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Kyrgyzstan/Uzbekistan: situation remains tense as concerns grow over plight of displaced and refugees

15-06-2010 News Release 10/109

Bishkek/Tashkent/Moscow/Geneva (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is extremely worried about the plight of tens of thousands of internally displaced people in southern Kyrgyzstan, who have fled to rural areas, mosques and farms following days of brutal violence in the country, which also prompted an estimated 100,000 people to seek refuge across the border in Uzbekistan.

" We've been in touch with a mosque in Osh, where a volunteer doctor told us that 6,000 ethnic Uzbeks had sought refuge from one district of the city alone. Almost half of the people in the mosque are children and they're trying to survive off of food provided by a local farmer, " said Séverine Chappaz, the ICRC's deputy head of mission in Kyrgyzstan. " In addition to food, they say they need insulin, IV fluids, syringes, antibiotics, soap and wound dressings as they are dealing with many burn victims. "

The ICRC has also received several reports of small health clinics in Osh and even a retirement home being over run with hundreds of people in need of medical help. Working together, the ICRC and the Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan have assisted 16 medical facilities caring for more than 1,130 injured people in the past week. A lull in the shooting on Tuesday near Jalal-Abad enabled a small team of ICRC doctors to visit the city's main hospital, where they provided additional medical supplies to staff, who were treating around 60 wounded patients.

According to the team on the ground, several hundred people have been killed in the fighting, although it's still too early to say precisely how many as a number of bodies have already been buried and may not have been identified or counted, while others remain uncollected.

The ICRC now has 25 staff in Osh, including 13 international emergency experts, as well as 12 expatriate delegates in the capital, Bishkek, some of whom will be deployed to the south in the coming days.

" Things have been a little calmer in Osh over the past 24 hours, eve n though tensions and fear are still running high and the situation remains very volatile, especially in Jalal-Abad, " said Mrs Chappaz. " We've been able to get a better idea of what's going on outside of Osh but we still don't know the full extent of the humanitarian impact of the fighting in the region. On a positive note, we welcomed the news that the Kyrgyz authorities have been able to secure an area in Osh, where they've been using helicopters to evacuate people who feel unsafe. We also know of 17 seriously wounded patients, who were able to be evacuated from Jalal-Abad to Bishkek. "

The insecurity over the past six days has prevented many aid agencies from bringing staff and supplies into the area and the ICRC is working with the Kyrgyz Red Crescent and the authorities to determine the scope of the needs, what's available and what else is needed, as well as facilitate and coordinate the distribution of existing aid.

On the Uzbek side of the border, the authorities say there are now 45,000 registered adult refugees staying in at least 40 makeshift camps, as well as factories, schools and parking lots, or with relatives in Uzbekistan. Most of them are women with children, bringing the total number of estimated refugees to over 100,000, according to Uzbek officials.

The ICRC is ready to deploy staff and relief supplies in Uzbekistan as part of a joint humanitarian effort with other members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to support the authorities in dealing with the crisis.

  For further information, please contact:
  Christian Cardon, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 251 9302
  Anna Nelson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 217 32 64
  Pierre-Emmanuel Ducruet, ICRC Osh, tel: +996 77 20 22 610
  Yuriy Shafarenko, ICRC Moscow, tel: +7 9 03 545 3534