an IDP status and this is when granting IDP status is envisaged by the Georgian legislation and international standards and legislation. As a consequence, IDPs can not enjoy social assistance and other benefits prescribed by law.

There are also other instances when the Ministry of Refugees was actually negligent to IDPs. For instance, Vika and Zurab Maisuradzes, IDP husband and wife with four minor children from village Meghvrekisi, Gori District has been asking for help for more than two weeks. They live alone in a forest, in one of the cottages of patriotic camp in village Tokhliauri, Sagarejo District. The cottage is made of wood. The forest is covered with snow and it is 12 degrees minus outside. One of the children almost froze and the parents barely managed to save his life.

“We can not return to Meghvrekisi because t is impossible to live in our house. We have applied to the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation and Gori Municipality many times but in vain. No one answers our calls in the Ministry any more. Temur Teteloshvili, the Gori District Administration representative told us that the Gori District Administration was unable to provide us with a normal shelter but it is impossible to live here. We can not go outside. It is freezing and my husband is unable to bring firewood from the forest any more,” said Vika Maisuradze.

The Gori District Administration representatives say that they pay appropriate attention to the family of Maisuradzes. “Their house in Meghvrekisi is damaged but we have been unable to ascertain the amount of damage. There are thousands of damaged houses and we will be unable to repair all of them one at a time. Let them come to Gori and we will help them,” said Givi Khuroshvili, head of the Department of Economics and Infrastructure of Gori District Adminsitration.

Zurab Maisuradze said that neither he nor his family is able to walk from the middle of forest to the highway in such a terrible weather. He also said that they do not have money for driving from Sagarejo to Gori. “People were taken from here (Kakheti). They were kept in Gori without any shelter for several days. No one bothered to take care of the IDPs. We do not believe them because they promise but they do not do anything,” said the IDP man.

The Maisuradzes fear that if they do not take their children away from the forest they will soon freeze.

We asked the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation (MRA) to comment on the IDP conditions. Koba Subeliani and Valeri Kopaleishvili, the advisor of the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation did not answer our phone calls. We also called Maya Razmadze, the representative of MRA Press Department. She promised us that she would arrange interviews with some Ministry officials but then she stopped answering our phone calls as well.

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