Rebuilding Lives in Crisis Areas
Nana Shonia is a dentist in a small village at the administrative boundary line with Abkhazia. Nana is the only dentist in the area and her patients come from both sides of the conflict divide. Outdated equipment and expensive medicines made her business increasingly difficult. With assistance from the UNDP’s programme for small businesses, Nana received her first ever micro loan and purchased a new dental chair. As her income increased, she decided to continue her studies and raise professional qualification.
- Conflicts in the 1990s and 2008 left Georgia with over 270 thousand displaced.
- UNDP assists the displaced and host communities to improve social and economic prospects, get education, find jobs and set up small businesses.
- Professional colleges in Zugdidi and Poti train 1,500 students a year, 50% of them are IDPs.
- Hundreds of small entrepreneurs receive business training and micro loans.
- More than 30 community projects improve critical infrastructure - kindergartens, water supply system, medical facilities, roads, bridges.
- More than 80 thousand people in Samegrelo benefit from the UNDP’s programme.
Nana is one of the hundreds of small entrepreneurs in western Georgia who received help from UNDP to become self-sustainable, take professional training and start new businesses.
"I did not know how to handle loans before and so I couldn’t risk dealing with banks. The consultants at the business centre helped me to become more confident. The quality of my work improved and the number of patients already increased,” Nana says.
UNDP’s assistance is part of a larger programme which aims to support the displaced and local residents, and to improve economic and social prospects in the areas directly affected by the conflict.
Life after the crisis
Violent conflicts in the 1990s and in 2008 left Georgia with over 270 thousand displaced and the shattered economy in the regions affected by the crisis. Poverty, unemployment, poor housing and lack of social development – are the usual challenges faced by people in the areas with high concentration of the displaced.
In 2007, the government of Georgia adopted the State Strategy for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) attempting to speed up their social integration and economic recovery. But economic hardship in the regions with large IDP communities still challenges the recovery and integration process.
The region of Samegrelo borders breakaway Abkhazia and was hit by the both waves of conflicts. It is an agriculture area with high level of rural poverty. Samegrelo shelters more than 80 thousand Internally Displaced Persons resettled in the collective centres or private accommodation – host families and rented apartments.
In 2010, UNDP launched its assistance programme in the region with up to USD 3 million in funding from the government of Norway. UNDP’s assistance focused on social and economic security of the displaced and their host communities. With the aim to bolster the region’s economy and increase the quality of life for all, UNDP assisted professional education, agriculture and business development.
UNDP also helped communities to assess their immediate needs and work together to resolve most pressing issues, such as water supply and the rehabilitation of basic infrastructure.
The growth that rests on people
Levan Lakia, 21, is an IDP from Abkhazia. He lives in a small village with his parents and two brothers of 18 and 10 years old. Levan is the only employed member in the family. He just started a job as a construction worker for the school rehabilitation project after completing vocational training. He was one of the best in his class and the college administration helped him to get in touch with a construction company. Levan has a short-term contract for now but he sees it as a good start for the future success.
"Vocational training changed my life for better. I feel more confident and know what to do. It’s not only about income. It’s about experience which improves my chances to become professional and competitive,” – Levan says.
By the end of 2011, UNDP helped professional colleges in the two main cities of the region – Poti and Zugdidi to introduce new educational programmes in the areas of construction, agriculture and Information Technologies.
The colleges train up to 1,500 students a year and almost 50% of them are IDPs. With UNDP assistance they can now take short educational programmes in English language and basic computer skills in addition to the main course.
To support practical training and generate employment, UNDP also assisted the colleges to open wood processing plants and tailoring workshops. In 2011, both colleges joined Cisco Networking Academy – an international training programme to help prepare for ICT and networking careers in every type of industry.
UNDP’s assistance to business development in the region led to opening Business Education and Consultation Centres in Zugdidi and Poti. Up to 300 people received training and consultation in management, marketing, taxation, accountancy and legal issues. Twenty started small businesses with loans from the micro finance institutions.
The list of UNDP-supported community initiatives includes repairing of the water supply system in three municipalities and the rehabilitation of kindergartens and sport sites in the villages.
More than 80 thousand people in Samegrelo benefitted from the UNDP’s programme. For many this was the way to escape the lingering sense of insecurity and take future in their hands.