Children and women wait to cross the border into Uzbekistan, having fled ethic clashes in Osh, Kyrgyzstan.
NEW YORK (June 22, 2010) — Up to 400,000 ethnic Uzbeks, mostly women and children, remain in tent camps on both sides of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border, afraid to return to their homes after violence the government says killed as many as 2,000 people.
UNICEF is providing emergency health, water, sanitation and hygiene supplies for refugee children and families in the camps. Containing outbreak of diseases due to limited access to water and reuniting separated children with their families are two key concerns.
In response to the crisis, the United Nations has initiated a humanitarian aid 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 June 10. UNICEF’s portion of the appeal amounts to nearly $9.8 million.
Needs of displaced families
A father holds his 13-year-old son, who has been wounded in violence in Nariman village, Osh, Kyrgyzstan.
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.
“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, Veitch added, tens of thousands may need shelter, safe water or other support. “We are receiving reports of diarrhea 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 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.”
To aid the displaced, UNICEF is dispatching 40 metric tons of emergency aid supplies from its global supply hub in Copenhagen to be followed by an additional shipment of 40 metric tons.
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 is 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.