Friendship, Hope on a Plane: Medical Airlift Arrives in Georgia
TBILISI, GEORGIA, Sept. 15, 2007 -- The United Methodist Committee on Relief and Project Hope airlift with millions of dollars in donated medical supplies arrived Friday, Sept. 14, in Tbilisi, capital of Georgia. The former Soviet republic is a country of great economic need in the mountains separating Europe and Asia.
The flight was the 912th sponsored by Project Hope and the US Department of State, since 1992. The shipment means a healthier life for more than 90,000 vulnerable patients in the Caucasus region.
The C-17 cargo plane carried 20 representatives of several international nongovernmental organizations, including the Rev. R. Randy Day, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, UMCOR's parent organization, and Marc. S. Maxi, executive director of field operations for the relief agency. Sandra Roelofs, First Lady of Georgia, one of the officials on hand to welcome the plane, said the flight represented "not only friendship but development."
$11 Million in Hope
An estimated $11 million in drug, health supplies, and hygiene and school kits were on board. Distribution of the supplies and training in the use of medicines and equipment, to be managed by the UMCOR Georgia office, began on Saturday at Iashvili Children's Central Hospital in Tbilisi. The hospital is Georgia's major pediatric inpatient institution. UMCOR has supplied pharmaceuticals there since 1993.
This is the second medical airlift into Georgia sponsored by UMCOR and Project Hope. The first was in 2001. Project Hope is an international relief agency known for its work in health aid and education. This year's airlift celebrates the organization's 50th anniversary.
The medicines and other supplies were given by a variety of organizations, ranging from pharmaceutical companies to private donors. Interchurch Medical Assistance, another long-time UMCOR partner, assembled the containers.
UMCOR in Georgia
UMCOR has a long record of work in Georgia. UMCOR began humanitarian operations in 1993 to address the needs of children and women by providing essential medicines and treatment practices, aimed at combating their most common and preventable illnesses.
Today some 200,000 vulnerable children receive assistance from UMCOR's Georgia workers. Davit Tkeshelashvili, minister of health, termed the shipment another step toward modernization and reform of Georgia's health care system. "Our objective is to ensure this cargo gets to its true address, the beneficiaries as designed," he said.
Georgia is today an independent Eurasian country of 4.6 million people. Like other parts of the former Soviet Union, it is striving to achieve a stable economy. Sustainable health care advances in Georgia are a priority for both UMCOR and Project Hope.
"UMCOR celebrates its collaborations over the years with Project Hope," said Rev. Day. "We share a common goal, that of promoting international peace and cooperation as we respond to human need."
Both organizations help alleviate human suffering caused by war, poverty, conflict and natural disasters. UMCOR is active in 81 countries, contributing $91 million in aid and direct relief to disaster, war, and conflict-ridden areas of the world in 2006. Project Hope's influence is felt across 31 of the world's most vulnerable countries, especially in the areas of health education and disease prevention for children and women and support for health facilities.