Kyrgyzstan: ICRC helps Kyrgyz hospitals treat victims of violence

08-04-2010 Interview

A day after violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces in Bishkek, Pascale Meige Wagner, ICRC head of operations for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, assesses the humanitarian situation in and around the Kyrgyz capital.


Pascale Meige Wagner 
     What is the ICRC's assessment of the current humanitarian situation in Kyrgyzstan?  

Dozens of people were killed and many more were wounded during clashes between demonstrators and security forces in Bishkek yesterday. We have no precise figures, but our delegates in the capital confirm that Bishkek's three main referral hospitals are treating over 500 wounded people. Looting was reported overnight and the security situation clearly remains volatile. Earlier today, shooting could be heard and groups of people were wandering the streets. Ho wever, the overall situation seems quieter. There are no reports of large-scale violence and crowds are dispersing following the announcement by the opposition that it had seized power. Clashes took place elsewhere in the country but little information is available at this point. Our staff in Osh report that crowds gathered in the central square this morning, but that calm appears to be returning.

©Reuters / V. Pirogov 
Bishkek hospital. Medics attend to a man injured during clashes between riot police and anti-government protesters. 

 What is your main concern today?  

We are concerned about the heavy loss of human life and about the fact that so many people were wounded. We continue to call on all those involved to show restraint and respect the principle of humanity. When restoring security, decision-makers must respect international standards governing the use of force at all times. The events of the last 48 hours show that respect for medical personnel, ambulances and medical facilities, and for the Red Cross/Red Crescent emblem, is essential for a proper humanitarian response. We will continue to talk to the authorities and others to ensure that the Kyrgyz Red Crescent Society, in particular, can fulfill its role as an auxiliary body to State health authorities.

 What is the ICRC doing?  

Immediate medical needs in Bishkek are our top priority. Hospitals are currently requesting materials rather than medical personnel, so our three doctors are getting first-aid supplies to hospitals that have been treating the wounded. These facilities were already running out of supplies just a few hours after the clashes erupted. Our teams also delivered blood bags to several hospitals after the Kyrgyz Ministry of Health informed us of shortages. We are now working with our Kyrgyz Red Crescent partners on ways to improve blood collection. Meanwhile, we will continue to assess the medical situation in the capital. Tomorrow, a joint ICRC/Kyrgyz Red Crescent team will be leaving for the northern town of Talas to deliver first-aid supplies to hospitals there. We will continue to work closely with the Ministry of Health and the Kyrgyz Red Crescent to support referral medical facilities as best as we can. Given the number of persons killed, we are also in the process of providing local mortuary authorities with body bags and enhancing their ability to dispose of bodies in a manner that is both respectful of tradition and ensures that it will be possible to identify the bodies in the future.

 What is the ICRC's setup in Kyrgyzstan?  

We currently have 35 staff in Kyrgyzstan, including eleven expatriates. In addition to our Mission in Bishkek, we have an office in the south-western town of Osh, and there are health staff at both locations. ICRC staff in Kyrgyzstan work closely with our Tashkent Regional Delegation, which oversees the ICRC's activities in Central Asia. Being present in Bishkek well before yesterday's events has allowed us to act quickly, albeit on a modest scale. The ICRC is present throughout the region, precisely so that we can respond to situations of violence.

  See also our news release