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"Action by Churches Together" mission:  North Caucasus (summer - autumn 2008)

Aid to victims of the war in South Ossetia

About 35 000 South Ossetians became refugees in the very first days of the war. They found refuge in North Ossetia and other neighboring regions in southern Russia. They were put up in temporary accommodation stations set up by the authorities for the purpose and at their relatives' and friends' places. Many of them had to flee from their homes in Tskhinval and neighboring villages under shelling and shooting, leaving behind all their belongings and identity papers. Soon the military and political situation changed enough to reverse the outflow as the war ended and refugees began returning home. By the beginning of September, almost 30 000 people had come back home and all the temporary accommodation stations in southern Russia were closed. In South Ossetia proper, those of returnees whose houses were damaged or destroyed have to stay in temporary accommodation stations, at the relatives' and friends' and in their half-ruined houses and sometimes even in ruins. According to the Russian Emercom, 'as a result of Georgia's use of modern means of destruction in South Ossetia, 2,5 thousand residential buildings were destroyed with 1,1 thousand buildings beyond restoration.

An emergency aid program for those who stood in the greatest need after the war in South Ossetia was organized under the aegis of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations with the support of Actions of Churches Together, an international Christian organization, and has been implemented by Russia Round Table. It has become a continuation of the long-standing cooperation in giving aid to victims of various emergencies in North Caucasus and in places inside and outside Russia. The Round Table's Newsletter has informed its readers about this work on a regular basis.

The program began to be carried out in August 2008. On August 26-28, returnees to South Ossetia were given 1 020 hygienic kits including shampoo, soup, toothbrush and toothpaste, toilet papers and detergent. The distribution was made at the migration transit point for returnees to South Ossetia at the town of Alagir in North Ossetia near the South Ossetian border.

The next step was to distribute aid to the poorest victims of the war who were put up at temporary accommodation stations in Tskhinval. At present there are 8 such stations in the city with 441 registered people. Each of the inmates was given a blanket, bed linen, a towel and a hygienic kit including special hygienic essentials for small children and women. The program has been carried out in coordination with the local authorities and the Russian Emercom.

At present, Russia Round Table has also developed a complex rehabilitation program for victims in South Ossetia. It includes aid to the neediest displaced people in Tskhinval and neighboring villages and assistance in restoring the communal, educational and social infrastructure in South Ossetian villages affected by the war. The Round Table plans to start implementing it in the short run with the support of the already mentioned Action of Churches Together. The Russia Round Table Newsletter will continue reporting to its readers on the progress of this work in South Ossetia.

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