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Kyrgyzstan/Uzbekistan: scope of humanitarian crisis is immense

16-06-2010 News Release 10/110

Bishkek/Tashkent/Moscow/Geneva (ICRC) – Teams from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were able to reach several remote areas of southern Kyrgyzstan today, enabling them to develop a clearer picture of the vast humanitarian needs in communities affected by the recent brutal violence in the region.

" The uneasy calm over the past 48 hours or so has allowed us to get to areas that were previously unreachable, " said Séverine Chappaz, the ICRC's deputy head of mission in Kyrgyzstan. " We've seen for ourselves and also heard about pockets of displaced people ranging from several hundred to several thousand in number, so it's impossible to say with any certainty exactly how many people have been forced to flee their homes. That said, the number of people displaced within Kyrgyzstan is easily in the tens of thousands, while on the Uzbek side of the border, the authorities now say they've registered 75,000 adult refugees, who are mostly women, but that doesn't include their children. It's an immense crisis. "

The ICRC says the ongoing insecurity and fear, and shortages of basic necessities like food, water, shelter and medicine, are putting a tremendous strain on the communities, hospitals and families trying to help the displaced and refugees in both Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The organization, which has been responding to the crisis since it erupted almost a week ago, says its doctors are also receiving credible accounts of rape and severe beatings.

" This week, ICRC doctors met several young women in an area near Osh, in Kyrgyzstan, who said they had been raped. A local gynaecologist accompanying the ICRC team was able to examine one of them and confirmed she had been raped and beaten, " said Mrs Chappaz. " It goes without saying that rape is an abhorrent violation of a person's physical integrity and human dignity, and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms. "

She added that the same team was taken to a nearby building complex, where they discovered around 3,000 people who had been forced to flee their homes and were asking for food and diapers for the estimated 500 young children in the group. They said five babies had been born in the last three days in the complex.

Today, for the first time since the crisis started, the ICRC was able to visit the main detention centre in Osh and deliver food provided by the World Food Programme to around 1,000 detainees.

The ICRC's first planeload of non-medical relief items arrived in Osh from the organization's logistics base in Amman, Jordan, late this afternoon. The supplies, which include blankets, tarpaulins, cooking utensils, jerrycans and soap, will be distributed to 1,300 vulnerable families and will be followed by several more planeloads of similar items in the coming days.

The ICRC is ready to transport relief supplies into Andijan, Uzbekistan, as part of a wider humanitarian effort, with members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and other aid agencies, to support the Uzbek authorities in their efforts to deal with the huge influx of refugees currently staying in camps, car parks, schools and factories, and with families.

A team of ICRC experts, including emergency relief, tracing and medical specialists, also arrived in Andijan today.

  For further information, please contact:
  Christian Cardon, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 251 93 02
  Pierre-Emmanuel Ducruet, ICRC Osh, tel: +996 77 20 22 610
  Yuriy Shafarenko, ICRC Moscow, tel: +7 9 03 545 3534