BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, and KURGANPATA, Uzbekistan, 22 June 2010 – Despite continuing concerns about security, UNICEF has organized an airlift and overland distribution of supplies to people displaced by violence in Kyrgyzstan. At the same time, some of the ethnic Uzbek families that fled the country into neighbouring Uzbekistan have now moved from transit points into bigger camps supported by UNICEF.
More than 250 people are officially confirmed dead and over 2,100 wounded as a result of the violence, which broke out in southern Kyrgyzstan on 10 June, and media reports quoting the country’s interim government continue to suggest that the actual number of casualties could be much higher.
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19 June 2010: UNICEF Representative in Kyrgyzstan Jonathan Veitch discusses urgent efforts to deliver humanitarian supplies to children and families affected by ethnic violence.
According to government and UN estimates, at least 300,000 people are internally displaced in Kyrgyzstan, while approximately 100,000 have crossed the border into Uzbekistan and are now refugees.
Kyrgyzstan: Aid for the displaced
In response to the crisis inside Kyrgyzstan, a convoy carrying 40 tonnes of UNICEF supplies arrived yesterday in the city of Jalalabad. It dropped some of its cargo there and then continued to the city of Osh for more aid distribution today.
“Further supplies will be airlifted into Osh by mid-week, and we will be aiming to establish an office in Osh as soon as practically possible,” said UNICEF Representative in Kyrgyzstan Jonathan Veitch.
The supplies carried by the convoy include eight mobile obstetric kits sufficient for handling up to 800 deliveries and enough emergency medicines to treat 10,000 children suffering from diarrhoeal diseases. Vitamin and micronutrient supplements, UNICEF School-in-a-Box kits and water-and-sanitation supplies are also being trucked to the displaced population.
The Ministry of Health has reported that it is working with 10 shelters for displaced people in Osh province and 7 such shelters in Jalalabad. Northern Kyrgyzstan remains tense, with widespread concerns about the possibility for violence connected to a constitutional referendum planned for 27 June.
Uzbekistan: Supporting refugee camps
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 last week 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 with enough supplies to serve 100,000 people for three months, as well as water storage tanks and children’s recreation materials.
The authorities at the border 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 most-affected are seem reluctant to return and are likely to need continued humanitarian relief in 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 that 52,000 children have already been vaccinated against polio in the camps and surrounding host communities in Uzbekistan. Second and third rounds of immunization are now being planned, she added.
As part of a UN flash appeal issued on Friday, 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.