Two WFP-chartered cargo aircraft flew out of the Italian port of Brindisi on Wednesday carrying 34 metric tons of high energy biscuits for the thousands of people in Georgia displaced by the recent conflict.
The biscuits, swiftly loaded onto two Antonov 12 planes at the UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Brindisi, were to boost WFP’s food stocks in Georgia. Many of the displaced people in the Caucasus country have no access to cooking facilities; High Energy Biscuits (HEBs) require no preparation.
“The numbers of people in need of food assistance continue to escalate,” said WFP Georgia Country Director Lola Castro, adding that more than 10,000 people were now registered as displaced.
Numbers expected to rise
Many more people displaced by the conflict are understood to be staying with relatives or living in unofficial shelters. As a result, the numbers in need of assistance are expected to rise sharply.
WFP was set to distribute 2,300 rations on Wednesday, with more planned for the following days using the supplies now arriving. Over the weekend, WFP started providing 10-day food rations consisting of wheat flour, oil, beans, sugar and salt to more than 4,500 displaced people living in shelters in the capital, Tbilisi.
Rations have also been given to displaced people living in camps and shelters in the towns of Rustavi and Gardabani, south of the capital and in Dusheti in the north.
Bakeries given wheat flour
WFP has identified bakeries near areas where internally displaced people have concentrated, and the agency will supply wheat flour to make bread for distribution to the hungry displaced.
While WFP is prepared to deliver food assistance to affected people all over the country, access is problematic due to continuing conflict and it is often dangerous for WFP staff trying to reach beneficiaries.
The agency currently has sufficient stocks in the country for 16,000 people for 10 days. However, these supplies are dwindling rapidly and there is an urgent need to secure a safe route to bring in more food stocks. Humanitarian airlifts are expected over the next few days.
WFP is playing a leading role in coordinating food assistance and offering logistical support to other humanitarian organisations, drawing on capacity from its existing operation in the country.
WFP has been active in Georgia since 1993. Before the crisis erupted, WFP was providing food to more than 212,000 people, mainly poor rural communities, as well as primary schoolchildren, tuberculosis patients and people living with HIV/AIDS.
Tens of thousands of people have fled South Ossetia over the past five days. Russia says about 30,000 have crossed the border into neighbouring North Ossetia, inside the Russian Federation. The Russian Government says it will take care of their humanitarian needs.