Supporting Mothers and Their Infants in Georgia
By Judith Santiago*
May 17, 2010—During the war in South Ossetia, Georgia in 2008, Nino Kristesiashvili and her family were forced to flee their home in Eredvi, located at the center of the conflict zone. The Kristesiashvili’s home was completely destroyed and Nino’s mother-in-law was trapped in the ruins.
Nino, seven months pregnant, her husband and their three-year-old son, escaped the fighting and found refuge at the Tbilisi Bagebi IDP Collective Center, a shelter for internally displaced people. When, Nino later gave birth to her second child, she was unable to breastfeed her baby due to high stress and trauma resulting from the intense conflict. The situation placed her baby at risk of malnutrition.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief Georgia (UMCOR Georgia) is working with the US Department of State to care for mothers like Nino through the Support for Maternal and Child Health and Support for Infant Nutrition projects. The programs help more than 4,200 mothers who have been clinically diagnosed as unable to lactate. The projects provide appropriate supplies like breast milk substitutes and encourage re-lactation and breastfeeding through medical consultations. In addition, psychosocial support is provided to help women cope with their trauma, as many of them witnessed brutal tragedies during the war.
The mothers, who reside in 27 different locations in Shida Kartli, Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Imereti, and Samegrelo regions, receive high temperature milk, diapers and basic hygiene supplies to care for their infants. They also receive nutrition information, education, and infant care training. Caregivers also learn about infant and child feeding practices.
“Many displaced mothers like Nino lost the ability to breastfeed due to many hardships still facing the internally displaced in Georgia,” said Kathryn Paik, program officer for UMCOR Georgia. “UMCOR’s projects equip mothers to properly care for their newborns and promote overall health for both mother and child.”
Nino, who now resides in the Verkhvebi IDP settlement with her three sons, has since lost her husband in an accident and any means of financial support. Through UMCOR Georgia, US Department and State and other local partner organizations, Nino’s nutritional and basic material support needs continue to be met.
UMCOR Georgia 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.
This mission has grown since its inception to implement a number of transitional development projects throughout the country.
UMCOR's Pharmaceutical Distribution provides millions of dollars worth of high quality medicines and medical supplies to approximately 200,000 vulnerable children, elderly and other vulnerable Georgians through distributions to health clinics, orphanages, elderly homes and other institutions each year.
*Santiago is the Project Manager for UMCOR Communications