5 February 2009The United Nations is expanding its efforts to help Georgia tackle the longer-term challenges of last year’s conflict with Russia by restoring livelihoods and improving public services, after easing the immediate humanitarian impact of hostilities that uprooted nearly 200,000 people. With 4.5 million euros in European Union (< ahref='http://europa.eu/index_en.htm">EU) funding, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) will now deepen and extend the initiative, which has so far focused on the Shida-Kartli region bordering separatist South Ossetia, at the heart of the conflict, where the agency has used already $1.2 million of its own crisis response fund to ensure food security, repair infrastructure, and help local authorities provide needed public services.This so-called Fostering Sustainable Transition and Early Recovery (FOSTER) project has benefited some 10,000 people by rehabilitating 12 critical facilities such as schools and municipal offices, repairing drainage and water pipes, and working with the University of Gori to design and deliver short training courses in masonry, painting, plumbing and other construction trade for those left jobless by the conflict, UNDP said in a news release today.As jobs in agriculture are the dominant occupation in the conflict-affected regions, the project has also sought to help farmers who lost their harvests, and often livestock, orchards, and equipment, put a new crop into the ground before winter. By the end of 2008 UNDP had provided seeds, ploughing, and other services to enable 1,100 farming families to sow winter wheat crops, restoring a vital source of income.The conflict left many residents of conflict-affected areas with a lingering sense of insecurity and vulnerability. To help address human rights concerns, UNDP has helped extend the services of the Public Defender’s office to the Shida Kartli region, and provided support to the Ministry of Justice’s Legal Aid service. It also supported the creation of a regional Gender Equality Resource Centre in Gori. With the EU funding, UNDP now plans to boost recovery activities more broadly in Shida-Kartli and extend them to two other conflict-affected regions – Mtskheta-Mtianeti, east of South Ossetia, and Samegrelo, adjacent to Abkhazia, a second separatist region where fighting erupted.This will help bridge the transition from crisis to development by rebuilding infrastructure, providing vocational training to the jobless, and expanding microfinance programmes to promote the creation of small businesses.In the early weeks after the August fighting, UNDP focused on the pressing humanitarian challenge of providing food and shelter, but most of the 190,000 people who fled have since returned to their homes, while the Georgian Government has built temporary housing for the 30,000 people, mainly from South Ossetia, who remain displaced.