Caucasus: Mar ‘09

IWPR discussion prompts officials to tackle problems faced by internally displaced people in Tskhaltubo.

Caucasus: Mar ‘09

IWPR discussion prompts officials to tackle problems faced by internally displaced people in Tskhaltubo.

Thursday, 23 April, 2009
The authorities provided water and electricity to IDPs living in the town of Tskhaltubo after an IWPR round table was held to raise awareness of the poor conditions in which they were living.



Officials have also pledged to improve sanitary conditions for the IDP community in the town in western Georgia’s Imereti region following the event, which took place in the city of Kutaisi on March 25.



The discussion – which was attended by up to 40 journalists, as well as some NGOs representatives and officials – was organised by the IWPR Caucasus project in order to alert the authorities to the plight of IDPs living in the region.



Some 250,000 Georgians were expelled from the disputed territory of Abkhazia following the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict of 1992 to 1993, and some 30,000 of them live in Imereti.



Before the discussion began, the round table’s organisers took those attending to Tskhaltubo, where many of the IDPs live in unsanitary conditions in sanatoriums built in the 1930s.



“What I saw in Tskhaltubo was harrowing,” said one participant Bacho Gurabanidze, from the city of Batumu.



“[IDPs] live there [in the most] elementary conditions, in multi-storey buildings that used to be hotels and are now close to falling apart – their foundations crumbling and roofs gone.”



“The ceiling threatens to come down on us at any moment, and sometimes we have no water or electricity for weeks on end,” said Tsiala Bokuchava, an IDP from Abkhazia’s Ochamchire district.



For the last 17 years, Bokuchava has lived in a half-ruined building that was once Joseph Stalin’s country house.



“Last spring, the poor quality of our drinking water caused an outbreak of gastro-intestinal diseases,” she said.



“This year, we will face the same problems again once the weather warms up.”



IWPR journalists raised these problems with authorities following the event.



“IWPR alerted us to problems [IDPs] in Tskhaltubo were having with water and power supplies,” said Besik Chanturia, who represents the so-called Abkhaz government-in-exile in Imereti.



Georgians displaced as a result of the Georgian-Abkhazian war formed their own authorities in exile, which Tbilisi recognises as the legal government of the territory.



“Before the meeting [with the journalists] was over, I made a call [to the relevant people], and the hotels began receiving water by the evening that very day,” said Chanturia.



“After we intervened, the electricity supply was resumed temporarily as well. As for sanitary conditions there, we are going to start improving them in the near future.”



Participants at the round table also discussed the plight of the Kakubava family – a young Abkhaz couple and their baby – who had come to Zestaphoni district in Imereti from Abkhazia to visit a relative before the August war between Russia and Georgia broke out.



They had been unable to return home back across the de facto Georgia-Abkhazia border, as this was closed as a result of the conflict.



Following the discussion, IWPR journalists alerted Imereti authorities to the family’s problems, and they stepped in to help.



“IWPR journalists told me that the young Abkhaz couple were living together with their infant in poor conditions,” said deputy-governor of Imereti Lasha Kiladze.



“We’ve decided to provide them with a place to live. The building work will begin in late April, and after it’s finished, they will move in the premises as their lawful owners.



“We’ll also purchase all the necessary household appliances for the family.”



Astanda Kakubava was delighted with the news.



“IWPR’s journalists have given us great news – that we’ll be owners of a newly repaired flat furnished with all the necessary equipment.



“We couldn’t even have dreamt of something like that.”



Zestaphoni resident Besik Jangavadze said that the help given to the Abkhaz couple was an important gesture of reconcilation.



“Such a thing is a key contribution to a rapproachement between the Abkhaz and Georgian people – a declaration alone that we are not going to fight Abkhazia is not

enough to change anything,” he said.



“The help provided to the Abkaz family is a pledge translated into real deeds.”
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