Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Supplies of Hope

Mery Davituri and her fourth-month-old baby, who reside at Tserovani IDP settlement, register to receive a two-month supply of baby formula.
Photo: Judith Santiago

At the Tserovani settlement of internally displaced persons (IDP) in the Kartli region of the Republic of Georgia, Mery Davituri and her four-month-old baby stand in line to register to receive a two-month supply of baby formula. The formula, provided by the US Department of State, with distribution and logistics managed by UMCOR, helps mothers like Mery provide their children with the nourishment they need until mothers can breast feed again.

Most mothers, following the South Ossetia conflict along Georgia's border with Russia, were unable to lactate due to stress incurred in the war. UMCOR has been distributing baby formula to more than 30 regions throughout the Republic of Georgia since that time.

Mery is one of 7,000 people who live in the Tserovani settlement who cannot afford to purchase baby formula on their own. Today, some 160 families are receiving some relief along with a brief consultation with Ludmila Lomia, a nutritionist contracted by UMCOR.

Lomia instructs the mothers to use the food they are about to receive as a supplement, and strongly encourages lactation through breastfeeding. She tells the mothers to introduce cow’s milk to the baby after they turn one year old, and speaks to them about mixed feeding—the use of supplements together with breastfeeding.

Tamuna Kokhsaidze, who has two children, 3 and 9 months old, shares, “I still have trouble breastfeeding, but I am happy and thankful for this program. I can’t imagine what I would do without it.”

Dali Koraeri from South Ossetia proudly shares with UMCOR that she married a Georgian after the conflict. Together they have one child. Most of the people in Tserovani settlement are originally from South Ossetia, and the subject of this war is still a sensitive issue that most choose not to discuss.

Later, we traveled to Bazeleti IDP Ambulatory, an out-patient clinic constructed in 2010 with funding from the US Department of State and UMCOR. The clinic serves more than 400 people and includes a small educational area for young children. Today, about 165 families receive UMCOR hygiene kits.

It is like a distribution of hope, and many hearts are encouraged and eyes light up when they are reminded that they are not forgotten.

Tomorrow, I travel back to the Georgian border and on to Armenia for a few more site visits, before heading home to the United States in a few days. The days have been long, but it has been an invaluable experience to see UMCOR at work in the lives of so many people.

*Judith Santiago is media communications associate for UMCOR.

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