Real lives











July 2005, After the Flood

© UNICEF/SWZK00338/Dubanaev
Families living in tents in Bazarkorgon

The debris of broken houses and deep fissures in the thick mud that had buried households  silently met the UN team that traveled to Bazarkorgon, southern Kyrgyzstan, in July 2005. Headed by UNICEF Representative Richard Young, the team was there to bring humanitarian relief to this village, one of four affected by mud-slides and flooding in Jalalabat oblast.

Bazarkorgon used to be a green oasis circled by a river and an irrigation canal that gave life to the villagers, their animals and crops. Their serenity was shattered by incessant rains that, on 11 June, burst the banks. In just ten minutes, a massive grey flow of water more than a metre in height swallowed five houses and ruined dozens more. Somehow, miraculously, people managed to escape. They ran into the hills and, for the next ten days, watched the muddy waters devour their homes and fields. Then the water receded leaving a desert of mud behind it.

The story was the same in the nearby villages of Akman, Seidikul and Beshikjon. In total, 5,265 people – including 2,165 children – were badly affected, and 28 families lost their homes completely.

Richard Young listened to one man who had grim memories of a similar mudflow of 40 years ago. He was a small child at the time, but the trauma remained all his life; every day he was afraid that those horrors might happen again. Now he was worried about his grandchildren.

To help 83 homeless children recover from the shock, local authorities sent them to a local Rehabilitation Centre for one month. Another 70 were sent to summer camps in Arslanbop. When the children went back to their relatives, many were living in tents.

Maksat and his mother were one of 49 families who received the UN aid – four mattresses, food, a hygiene kit with soap, washing power and tooth paste and kitchen utensils. Their house was partly destroyed and it would be dangerous to stay there. Maksat showed the team the room where he had once slept. Under the mud there were some ramshackle clothes, there was a terrible smell of sewage from latrines destroyed by the rains. Maksat had managed a quick escape from the house. Now, he told the team about his life in the house, how he had played there with his brothers and sisters.

© UNICEF /SWZK00337/Varisco
The remnants of family life lie in the mud

The total value of UN supplies delivered to Bazarkorgon is US $9,500. Still, it is not enough. Over the last few months, Kyrgyzstan has seen more than 100 landslides, mudflows and localized floods. Some 560 families have had to be resettled.

One of the main issues now for the mudflow affected areas is the supply of clean water and the need for proper sanitation. It is a burning concern for the whole Jalalabat Oblast. At the request of the Jalalabat Governor, UNICEF has assigned a water  and  sanitation specialist  to  work closely with the local authorities for two months to find ways to improve the situation. 

The area has been affected by more than natural disasters, and UNICEF is also responding to other emergencies. During his visit, Richard Young went to the nearby Uzbek refugee camp and met with women and children who received UNICEF-supported counseling and other assistance. A psychologist, a teacher, a caregiver and young volunteers come regularly to the camp two or three times a week to help children and women overcome their tress and fears.

Richard Young listened to the story of Lola, an eight year old girl, who had been identified at the beginning as one of the most traumatized children, and looked at the pictures drawn by children.  Some of them still drew ugly violence and monstrous animals, while most of them put on paper members of their families, flowers and a peaceful life. 

The camp doctor confirmed that all the children and most of the adults were in good health. However, there are still some concerns: lack of ambulance services, low quality of potable water and inadequate sanitation.

Water and sanitation, counseling, education and nutrition for children, and health services for women and children – these are the main areas of UNICEF's assistance in emergencies. Unfortunately the need for prompt and efficient aid from UNICEF and other humanitarian agencies is growing. For the coming five years UNICEF in Kyrgyzstan needs US $2 million for its emergency response.



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