UNHCR aiding refugees in east Uzbekistan; situation in Kyrgyzstan tense

Briefing Notes, 22 June 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 22 June 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In Uzbekistan, distribution of UNHCR aid has been underway over the weekend to some of the estimated 100,000 refugees who have crossed the border from Kyrgyzstan. The Uzbek authorities have themselves been handing out UNHCR relief items and our own emergency team has been on the ground in the Andijan area since Friday visiting sites and doing assessments.

The 240 tonnes of aid we've delivered so far in Uzbekistan includes tents, plastic sheeting, blankets and other basics. The Uzbek authorities tell us there are now more than 50 sites hosting refugees along the border. The government is providing medical care and meals to refugees. Most of those we've seen are women, children, and the elderly.

From our meetings with refugees so far it's clear that many are still struggling to deal with family separations during the flight from southern Kyrgyzstan. We spoke to one elderly woman who told us she was returning to Osh to find her daughter and new born grandchild who'd been left behind in a building basement during the rush to escape. We are seeing similar such tales.

A joint-UN flash appeal aimed at helping the refugees in Uzbekistan is expected to be launched later this week.

Overall the situation on the ground in southern Kyrgyzstan remains tense. The authorities have started to remove barricades in Osh. UNHCR has re-established a presence in Osh as part of the UN hub at the airport, and its NGO partners are assessing needs and organizing delivery of assistance. The poor security situation, however, continues to hamper delivery and proper assessment of needs.

In Jalal-Abad, the situation remains tense. UNHCR established an office in the city yesterday and UNHCR staff are on the ground working to verify the number of displaced, to visit the areas where they are concentrated and assess their needs. Our teams report little traffic in the city and few people on the streets. In some areas every second house has been destroyed.

UNHCR's first aid flights reached Osh on Sunday and yesterday, carrying 80 tonnes of relief. Our estimate at this stage remains that there are some 300,000 people displaced inside Kyrgyzstan, including some 40,000 with urgent shelter needs. The authorities estimate some 9,000 people have returned to their homes from Uzbekistan and within Kyrgyzstan.