Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan first to respond to quake survivors

Published: 7 October 2008 0:00 CET

Elena Pavluk from the Kyrgz Red Crescent, is just back from the disaster zone. She says that many people are very traumatized. "Thirty-one of the victims are children," she says. "In all my years of experience dealing with earthquakes in this region I have never witnessed such complete destruction. The survivors are devastated and our volunteers and staff are active not just in first aid but also in psycho social support which is desperately needed as most families have lost a loved one".

The Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan (RCSK) is rushing aid to the remote Osh region, following Sunday’s (5 October) strong earthquake which killed at least 70 people, injured some 100, destroyed hundreds of houses, and cut off communications to this impoverished area.

Initial reports say some villages, such as Nura, in the district of Alay, have been destroyed.  Access, which is difficult in normal times due to the mountainous terrain, has been severely hampered with the destruction of many roads. This is also making the delivery of emergency relief particularly difficult. The government is evacuating all injured people to hospital by helicopter. A communication channel was established by the State emergency committee but there is no other communication possible with the affected areas. 

The Kyrgyz Red Crescent dispatched tents and blankets from its Osh warehouse on the night of the disaster.  It also sent an emergency response team to the disaster site, with members from Bishkek, Osh and Jalalabat. They are providing emergency assistance, first aid and assessing needs.

The affected region has a total population of approximately 100,000 inhabitants living in 80 villages. The toll of deaths and injuries is likely to rise as all the affected areas have not yet reported damage.

Massive Logistical Challenges to Access Survivors

“The biggest problem - as is always the case in disasters in remote regions - is communication with the affected area," says Peter Rees, Head of operations support for the International Federation. “Nevertheless, the contingency planning which we have been focusing on in Central Asia is showing excellent results in cutting down response times to the minimum. This type of focused preparation saves lives."

The government has called for support from the international community to address the urgent and mid-term needs of the people affected by the earthquake, including power generators and construction materials to set up a camp for 600 families. Psychosocial support will also be needed to help survivors, especially children, overcome the loss of loved ones and homes.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is releasing 220,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to support the Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan emergency operations. These funds will serve to provide nearly 1,000 people with food, bedding, hygiene articles and kitchen sets over the next three months.

Red Crescent teams will also bring social support to 60 injured people who have been transported to hospital.