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In Georgia, refugees wait for promised US aid

Many wonder if Congress will honor its $1 billion commitment if amid the financial crisis. Some lawmakers were already opposed to the deal.

Refugee: Nano Davitashvili fixes her daughter Nano's hair in a refugee center in Tbilisi.

dan catchpole

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Maria Davitashvili lives in an office in a defunct printing building, sharing the space with her brother and his wife and two children. Their homes were burned during Georgia's brief but disastrous war with Russia and South Ossetian separatists in August.

"Our village doesn't exist anymore," she says.

Like other refugees here, they're making do – a handful of donated dishes and clothes, discarded office furniture. There is no heat in the building.

The children have adjusted, using the hallway as a playground. But the adults are uneasy.

"How can life be good here?" asks Ms. Davitashvili's brother, Dato.

US and Georgian officials have been discussing that, negotiating how to dispense the $1 billion in assistance pledged to Georgia by President Bush.

But aid was promised before the US markets imploded, and some here wonder if America will deliver.

Headlines say, "$1 billion for Georgia, and history will show you that those headline figures aren't really followed through," says Jonathan Puddifoot, CARE International's Georgia director.

Foreign aid makes up 90 percent of CARE's Georgia budget, he says, and will be key in meeting the needs of some 54,000 refugees from the conflict.


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