10 Mar 2016
What changes do the state reforms bring to the lives of people in the conflict regions?
Many think that war is about epic battle scenes, crossfires and pathetic heroism. This has led to an assumption that the 2008 war lasted only five days. Almost eight years have passed, but the consequences of the so-called five-day war are still echoing today. War, as it turns out, is first and foremost thousands of broken lives. And that’s why it is hard to say whether or not the lives of people living in the villages close to the conflict zone will improve as a result of state reforms implemented here, if the issue of unemployment is not addressed.
Two years ago, in the framework of the program aimed at improving medical services for the residents of regions, the Georgian government built dozens of rural outpatient clinics, some of which provide services to the residents of the villages of the conflict zone. However, to date, the tough social conditions, unemployment, poor infrastructure and lack of professional medical personnel still constitute a serious problem.
In accordance with the decree of the Government of Georgia of August 26, 2013, the commission for Regional Development in cooperation with the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs decided to build 82 rural clinics across the whole country to improve health services for rural residents. Some of them were built in the villages bordering the conflict zone: Avlevi, Cordy, Bredza, Tamarasheni, Atotsi, Dzhariasheni, Ergneti, and others.
The LTD “Center for Primary Healthcare” has been created in the Shida Kartli region with the main mission of providing constant and uninterrupted primary healthcare services to the local population. The center overseas another 23 outpatient clinics of the border villages. The outpatient clinics are equipped with all the necessary equipment, medical supplies, heating and water systems.
As of February 1, 2014 the oversight of outpatient clinics in border villages was transferred to the Shida Kartli “Center for Primary Healthcare”. Currently 53 nurses and 36 doctors are providing services for these villages.
According to Director of the “Center for Primary Healthcare” Zurab Jalabadze, there is a shortage of professional medical personnel in the region. The outpatient clinics are open only when doctors arrive – that is only one day a week and in rare lucky cases twice a week.
“Lack of local medical staff is an issue not only for the conflict zones, but for all regions of Georgia. You, journalists, are not afraid to travel anywhere, but if I mention the conflict zone in my conversation with a doctor, I won’t see her [the doctor] ever after…”, says Jalabadze.
Outpatient clinics existed in the villages before 2013 as well, but the doctors had to cover expenses out of their salaries. They were buying medical supplies and drugs for treating emergency cases, office supplies, and paying for the utilities. Today all those expenses are covered by the state, in addition to the increase in salaries for medical service workers.
Zurab Jalabadze stated that representatives from the Ministry of Healthcare often visit conflict zones to implement preventive medical checkups for the population, transfer necessary medical substances, get to know every resident and ensure their comprehensive medical care.
After the 2008 war, the health of many residents in the villages adjacent to the conflict zone have aggravated, and they are certainly in need of comprehensive medical care. There has been an increase in the cases of ischemic heart disease, diabetes, neurological disorders, allergies, and gastrointestinal problems. Many villages are almost completely deserted with only elderly residents, who have difficulties in moving, living there. If anyone stayed in the village, it is only because he or she had the status of socially vulnerable. Nobody talks about curing these people; everybody rather tries to palliate their existence.
“Obviously, what we do eases people’s lives, but that is not enough. They are in a constant need of supervision and medication. With each visit, we are increasingly convinced that they need us most of all”, doctors say.
Representatives of non-governmental organizations often visit the villages in the conflict zone and bring doctors from different hospitals for free consultations for the population; they try to help with medical supplies and hygiene products. Zurab Jalabadze stated that since the import of hygienic products in the framework of humanitarian programs is not being controlled, he has instructed the heads of rural administrations, doctors, and nurses not to distribute anything to the population without re-checking it.
The population of the villages along the administrative boundary line has to live surrounded by many problems. They have to overcome physical, psychological, and social difficulties on a daily basis. They are engaged in physical activity on their farmland for the wellbeing and financial stability of their families. However, revenues from agriculture are not big and are not enough to cover the basic needs of the families. The high rate of oncological diseases among women is another acute problem.
The only hope for the population affected by the 2008 war was the social welfare aid that is being cut off from many families today. This is due to the new assessment criteria of the social status of a family – the income and potential income-generating property of the family are being taken into account, while the place of residence is being completely dismissed as a factor. As a result, people here live only on their crop yield.
The local population believes that their villages are cut off from the outside world and people are left hanging in the air.
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