Aid reaches displaced and refugee families in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, and KURGANPATA, Uzbekistan, 24 June 2010 – Despite concerns about security, UNICEF has organized a continuing airlift and overland distribution of supplies to people displaced by violence in Kyrgyzstan. At the same time, a significant proportion of the ethnic Uzbek families that fled the country into neighbouring Uzbekistan have now returned home – though thousands are still refugees.
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More than 250 people are officially confirmed dead and over 2,000 wounded as a result of the violence, which broke out two weeks ago in southern Kyrgyzstan, and media reports quoting the country’s interim government suggest that the actual number of casualties could be much higher.
According to government and UN estimates, at least 300,000 people are internally displaced in Kyrgyzstan. Up to 100,000 refugees had crossed the border into Uzbekistan at the height of the emergency, but the Kyrgyz border service reports that about half of them have gone back to Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan: Aid for the displaced
In response to the crisis inside Kyrgyzstan, a cargo flight carrying 40 tonnes of supplies from UNICEF's global hub in Copenhagen arrived at Bishkek airport last Saturday, 19 June. A truck convoy transported the supplies to the cities of Jalalabad and Osh on Monday and Tuesday.
An additional 35 metric tonnes of aid arrived by air yesterday. It was scheduled for distribution to affected children and families today, mostly in hard-hit Osh province. “We will be aiming to establish an office in Osh as soon as practically possible,” said UNICEF Representative in Kyrgyzstan Jonathan Veitch.
Two more flights with approximately 80 metric tones of emergency supplies are expected to arrive this week. The airlifted aid includes medical kits and medicines to prevent diarrhoeal diseases, mobile obstetric kits, vitamin A and other and micronutrient supplements, water-and-sanitation supplies, tarpaulins and tents, School-in-a-Box kits and Early Childhood Development kits.
As aid operations continue, northern Kyrgyzstan remains tense, with widespread concerns about the possibility of violence connected with a constitutional referendum planned for 27 June.
Uzbekistan: Supporting refugees
In Uzbekistan, meanwhile, refugee camps in the Kurgantapa district of Andijan province have received tents, non-food items, and basic health and hygiene equipment – all provided by UNICEF as part of its early response to the emergency.
UNICEF was among the first humanitarian actors present in the refugee camps after the crisis erupted. Women and children comprise more than 90 per cent of the refugee population, as many men remained behind in Kyrgyzstan to protect their property.
To meet the immediate needs of refugee families, UNICEF is procuring $2 million in additional relief aid – including basic health and hygiene kits, as well as water storage tanks and children’s recreation materials.
The authorities at the border – and UNICEF staff in the area – report that thousands of refugees have returned to Kyrgyzstan in recent days. The majority of returnees appear to be heading back to districts not directly affected by the violence; those who fled the worst-affected areas in the Osh region seem reluctant to return and are likely to need continued humanitarian relief within Uzbekistan.
Flash appeal for funding
“The relief operation is going well, but the needs are really big,” said UNICEF Uzbekistan’s Chief of Communication for Development, Savita Varde-Naqvi. “Our biggest concern is an outbreak of disease, including polio, because of overcrowding and possible contamination of water.”
Ms. Varde-Naqvi noted earlier this week that 52,000 children already had been vaccinated against polio in the camps and surrounding host communities in Uzbekistan. Second and third rounds of immunization are being planned, she added.
As part of a UN flash appeal issued on 18 June, UNICEF is seeking nearly $9.8 millon in new funding from international donors to address the urgent needs of displaced people in Kyrgyzstan, and refugees in Uzbekistan, in the weeks and months to come.