Some 400,000 people have been uprooted by the violence that began in Kyrgyzstan last week, the United Nations refugee agency said today, citing figures provided by governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the ground.
Around 300,000 of those fleeing the clashes between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in the southern part of the Central Asian nation are believed to be internally displaced within the country, while an estimated 100,000 others have sought refuge in neighbouring Uzbekistan, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a news release.
The agency said that Kyrgyz authorities are trying to restore law and order, and have reported that some 180 people have been killed and a further 1,900 injured in the clashes, the latest unrest to hit the country since the violent uprising in April that ousted former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
“The situation in Osh and nearby villages appears to be volatile,” said UNHCR, adding that sporadic clashes have reportedly taken place around the town of Jalalabad and the situation there is tense. Many families have left from Osh and Jalalabad to the capital, Bishkek, and other areas, fearing further violence.
While many of the 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are being sheltered by family and host communities, it is also estimated that at least 40,000 people are in need of shelter.
A UNHCR airlift to Kyrgyzstan is scheduled to begin this weekend. Two planes loaded with 80 tons of relief from the agency’s emergency stockpile in Dubai will bring assistance for 15,000 people.
Members of an emergency response team are already in country or en route to Kyrgyzstan, and additional staff are being deployed to help respond to the unfolding humanitarian crisis.
Meanwhile, the UNHCR emergency airlift to Uzbekistan that began yesterday is continuing, with additional flights having landed in Andijan and two more scheduled for tomorrow.
The estimated 100,000 refugees arriving into Uzbekistan have mainly travelled to Andijan province, where some 80,000 arrived since last Friday. The Uzbek Government has been providing assistance and shelter to the refugees, most of whom are being accommodated in schools, warehouses and in several sports centres.
UNHCR noted that its staff and those of other UN aid agencies currently have no access to southern Kyrgyzstan. UN officials have in recent days stressed the need to create a humanitarian corridor in Kyrgyzstan for the UN and others to deliver assistance to people in need, as well as for the border with Uzbekistan to remain open.