Photo: Gleb Garanich, Reuters
Photo: REUTERS/ Gleb Garanich (GEORGIA) | Smoke is seen over buildings after bombardment in Gori, 80 km (50 miles) from Tbilisi, August 9, 2008.

Following the outbreak of violence in the breakaway region of South Ossetia and subsequent attacks by the Russian army on Georgian territory, MSF is preoccupied with the situation of thousands of people who have fled the conflict, and is also alarmed at the possible interruption of treatment for drug resistant tuberculosis in programs in Georgia and Abkhazia.

Assessing the refugee situation north of the Russian border

Two MSF assessment teams arrived in North Ossetia this past weekend, where the main flow of people fleeing the violence from South Ossetia was expected. Although numbers are difficult to establish, there are clearly many people escaping from the conflict zone, heading mainly to the Russian province of North Ossetia, but also to other regions within Georgia.

Map: MSF projects in Georgia

MSF Projects in Georgia (2008).

The teams are assessing the needs of displaced people and are prepared to provide staff support, as well as medical kits and other relief items. Currently, the needs of those who sought refuge in North Ossetia seem to be met by the Russian health authorities and the emergency organization Emercom. MSF will also try to gain access to South Ossetia, which is currently inaccessible.

Photo: REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov (GEORGIA) | Wounded South Ossetians stay in a hospital shelter in the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali, August 10, 2008.

MSF is present in Georgia and Abkhazia, providing healthcare to patients affected by drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB). The teams are preparing to provide support to hospitals in Georgia and to evaluate the needs of the people who have been displaced by the conflict.

Support to Georgian hospitals and initial assessments

Photo: REUTERS/ David Mdzinarishvili (GEORGIA) | Georgian villagers leave their houses near the city of Tskhinvali, about 100 km (62 miles) from Tbilisi, August 8, 2008.

Further assessments will be conducted on Wednesday August 13, in camps for internally displaced persons located around the city of Tbilisi. There are three camps in the city and five camps surrounding the capital, each with a few hundred displaced persons.

Photo: REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov (GEORGIA) | South Ossetians take refuge in a school shelter in the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali, August 10, 2008.

Our team will also attempt to access South Ossetia to assess the situation there, but the region remains inaccessible for the time being.

Concerns about resistant TB programs

The ongoing treatment of patients affected by multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) is of key concern to our teams. Suspending a TB program for even a few days can have dire consequences on the health of our patients.

Photo: REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili (GEORGIA) | A Georgian woman holding her baby cries at her damaged home in Gori, August 10, 2008.

For the time being, the two MDR TB programs will continue. In Soukhoumi (Abkhazia), our team is still providing treatment to 80 patients in the hospital and in seven mobile clinics. In Zougdidi (in Georgia), where close to 120 people are under treatment, MSF international staff have evacuated the city, while local teams remain present in the health structures to provide care. Despite their presence, three patients have already left the hospital, which will probably have negative consequences for their treatment. Because tuberculosis is a contagious disease, their departure may also pose a serious health risk for those with whom they come into contact. The teams in Soukhoumi and Zougdidi each have two weeks worth of medical supplies for treating MDR TB. After that, they will run out of one of the TB drugs, which will negatively affect the continuity of treatment for patients.

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