COLUMBIA — The Columbia-based organization A Call To Serve International will airlift $1.8 million worth of medications to the country of Georgia next week, providing 24,000 doses of antibiotics to help treat pneumonia.
ACTS members and volunteers finished packing up the shipment Jan. 15. Medication will be distributed to 12,000 child refugees from the Russian invasion in August and 12,000 children under age 5 in the high mountain regions of Georgia, said ACTS President Patricia "Trish" Blair.
She said the remote villages desperately need aid.
"In winter months, children become ill with upper respiratory infection," Blair said. "The most deadly is pneumonia."
Russian troops invaded Georgia in August, driving 158,000 people from their homes, Blair said. More than 40 percent of those people were children under the age of 16.
The airlift is planned to arrive in Georgia by the end of January.
"The last important step is the actual delivery of medication to the hospitals and clinics to treat the children," Blair said.
Once it is on the ground in the capital city of Tbilisi, an experienced ACTS-Georgia team will prepare documents to clear customs and prepare to receive the medication.
The Georgian team also will work with the ministers of health and education to make the medication available to the most vulnerable children.
Shortly after the Soviet Union collapsed, Blair founded A Call to Serve International in 1992 when she learned from physician friends in Georgia that the country was left without life-saving medical supplies and equipment.
In 1997, ACTS helped establish a sister-city relationship between Columbia and the city of Kutaisi in the Georgian region of Imereti, Blair said.
Last fall, the organization made a $30,000 donation, which was used to provide aid to the refugees in Georgia through Columbia Rotary South and other mid-Missouri Rotary clubs, local churches and individual gifts.
"Many things are needed now as the new year starts," Blair said. "All of the people need to retain their hope in the future and knowledge that their friends in Missouri and the United States are standing with them.
"Donations of any size will be a great help in buying gas to deliver the medication."
Several partners, including Bristol-Myers Squibb and Abbott Laboratories, provided the medication. The airlift was funded by the U.S. State Department's Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.
Donations may be made online at acalltoserve.org or by sending a check to ACTS (Georgian Relief), P.O. Box 7026, Columbia, MO 65205.