Caucasus: Jan ‘09

IWPR radio reports lead to officials assisting refugees from the South Ossetian conflict.

Caucasus: Jan ‘09

IWPR radio reports lead to officials assisting refugees from the South Ossetian conflict.

Wednesday, 18 February, 2009
Reports on Kvira, a radio programme jointly created by IWPR and the broadcaster Trialeti, have prompted the Georgian authorities to improve housing for refugees displaced by the Russia-Georgia war, and to consider giving financial help to students whose families lost their livelihoods.

People left homeless by the war in August complained about conditions in houses built for them a month ago on the outskirts of the town of Gori.

“[These cottages] were clapped together in just one month’s time,” said Maia Abashidze, a refugee from the village of Tkviavi.

“The walls had no time to dry off, and the floor has buckled in some places. It’s so damp in here. Our clothes, blankets, walls, everything is so damp we can hardly breathe.”

Another refugee, Giorgi Kasradze, who fled from the Tskhinvali region during the August war and has taken shelter in a Gori kindergarten, said, “We have not moved into the new cottages yet, but my relatives have, and I’ve seen with my own eyes the terrible conditions they have been living in.

“We demand to be allowed to stay in kindergartens until the walls in the cottages dry off.”

The radio report drew the local authorities’ attention to the refugees’ complaints.

“This settlement was really built too rapidly, but the government had no other way. We couldn’t have left people under the open sky. Now we know what their problems are. We have taken action, and those who built the cottages will mend whatever shortcomings these buildings have,” said David Khmiadashvili, the head of the Gori municipal government.

“As for the people living in kindergartens, they will be moved to their new houses in the summer. So, we can take our time building cottages for the refugees, which means they won’t be bothered any more.”

Another radio report revealed that farming families in the Shida Kartli region had lost their crops in the August war and could not, as a result, pay college fees for their children.

“The war left my family without whatever livelihood we could make from our farm, we lost even our house,” Nutsa Chovelidze, an undergraduate at Gori University, told Kvira reporter Maka Khutsishvili.

The report prompted local government action.

“Up to 240 students at Gori university won’t be able to continue their education if the education ministry does not undertake to finance them. We have already applied to the ministry with a request that it subsidise the deprived students,” said Giorgi Avaliani, deputy governor of Shida Kartli.

“Those in the education ministry have promised us to consider all the cases one by one. What we’ve been told is that the issue will be decided - most likely positively - in the nearest future,” said Zaza Tsotneishvili, rector of the university.

Kvira is a joint project by IWPR and the Gori-based radio Trialeti and was launched in December.

IWPR’s effort to help out Trialeti, which was damaged in the war, is part of the Building Bridges/Building Capacity in South Caucasus, project supported by funding from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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