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Displaced in Georgia get access to computer and information technology

Making a Difference, 1 February 2010

© UNHCR/S.Maisuradze
A group of eager young boys try out the computers in Karaleti settlement.

KARALETI, Georgia, February 1 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has expanded its Community Technology Access (CTA) programme to Georgia, giving thousands of displaced people access to computers for education and livelihood purposes.

"Knowledge is a key, and this programme is giving that key to IDPs [internally displaced people] and refugees here," Peter Nicolaus, UNHCR's representative in Georgia, said on Saturday at the opening of Georgia's first CTA centre in the new settlement of Karaleti, which lies in the Shida Kartli region close to the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

UNHCR and its implementing partner, World Vision International, plan to open similar centres in the coming weeks in eight more settlements in Shida Kartli and two in north-east Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, where some 800 Chechen refugees are rebuilding their lives with support from UNHCR and its partners.

The Shida Kartli region shelters about 30,000 people who fled their homes during the brief conflict in August 2008 between Georgia and the Russian Federation over South Ossetia. Some 4,200 of the IDPs live in the nine settlements.

The launch of the programme in Georgia was welcomed on Saturday by those who will use it. "Having access to the internet means I can stay up-to-date with new information and pass it on to my students," said Sophio Melquoshvili, who fled her home in August 2008 and now teaches in a primary school.

Another IDP, Marika Gochashvili, said: "I used to be a nurse, but I cannot find nursing jobs here so I am interested in learning as much as I can about ICT [information and communications technology] so that I can teach others."

The CTA programme was announced last September at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative by UNHCR and its corporate partners, Microsoft and PricewaterhouseCoopers. The aim is to help improve the lives of the forcibly displaced by giving them access to computer technology, including the internet, for education as well as business and livelihoods purposes.

Under the first phase of the programme, successful pilot projects were launched in refugee camps in Rwanda and Bangladesh. The CTA centres in Georgia are being opened under the project's second phase, which will see computer technology brought to the displaced in Georgia and up to eight other countries.

The CTA project in Georgia will also maximize the role IDPs and refugees play in the delivery of information and communications technologies, including training them and locals to become managers of ICT facilities, maintenance and repair technicians, and teachers.

The centres will provide classes for children and computer literacy courses and distance learning for youth and adults. Other services will include entrepreneurship training, business centres, employment services and career counselling. Where possible, CTAs will generate income to cover costs.

Shida Kartli's Deputy Governor Giorgi Avaliani applauded the opening of the centre and thanked UNHCR for helping the IDPs. "I am sure that new technologies, and access to those technologies, will change their everyday life," he said, adding that the project "will have a very satisfying result."

By Suzanne Murray-Jones in Karaleti, Georgia

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The ongoing violence in Sudan's western Darfur region has uprooted two million Sudanese inside the country and driven some 230,000 more over the border into 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad.

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UNHCR and its partners continue to provide training and salaries for teachers in all 12 refugee camps, ensuring a quality education for refugee children. NGO partners maintain schools and supply uniforms to needy students. And UNICEF is providing books, note pads and stationary. In August 2007 UNHCR, UNICEF and Chad's Ministry of Education joined forces to access and improve the state of education for Sudanese uprooted by conflict in Darfur.

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Two million people are listed on Colombia's National Register for Displaced People. About half of them are under the age of 18, and, according to the Ministry of Education, only half of these are enrolled in school.

Even before displacement, Colombian children attending school in high-risk areas face danger from land mines, attacks by armed groups and forced recruitment outside of schools. Once displaced, children often lose an entire academic year. In addition, the trauma of losing one's home and witnessing extreme violence often remain unaddressed, affecting the child's potential to learn. Increased poverty brought on by displacement usually means that children must work to help support the family, making school impossible.

UNHCR supports the government's response to the educational crisis of displaced children, which includes local interventions in high-risk areas, rebuilding damaged schools, providing school supplies and supporting local teachers' organizations. UNHCR consults with the Ministry of Education to ensure the needs of displaced children are known and planned for. It also focuses on the educational needs of ethnic minorities such as the Afro-Colombians and indigenous people.

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Displacement in Georgia

Tens of thousands of civilians are living in precarious conditions, having been driven from their homes by the crisis in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia.

On the morning of August 12, the first UNHCR-chartered plane carrying emergency aid arrived in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the first UN assistance to arrive in the country since fighting broke out the previous week. The airlift brought in 34 tonnes of tents, jerry cans, blankets and kitchen sets from UNHCR's central emergency stockpile in Dubai. Items were then loaded onto trucks at the Tbilisi airport for transport and distribution.

A second UNHCR flight landed in Tbilisi on August 14, with a third one expected to arrive the following day. In addition, two UNHCR aid flights are scheduled to leave for Vladikavkaz in the Russian Federation the following week with mattresses, water tanks and other supplies for displaced South Ossetians.

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Posted on 15 August 2008

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