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Kyrgyzstan : ICRC urges restraint as humanitarian situation worsens

12-06-2010 News Release 10/106

Bishkek/Moscow/Geneva (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is extremely concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation in southern Kyrgyzstan following ongoing ethnic clashes in and around the city of Osh. The ICRC calls on the Kyrgyz authorities to do everything in their power to protect their citizens, restore order and ensure respect for the rule of law.

" Things are getting worse and worse by the hour. We hear reports of tens of thousands of people fleeing the fighting and looting, and heading towards the Kyrgyz border with Uzbekistan, " said Séverine Chappaz, the deputy head of the ICRC's mission in Kyrgyzstan, who is currently in Osh. " The electricity and gas have been cut off, meaning there are also no water supplies. Shops and markets are closed, leading to fears of a lack of food, especially in the hospitals and places of detention, " she added.

Staff from the ICRC and the Kyrgyz Red Crescent Society were able to visit and provide assistance to three medical facilities on Saturday morning. They were also able to visit the city morgue. According to the Ministry of Health, more than 60 people have died and around 830 have been wounded in the clashes, which started on Thursday. An estimated 430 people have been hospitalised so far. The team has received reports of six ambulances being attacked and medical personnel having trouble reaching the injured.

" The ICRC is calling for those involved in the fighting to show restraint and avoid bloodshed. Lives must be spared, people's physical well-being and dignity must be respected, and property must not be damaged or destroyed, " said Pascale Meige Wagner, the head of the ICRC's operations for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. " We are also worried about the reports of attacks against health workers and vehicles. The wounded and sick must be allowed to have immediate access to medical care, doctors and nurses need to be able to do their work safely and ambulances must be allowed to move freely, " she added.

On Friday , the ICRC and Kyrgyz Red Crescent Society provided medical supplies to six hospitals in and around Osh to help them cope with the influx of wounded. The supplies included dressing sets, glucose and painkillers.

According to Chappaz, the insecurity is making it difficult to get a handle on the full extent of the humanitarian needs on the ground. It's feared that the clashes in Osh might spread to other areas of the country.

More ICRC staff, including a surgeon and a doctor, are currently en-route for Osh, which is about a day and a half's drive from the capital Bishkek. The ICRC is also preparing to send an emergency support team, including health, logistics, communications and food specialists, to the country on Sunday. Additional staff are due to be deployed in the coming days.

The ICRC has been present in Kyrgyzstan since 1999 and carries out humanitarian visits to detainees, promotes awareness of international humanitarian law and other humanitarian norms, and provides technical and financial support to the Kyrgyz Red Crescent Society. Together with the authorities and other organizations, the ICRC has been working since 2004 to control the spread of tuberculosis among detainees. In 2007, a medical programme to treat detainees suffering from multi-drug resistant strains of the deadly disease was introduced, including the establishment of a specialised prison hospital.

The ICRC also provided emergency medical help to more than 750 people, who were wounded during the violent unrest that erupted in Bishkek in early April. 

For further information, please contact:
  Anna Nelson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 217 32 64