Uzbekistan: the relief operation steps up a gear

Published: 22 June 2010 0:00 CET

Joe Lowry in Andijan, Uzbekistan

The first joint assessment teams from the Uzbekistan Red Crescent, IFRC and ICRC are on the ground and working near Uzbekistan’s western border with Kyrgyzstan. A relief operation to meet the needs of some 92,000 adult refugees, who are registered with the Uzbek authorities, has now begun. The adult refugees are mostly women and the elderly, but there are also thousands of children.

The crisis was sparked by inter-ethnic tensions, which resulted in a serious outbreak of violence in the Osh and Jalalabat districts (oblasts) of Kyrgyzstan on 10 June. The clashes in Osh, Jalalabat, Uzgen, Aravan and Karasuu led to a massive population movement towards and across the Uzbekistan–Kyrgyzstan border. As of 17 June, the reported number of people killed in the clashes is 191, while more than 1,900 have been reported as injured.

Two Federation relief flights landed on Sunday morning for distribution to camps in Andijan, Namangan and Fergana. The first flight landed with 6,000 blankets, 3,000 foldable jerry cans, 3,000 hygiene kits, 3,000 kitchen sets, and 200 tents. Local Red Crescent staff and volunteers are being mobilized to assist with the distribution of supplies. More relief is being flown in by the Turkish Red Crescent Society and the Finnish Red Cross in the coming days. There is also a representative in-country from the United Arab Emirates.

An assessment of the camps by an inter-agency mission has reported that the camps visited are well managed with supplies of food, water and shelter. However, sanitation issues continue to be a concern, and if the situation continues in the coming weeks, then overcrowding and the sustainability of supplies may also become problematic.

The IFRC’s appeal for 4.15 million Swiss francs aims to bring emergency relief to 24,000 of the most vulnerable people in these camps over the next six months, augmenting and amplifying the work of the Red Crescent Society of Uzbekistan which started emergency operations on 11 June. Based on the first assessments of eight camps, the focus will be on needs the areas of food, non-food items (particularly bedding and hygiene items) water and sanitation, and psychosocial support.

The president of the Red Crescent Society of Uzbekistan, Mr Mannon Rakhimov, arrived in the affected region soon after the crisis began and took an active role in the assessment of needs. He has been joined in-country by IFRC representative Drina Karahasanovic – a senior member of staff from the European regional office – and by a senior logistician from the regional logistics centre in Dubai. Eight specialists from the Field Assessment and Coordination Team (FACT) and specialists from Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies from Australia, America, Britain, Bulgaria, Finland, Ireland, and Tajikistan have also arrived in the country.

IFRC has allocated 171,625 Swiss francs (154,437 US dollars or 124,546 euros) has been allocated from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the Kyrgyz Red Crescent in delivering immediate assistance to some 2,600 beneficiaries. This is in addition to an allocation of 300,000 Swiss francs to Uzbekistan last week.

The Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan will provide families who are trying to cross the border with food and relief items including biscuits, canned food, drinking water, blankets and hygiene kits. The Kyrgyzstan Red Crescent will set up eight tents at four transit points on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, which will be used as operational points to provide distribute the food and relief items, and to give first aid and psychosocial support.

Some 300 people, who fled the unrest into Kyrgyzstan’s southern neighbour Tajikistan, have received first aid and psychosocial support from the Red Crescent Society of Tajikistan.