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A day assisting displaced people in Tbilisi

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Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is continuing to deliver medical care and distributing basic relief supplies to displaced people in and around Tbilisi. But a large number of them are already trying to go back to their hometowns while others are receiving assistance from different organizations.

This account follows the basic work of an MSF team working in the city.

The MSF medical team begins the day by visiting a kindergarten which has been converted into a centre for displaced people. It is located in an outlying suburb of Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. Kindergarten No. 9 currently houses 70 people, but before the Russian forces started their retreat towards South Ossetia following the ceasefire between Russia and Georgia, there were 113 people staying there. Some men have already gone back to their villages to see if a permanent return is possible.

The director of the kindergarten quickly finds a room so that the MSF team can give consultations. No other medical aid has been provided up until now. Mothers come with their children and there are also elderly people.

Nino, a young pregnant woman, wants to see a doctor. Since she left Mereti, her village in the separatist province of South Ossetia, this young Georgian woman has not been examined. Eight months pregnant, there is the possibility she could deliver prematurely. These last weeks have been trying.

When fighting broke out on August 8, she fled Ossetia with her three-year-old daughter. For several days, she had no news of her husband until he was able to join her in Tbilisi. Her daughter is still afraid.

"She wakes up in the night when she hears the noise of a plane," explains Nino. "She thinks that the bombings are starting again."

In general, however, the children are at ease in this new environment. There is a playground in the courtyard and there are some toys. All the families receive food and washing detergent. The only things missing are diapers for the babies; the MSF team will bring them this afternoon.

However, the conditions are clearly more difficult in a large four-floor building, 100 metres away from the kindergarten. When the displaced families came to this building, a former cardiology institute, there was no water or electricity. The offices were cluttered with laboratory equipment.

"We have done everything ourselves," explains one man. "We have connected plastic pipes so that there is water in few sinks and toilets and we've also connected the electricity."

As for food, supply remains uncertain. From time to time, the 92 people who are living there receive some bread and some sausages as well as rations which are supplied by other organizations.

After being informed about this situation, the MSF team begins its consultations, mainly for women, children and the elderly. The doctors have brought a supply of drugs with them and give the necessary medication to the patients. But they will have to come back in the afternoon to distribute hygiene kits to all the families (soap, washing detergent, buckets and toothpaste) and some kits for the babies.

On August 14, the MSF teams began going to the areas in Tbilisi where the displaced people were staying to deliver medical aid. This was their first visit to this particular area. But they will return regularly to all the sites to do follow-up medical care. This is especially important for people with chronic illnesses, in order that they will be able to continue their treatment.