Massive needs expected as crisis in central Asia worsens

Published: 17 June 2010 0:00 CET

Yusupov Shukhrat

Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Uzbeks have fled fighting in Kyrgyzstan and are massing on the border of neighbouring Uzbekistan. At least 70,000 adults and countless children have already crossed, and a catastrophe is unfolding. Already, hundreds of people are known to have been killed in the clashes, with many times that number injured. Hundreds of thousands of people are in need of urgent humanitarian aid; the priorities being shelter, water, food and medical care.

The International Federation is assisting the Red Crescent Society of Uzbekistan to mount a relief operation for 24,000 of the most vulnerable over the next six months. The International Committee of the Red Cross has already landed three relief flights in Uzbekistan and is doing further assessments of what it calls “an immense humanitarian crisis”. Tents and other shelter items have been flown in by the Turkish Red Crescent, and more aid is on the way by road from the Red Crescent Society of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Drina Karahasanovic, the IFRC’s regional representative for central Asia said: “The humanitarian situation is very alarming. Thousands of people need food, shelter, water and healthcare immediately. The weather is scorching and strong thunderstorms are predicted. We are especially worried about the wounded, the elderly, children and pregnant women.”

“Urgent assistance is needed to stop diseases erupting, and to help people survive from day to day,” she continued. “The Uzbek Red Crescent has been fulfilling its role as an auxiliary to the authorities, working round the clock since the earliest hours of this crisis, putting up tents and distributing food, mattresses and clothes. Their colleagues in Kyrgyzstan are distributing aid in hospitals together with the ICRC.”

The International Federation has released 300,000 Swiss francs in emergency funds and launched an appeal for 4.15 million Swiss francs for the six-month operation. Funds will be released from DREF, the International Federation’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund, to support the Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan.

A FACT (Field Assessment and Coordination Team) is deployed and on its way to Uzbekistan. Team leader Ervin Blau is preparing his colleagues for a difficult mission: “We expect to find a large number of people in critical need. Our number one priority will be to save lives and stabilize the humanitarian situation. Supplies are on the way and we will explore ways of helping the local Red Crescent get as much as possible to as many people in the shortest timeframe possible.”

The team will work hand in hand with the local Red Crescent, which is present in all the key areas. Apart from assessing and responding to the immediate needs, the joint Red Cross Red Crescent Movement response will coordinate closely with key agencies, including government, the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies.