U.S. Ambassador John Bass and Zurab Chkheidze, Deputy Governor of the Shida Kartli Region, officially open the new clinic at the Tsmindatskali settlement.

By Jennifer O’Riordan

When the Gori City Hospital in Georgia announced plans for privatization in early 2011, households in a nearby internally displaced people settlement found that they would no longer have access to essential free medical services.

The nearby Tsmindatskali settlement, which is located about one hour’s drive from the capital, Tbilisi, is home to around 1,612 men, women and children who were forced to leave their homes in Liakhvi Gorge during the conflict between Russia and Georgia in August 2008.

The residents of the settlement needed an alternative facility, one that was still nearby and where they could access to quality healthcare within their financial means. That’s where Counterpart International stepped in with funding from the U.S. Department of State.

“The local Governor’s Office identified an unused building situated in the settlement itself that could serve as a modest outpatient clinic,” explains Rang Hee Kim, Director of Humanitarian Assistance at Counterpart. “They approached Counterpart to help with the project. It needed some work but the building had a sound foundation. And now 480 households have easy access to affordable primary healthcare.”

Like many of Counterpart’s Small Reconstruction Projects (SRPs), the completed project will serve many beneficiaries. The new outpatient clinic and supplies will be an essential resource to hundreds of families in Georgia’s Shida Kartli region, where the Tsmindatskali settlement is situated.

The roof of the building was replaced, new windows and doors were installed, floors were leveled and tiles laid and the building’s interior and exterior were repainted. Counterpart also distributed medical supplies and the necessary furniture including exam tables, storage units, desks and chairs.

The local government, Gori Municipality, contributed funding to the new outpatient clinic, allowing the building’s plumbing and electricity supply to be brought up-to-date. They also appointed full-time medical staff.

On December 1, an opening ceremony was held at the new clinic. John Bass,U.S. Ambassador to Georgia; Erica Rounsefell, Education Specialist with the U.S. Agency for International Development; Olesia Gardner, Assistance Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy and representatives of U.S. Department of State Grantees, the media and Gori municipality turned out for the event.

“I am glad that the clinic will provide local residents with the medical service that they cannot get elsewhere. This is a great example of partnership between private and governmental sectors,” said Ambassador Bass.

Since completing the reconstruction of the outpatient clinic, Counterpart and other international NGOs have distributed humanitarian assistance to the Tsmindatskali settlement. Packs of fortified rice and soy protein meals from Stop Hunger Now will provide 6,000 individual meals.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has distributed 500 school kits and 500 health kits, ACTS Georgia 500 hygiene kits and Counterpart 500 quilts to families. hellenicare also provided free health check-ups and medicines through a mobile medical unit and equipped the outpatient clinic with pharmaceutical supplies.

Counterpart has been working in Georgia since 1995. Through its network of 1,000 partner organizations, Counterpart has imported and distributed $155 million worth of humanitarian assistance to more than 2.7 million vulnerable Georgians.