Georgia has had a turbulent history since gaining independence in 1991. Separatist movements in the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia provoked the internal displacement of nearly 300,000 people. This and the dramatic collapse of Georgia's economy after the dissolution of the Soviet Union led to widespread unemployment, civil unrest, and significant increases in maternal and infant mortality as people struggled to survive.
UMCOR began humanitarian operations in 1993 to address the needs of women and children by providing essential medicines and treatment practices, aimed at combating the most common and preventable illnesses facing this group. UMCOR’s Georgia mission has grown since its inception and now implements a number of transitional development projects throughout the country. In 2013, UMCOR is celebrating 20 years of providing assistance to the people of Georgia.
UMCOR’s current operations in Georgia focus on the core sectors of health, conflict transformation, infrastructure rehabilitation, livelihood strengthening, agriculture, and humanitarian response.
UMCOR is currently implementing the following projects in Georgia:
Medical Commodities Distribution Program
UMCOR began implementing health-centered programming in Georgia in the early 1990s, providing essential medicines to vulnerable populations, including internally displaced people, women, and children. Today, the organization implements its ongoing Medical Commodities Distribution Program through a combination of relief and development health projects. UMCOR’s program integrates the distribution of medicines, medical equipment and supplies, and non-medical commodities, including health kits, school kits, and layette kits, with the implementation of small reconstruction projects (SRP) and the provision of technical assistance in the area of primary health care.
Distributions of medicines, medical equipment, and medical supplies: In partnership with the US Department of State (US DOS) since 1993, UMCOR's Medical Commodities Distribution Program each year provides millions of dollars’ worth of high quality medicines, medical equipment, and medical supplies to approximately 200,000 vulnerable children, elderly persons, and other vulnerable Georgians, through distributions to health clinics, orphanages, elderly homes, and other institutions.
- Distributions of non-medical commodities: UMCOR supports the distribution of health kits, school kits, and layette kits leveraged from United Methodist communities and other donors through UMCOR Sager Brown and the UMCOR Relief-Supply Network. Hundreds of thousands of kits have been distributed in Georgia over the lifetime of the project.
- Infrastructure rehabilitation: With US DOS support, UMCOR has been implementing small reconstruction projects (SRP) for vulnerable populations in Georgia. UMCOR renovates and rehabilitates outpatient clinics, schools, and kindergartens, mostly serving communities of internally displaced persons (IDP). Since 2005, UMCOR has implemented ten SRPs in Georgia and plans to continue infrastructure rehabilitation activities throughout the country.
Building Health Bridges Program
For more than 20 years, contact between citizens of Georgia and citizens of the breakaway region of Abkhazia has been limited, at best. Separatist and geopolitical interests, combined with mass population displacement, have deepened animosities and driven a wedge between ethnic Georgians and Abkhaz communities.
With support from the Public Affairs Division of the US Embassy in Georgia, UMCOR’s Building Health Bridges program increases confidence and interaction between conflict-affected communities near the Georgia-Abkhaz Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) by:
- Strengthening ties between health professionals in these conflict-affected communities with the long-term goal to establish common ground for future cooperation and collaboration;
- Building the knowledge and capacity of health professionals in order to address shared primary health-care concerns and needs in the communities they serve;
- Creating a network of health professionals to foster mutually beneficial partnerships and a community of learning;
- Mobilizing communities to increase public knowledge of common health issues;
- Encouraging health professionals to positively influence their communities by promoting increased confidence and interaction across the ABL.
Recently Completed Projects
From January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2012, UMCOR activities included, but were not limited to the following:
UMCOR recently completed the Livelihood Support for IDPs from Abkhazia project with support from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This program aimed to improve the level of self-reliance and livelihoods of 1,200 internally displaced persons (IDP) living at the Kopitnari IDP Settlement in Imereti Region of Western Georgia by:
- Supporting small business development for IDP farmers involved in livestock husbandry through the establishment of a dairy processing unit;
- Creating new jobs operating and managing the newly established dairy processing unit;
- Supporting the Kopitnari IDP Association with business and organizational training to manage and operate the established dairy processing unit;
- Employing artificial insemination techniques to improve the local livestock breed in order to increase milk production.
Through the project, UMCOR beneficiaries increased their household income by selling raw milk to the dairy processing unit, eliminating the costs of home production and transportation of cheese, transforming home cheese-making to small-scale commercial dairy processing, increasing output and diversification of dairy products, and enhancing the milking capacity of the local cattle breed by using artificial insemination to introduce new livestock varieties.
MATERNAL AND CHILD HEALTH
In response to adverse health outcomes experienced following the 2008 conflict in South Ossetia, UMCOR’s multi-donor-funded Maternal and Child Health project addressed emergency health and nutritional needs through the provision of breast milk substitute (BMS), complementary food, and hygiene supplies to non-breastfed infants, pregnant women, lactating mothers, and mothers who have been clinically diagnosed as unable to breastfeed largely due to stress and other complications. Beginning in 2008, BMS was distributed to 1,396 non-breastfed infants residing in 27 different conflict-affected communities.