GORI, Georgia, AUG. 18, 2008 (Zenit.org).- As Russia announced that it was withdrawing troops from Georgia after a week and a half of conflict, Caritas Internationalis is focused on supplying humanitarian relief.
A ceasefire has been signed for the brief but bloody conflict between Georgia and Russia that began Aug. 7 over the status of the disputed regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia reported that it was withdrawing its forces today, though tanks and troops are still in Georgia's capital.
More than 100,000 were displaced by the conflict.
Though it has meager resources -- just two trucks to distribute humanitarian aid -- Caritas Georgia opened soup kitchens and distributed hygiene kits, clothes and food to some 700 refugees in Tskhinvali and in Gori.
According to Father Witold Szulcynski, director of Caritas Georgia, "In addition to providing two meals a day, they have also started to distribute articles such as blankets, towels, washbasins, and hygiene products for babies and women." They have also provided medicines to hospitals in Tbilisi.
In statements to L'Osservatore Romano, Bishop Giuseppe Pasotto, apostolic administrator of Caucaso, said that Caritas Georgia acted rapidly as "fortunately it has a warehouse of goods for urgent needs."
Moreover, the "rehabilitation phase" will soon be under way, he said, "to ensure psychological support for all those who have lost their homes." This initiative is being undertaken with the collaboration of the Orthodox patriarchate, the bishop added.
For their part, Father Alexander Pietrzyk, director of Caritas Russia, and Sergey Basiev of the diocesan Caritas of Vladikavkaz, with their counterparts of the Orthodox patriarchate, went to the region to assess the needs of the refugees.
In the last few days, Caritas Internationalis has allocated to the local Caritas an initial sum of €250,000 (US $368,224) for urgent aid.
Lesley-Anne Knight, secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis, said Thursday: "Russia and Georgia must step back from all-out war. Already the conflict has caused too much suffering to thousands of innocent civilians. It will take a huge regional effort to rebuild shattered communities."
Knight added that Caritas "appeals to both sides to do everything in their power to respect the lives of civilians. Caritas supports the need for humanitarian corridors into South Ossetia as a short-term solution, but peace talks must take place now."
[Chiara Santomiero contributed to this report]