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UN and UNICEF take humanitarian action in response to Kyrgyzstan crisis

© AP Photo/Bennett
Children and women wait to cross the border into Uzbekistan, having fled ethic clashes in Osh, Kyrgyzstan.

Flash appeal seeks emergency funding

By Tim Ledwith

NEW YORK, USA, 18 June 2010 – As the crisis in Kyrgyzstan enters its second week, there are reports that violence against ethnic Uzbeks in the southern part of the country is gradually declining. However, the situation remains volatile and could still deteriorate.

As of today, 192 people are officially confirmed dead and about 2,000 have been wounded in southern Kyrgyzstan, including many in and around the cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad. But the country’s interim president has been quoted in the media stating that the actual number of casualties could be 10 times higher.

Meanwhile, an estimated 300,000 people have been displaced in Kyrgyzstan. More than 90,000 others have taken refuge at camps across the border in neighbouring Uzbekistan.

In response to the crisis, the United Nations has initiated a humanitarian action plan that is evolving as conditions on the ground allow. A UN flash appeal issued today seeks $71 million in funding from international donors to address the needs of more than a million people affected by the ethnic violence that broke out in Kyrgyzstan on 10 June. UNICEF's portion of the appeal amounts to nearly $9.8 million.

Needs of displaced families

Because of continued sporadic fighting, the specific needs of the displaced population in Kyrgyzstan have been hard to assess so far – though there is a broad consensus that their situation is grave.

© AP Photo/Bennett
A father holds his 13-year-old son, who has been wounded in violence in Nariman village, Osh, Kyrgyzstan.

“It’s very difficult to have accurate information,” said UNICEF Representative in the Kyrgyz Republic Jonathan Veitch, referring to the conditions faced by children and women in the south.

While most of those displaced inside Kyrgyzstan are thought to be staying with host families, Mr. Veitch added, tens of thousands may need shelter, safe water or other support. “We are receiving reports of diarrhoea cases resulting from limited access to clean water, and we are particularly concerned about it,” he said.

Another key concern is the status of children who have been separated from their families and need to be reunited with parents or other caregivers.

“It will be very important to start family tracing,” said Mr. Veitch, “linking up children who been reported alone in Osh and other places with their parents, who may have come across the border or could be internally displaced persons in Kyrgyzstan.”

Emergency supplies

To aid the displaced, UNICEF is dispatching 40 metric tonnes of emergency health, water, sanitation and hygiene supplies from its global supply hub in Copenhagen. The supplies are scheduled to reach Kyrgyzstan by air tomorrow for overland distribution to affected areas. An additional shipment of 40 metric tonnes will follow early next week.

In Uzbekistan, UNICEF has already delivered several truckloads of emergency supplies to refugee camps and is now procuring $1.5 million in additional aid for refugee children and families there.

Although the level violence inside Kyrgyzstan has gone down, tensions remain high. Pending security arrangements, UNICEF plans to open an office in Osh soon, and additional staff are expected to arrive shortly to provide urgently needed surge capacity. The agency’s crisis-response plan will be revised and updated as the security situation permits a better assessment of the needs of women and children at risk.

 

 
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