UNHCR airlifting aid to Uzbekistan

Press Releases, 16 June 2010

A UNHCR emergency airlift to Uzbekistan carrying humanitarian aid for tens of thousands of people fleeing the violence southern Kyrgyzstan began early Wednesday morning (16 June). The first two UNHCR flights, loaded with humanitarian aid from agency's central stockpiles in Dubai, landed at Andijan airport at 1110 and 1400 today local time.

The two Russian-built Ilyushin-76 cargo planes belonging to Uzbek Air, brought in 800 lightweight tents, plastic sheeting for emergency shelter, blankets and sleeping mats in order to meet the growing shelter needs of refugees fleeing from Kyrgyzstan. According to Uzbek authorities, more than 75,000 refugees sought safety in Uzbekistan since last Friday.

In close coordination with Uzbek authorities, UNHCR tents will be rushed to the eastern part of the country to help shelter thousands of people who were forced to leave their homes in Osh and other towns and villages in southern Kyrgyzstan.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres welcomed the arrival of the first UNHCR aid. "We appreciate the cooperation we're seeing on the part of the Uzbek Government in getting this vital assistance through to those in need," he said. "This is a dramatic and rapidly developing refugee situation. The help is urgently required."

Wednesday's flights are the first of six scheduled that will deliver more than 240 tonnes of UNHCR emergency relief items by the end of this week.

The first members of a UNHCR emergency team are in Tashkent and Andijan and are working with the government on planning and distribution of UNHCR assistance.

UNHCR is also preparing a separate airlift to Osh and the deployment of an emergency team to Kyrgyzstan where violence which erupted on June 10 has left scores of people dead and has led to the displacement of an estimated 200,000 people within the country. In Osh, UNHCR has opened its warehouse and the initial assistance for 2,000 people is being handed out through the partners on the ground.