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UMCOR co-sponsors airlift to Republic of Georgia


Donated medical supplies are unloaded at the airport in Tbilisi, Georgia. The airlift was sponsored by the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Project Hope and the U.S. State Department and will help more than 90,000 patients in the Caucasus region. UMNS photos by Gia Chkhatarashvili, UMCOR. 

By Linda Beher*
Sept. 18, 2007 | TBILISI, Georgia (UMNS)

An airlift sponsored by the United Methodist Committee on Relief and Project Hope, with millions of dollars in donated medical supplies, has arrived in Tbilisi, the capital city of the Republic of Georgia.

The Sept. 14 flight was the 912th conducted by Project Hope and the U.S. State Department since 1992. The shipment means a healthier life for more than 90,000 vulnerable patients in the Caucasus region. The former Soviet republic is a country of great economic need in the mountains separating Europe and Asia.

The C-17 cargo plane carried 20 representatives of several international nongovernmental organizations, including the Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, UMCOR's parent organization, and Marc Maxi, executive director of field operations for the relief agency.

"UMCOR celebrates its collaborations over the years with Project Hope," Day said. "We share a common goal - that of promoting international peace and cooperation as we respond to human need."

Sandra Roelofs, the first lady of Georgia, was among officials on hand to welcome the plane. She said the flight represented "not only friendship but development."

Welcome cargo


UMCOR field operations director Marc Maxi greets a patient at the Iashvili Central Children's Hospital. 

An estimated $11 million in drug, health supplies, and hygiene and school kits were on board. Sept. 15 launched distribution of the supplies and training in the use of medicines and equipment, to be managed by the UMCOR Georgia office at Iashvili Children's Central Hospital in Tbilisi. The hospital is Georgia's major pediatric inpatient institution, and UMCOR has supplied pharmaceuticals there since 1993.

This is the second medical airlift into Georgia sponsored by UMCOR and Project Hope. The first was in 2001. Project Hope is an international relief agency known for its work in health aid and education. This year's airlift celebrates the organization's 50th  anniversary.

The medicines and other supplies were given by a variety of organizations, ranging from pharmaceutical companies to private donors. Interchurch Medical Assistance, another long-time UMCOR partner, assembled the containers.

UMCOR has a long record of work in Georgia. The agency began humanitarian operations there in 1993 to address the needs of children and women by providing essential medicines and treatment practices, aimed at combating their most common and preventable illnesses.

Today, some 200,000 vulnerable children receive assistance from UMCOR's Georgia workers. Davit Tkeshelashvili, minister of health, called the shipment another step toward modernization and reform of Georgia's health care system. "Our objective is to ensure this cargo gets to its true address, the beneficiaries as designed," he said.

Striving for stability

Georgia is today an independent Eurasian country of 4.6 million people. Like other parts of the former Soviet Union, it is striving to achieve a stable economy. Sustainable health care advances in Georgia are a priority for both UMCOR and Project Hope.

Both organizations help alleviate human suffering caused by war, poverty, conflict and natural disasters. UMCOR is active in 81 countries, contributing $91 million in aid and direct relief to disaster, war and conflict-ridden areas of the world in 2006.

Project Hope's influence is felt across 31 of the world's most vulnerable countries, especially in the areas of health education and disease prevention for children and women and support for health facilities.

Donations for UMCOR's ongoing work in Georgia can be designated to UMCOR Advance #250305, Georgia Emergency. Checks may be dropped in church collection plates or mailed directly to UMCOR, PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. Give online at www.givetomission.org, or by credit card by calling (800) 554-8583.

*Beher, who is on UMCOR's communications staff, accompanied the airlift.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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