DESPITE SECURITY CONSTRAINTS, UN AID REACHES THOUSANDS UPROOTED BY KYRGYZ CRISIS

By UNDP Newsroom
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- Despite security concerns in southern Kyrgyzstan which are hampering aid delivery, United Nations agencies are reaching thousands of civilians uprooted by the recent violence with critical relief supplies.

Elizabeth Byrs of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told reporters in Geneva that the security situation is not totally under control, including in the city of Osh, which was the focus of much of the violence between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks that began on 10 June. The situation in Jalalabad also continues to be tense.

Government troops trying to clear barricades from the streets in Osh have been met with resistance, she noted, adding that the tense situation is hampering the delivery of humanitarian aid for internally displaced persons (IDPs), which number about 300,000 in Kyrgyzstan.

The clashes have also sent some 100,000 people fleeing into neighbouring Uzbekistan, where aid agencies have been assisting the Government in handing out relief items.

“The Uzbek authorities have themselves been handing out UNHCR relief items and our own emergency team has been on the ground in the Andijan area since Friday visiting sites and doing assessments,” Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters.

UNHCR has so far delivered 240 tonnes of aid in Uzbekistan, including tents, plastic sheeting, blankets and other basic items, to the refugees, the majority of whom are women, children, and the elderly.

On Friday the UN called for $71 million to assist hundreds of thousands of people affected by ethnic conflict in Kyrgyzstan, and a similar appeal aimed at helping the refugees in Uzbekistan is expected to be launched later this week.

UNHCR has re-established a presence in Osh as part of the UN hub at the airport, and its non-governmental organization (NGO) partners are assessing needs and organizing delivery of assistance. It also established an office in Jalalabad yesterday and UNHCR staff are on the ground working to verify the number of displaced, to visit the areas where they are concentrated and assess their needs.

“Our teams report little traffic in the city and few people on the streets. In some areas every second house has been destroyed,” said Mr. Edwards.

He added that the authorities estimate some 9,000 people have returned to their homes from Uzbekistan and within Kyrgyzstan.

The security situation is preventing the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) from carrying out a proper needs assessment mission, but a convoy carrying 40 tonnes of supplies did arrive in Osh this morning, according to John Budd.

He said a major concern is the water and sanitation situation in the refugee camps in Uzbekistan, especially dehydration among children. While bottled water is being supplied in the camps, there are already indications that this will be unsustainable and there could be an increase in water-borne communicable diseases.

UNICEF had supported a measles and rubella vaccination campaign for children aged 1 to 15, as well as completed vaccinating 52,000 children against polio.

The World Health Organization (WHO), which is coordinating the international health response to the crises in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, noted that there are number of urgent needs in both countries.

“WHO and health partners stress the urgency of providing the necessary health care and support to the communities affected by violence,” said Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

“People affected by the violence must be able to receive health services – in particular those who have been wounded in gunfire, those who have suffered from sexual and gender-based violence, those suffering from chronic diseases, and children who need vaccination against polio.”

The agency has deployed teams to assess and coordinate emergency response in the two countries, and humanitarian aid and medical supplies have been sent to Osh and Jalalabad in Kyrgyzstan and in Andijan in Uzbekistan.

Accra / Ghana/ Africa / Modernghana.com