UNHCR launches shelter project in Kyrgyzstan amid continuing instability

Briefing Notes, 24 August 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 24 August 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR and its partners are racing against time in southern Kyrgyzstan to construct transitional shelters for displaced families whose homes were destroyed during the violence, arson and looting in June. With the coming winter only months away we estimate that some 75,000 people remain displaced and need shelter.

Some of these people are being accommodated in UNHCR tents which we provided as part of our emergency response to the displacement crisis. Others are staying with families, friends or neighbours.

The situation in southern Kyrgyzstan is still tense. As the lead protection agency, monitoring access of the displaced population to basic rights and services, we have been working with the authorities on prompt registration and restoration of lost or destroyed personal identity documents. Without these documents people face difficulties in getting access to services and exercising their social, economic and political rights. We have been supporting the Kyrgyz government in establishing mobile teams to visit affected areas and to re-issue identity documents. Our local partners also help by providing advice and practical information to displaced communities as well as individual counseling on documentation issues.

Systematic monitoring and interventions by UNHCR partners commenced just days after the violence subsided and are ongoing. Toll-free counseling helplines and desks were set up, allowing affected communities to report issues and seek advice on how to exercise their rights and where to access services.

Pending the provision of permanent housing for displaced people through the government reconstruction programme, UNHCR developed a transitional shelter strategy to help people whose homes have been completely destroyed. Some 900 most vulnerable families in Osh and another 450 in Jalalabad are being provided with warm transitional shelters on the plots or foundations of their destroyed homes before the onset of winter. In addition, we plan to distribute more humanitarian aid and continue to help the displaced living with host families to survive winter.

The actual implementation of this crucial shelter effort, developed in coordination with Kyrgyz authorities, began early this week. Vast amounts of rubble have been cleared from the sites of destroyed homes and buildings, which is a first step to rebuilding. Procurement of construction material is underway, and the first tons of gravel, sand, reinforcement steel, nails and cement are being delivered this week to construction sites.

So far, the authorities have agreed to start rubble removal and construction for three quarters of an estimated 2,000 completely destroyed households. The remaining quarter is mainly in Osh city. We welcome the government's commitment not to force the relocation of displaced communities and to respect private property. The government is yet to publish its reconstruction plans for the parts of southern Kyrgyzstan which were hit by violence and destruction in June.

Our part of the revised UN Flash Appeal for the period from June to December this year amounts to US$ 26 million. The appeal remains seriously under funded. Meanwhile, the cost of construction material has increased significantly, in some instances up to 50 per cent, such as wood for the framing of foundations and roof beams. Additional funds are urgently needed to cover the remaining need to avoid further displacement.