By Jennifer Brookland
Georgian authorities will resume responsibility for all disaster response packages in one year, according to a timeline agreed on by the U.S. State Department, Counterpart International and Georgia’s Emergency Management Department.
The pre-positioned packages, funded by the U.S. State Department and currently maintained by Counterpart, enable a quick and effective release of relief supplies in an emergency situation.
The packages hold emergency response commodities such as sleeping bags, blankets, boots and medical supplies. They were most recently used in 2011 in support of mudslide victims in Surami, Khashuri and Chumateleti in central Georgia.
“The U.S. government’s support rendered to Georgia over many years via the U.S. Department of State grantees is very important and valuable for our population in need,” says Zviad Katsashvili, Director of Georgia’s Emergency Management Department.
“We should underline the pre-positioned disaster packages which have played a great role in the Georgian government’s ability to respond to the needs of disaster affected populations.”
Building up the Georgian government’s ability to manage disasters independently will ensure that life-saving humanitarian response is available during future emergencies.
Officials from Georgia’s Emergency Management Department and Ministry of Internal Affairs met with the U.S. representatives in Tbilisi in February 2013 to discuss and plan for the upcoming handover.
Meeting attendees also watched members of the Georgian Rescue Team perform a simulated emergency response involving disaster scenarios, getting the chance to experience the intense time pressure and constraints of a typical rescue mission.
Jerry Oberndorfer, the State Department’s Director for Humanitarian Assistance of the Office of the Coordinator of U.S. Assistance to Europe and Eurasia, Vakhtang Gomelauri, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Irakli Saralidze, Counterpart’s Georgia Country Program Director, and Mr. Katsashvili discussed the logistics and timeline for the handover process.
“We express our deep appreciation for your efforts in strengthening Georgia’s disaster preparedness and response capabilities,” says Katashvili.
Oberndorfer presented strategies for transferring responsibility for disaster package management to Georgian authorities before the official handover ceremony, tentatively scheduled for March 1, 2014. He also discussed the achievements of Counterpart’s Community and Humanitarian Assistance Program (CHAP) in Georgia.
CHAP has established a strong foundation for rapid response to disasters in Georgia through the pre-positioned disaster packages.
In 2008 it brought relief to 39,300 people displaced by conflict, and between 2008 and 2011 it met the basic needs of 3,500 households affected by flooding.
In addition to Georgia, Counterpart maintains disaster package containers in Armenia, Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic.
The program has provided life-saving assistance to flood, earthquake, landslide, mine, and other disaster victims in each of these countries, as well as in Moldova, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.