Ilyushin flight to start UNHCR aid airlift to Uzbekistan on Wednesday

An Ilyushin cargo plane, carrying 40 tonnes of UNHCR relief supplies for refugees in southern Kyrgyzstan, set to leave Dubai for Uzbekistan.

Emergency supplies are loaded at UNHCR's central emergency stockpile in Dubai ahead of being airlifted to Uzbekistan.  © UNHCR

GENEVA, June 15 (UNHCR) - An Ilyushin-76 cargo plane, carrying 40 tonnes of UNHCR relief supplies for refugees fleeing violence in southern Kyrgyzstan, is scheduled to take off from Dubai on Wednesday for Andijan in Uzbekistan.

A further five Ilyushin flights are planned as UNHCR's aid operation gets under way. The Uzbek authorities on Monday accepted a UN refugee agency offer to help them deal with urgent needs of the tens of thousands of displaced civilians from across the border. "UNHCR appreciates Uzbekistan's decision to receive and assist these desperate people," spokesman Andrej Mahecic told journalists in Geneva on Tuesday.

The first UNHCR-chartered flight will be loaded with 800 lightweight tents to meet the rapidly growing shelter needs of the more than 75,000 refugees whom the government says has arrived in Uzbekistan since last Friday. An estimated 200,000 people have been displaced within the country.

The subsequent five flights will be loaded with blankets, sleeping mats, kitchen sets and plastic sheeting for emergency shelters. "In total, we plan to deliver some 240 tonnes of humanitarian assistance from our central emergency stockpile in Dubai. Upon arrival in Uzbekistan the supplies will be loaded onto trucks and taken immediately to various sites hosting refugees in close coordination with the government," Mahecic explained.

Part of the UNHCR emergency team is travelling today in advance of these flights. The team includes field officers as well as experts on operations, site planning and logistics. The refugee agency is also preparing a separate airlift and deployment of an emergency team to Kyrgyzstan.

UNHCR is alarmed by the rapid escalation of violence since last Thursday in southern Kyrgyzstan which has left scores of people dead. The situation in the towns of Osh and Jalalabad remains difficult with sporadic fighting and attacks on civilians, including women and children, continuing on Monday.

"We fear that unless peace and order is restored swiftly, more people could be displaced as they flee to the countryside or try to cross the border to Uzbekistan," UNHCR's Mahecic said, adding that the refugee agency, as part of the UN country team in Kyrgyzstan, urged a halt to the violence.

The UN refugee agency is also concerned that the poor security situation in Osh, Jalalabad and other areas is impeding needs assessment missions as well as aid deliveries. UNHCR has been coordinating the humanitarian response within the UN country team and is stepping up humanitarian assistance operations for displaced people. As part of the inter-agency response, UNHCR's operational focus will be on shelter and protection needs of the internally displaced.

"Urgent needs include food, medicine and shelter and we need better security to ensure the safety of humanitarian staff and goods. Some food and health aid is being delivered already, but not enough aid is getting through. There are reports that displaced people near the border may be short of water and that those made homeless by violence may be without shelter," Mahecic said.

Kyrgyzstan has requested substantive international support to address the humanitarian crisis that is evolving in its southern regions.