UNHCR airlifts first 80 tonnes of aid to Uzbekistan for refugees from Kyrgyzstan

UNHCR begins airlifting aid to Uzbekistan for tens of thousands of people fleeing violence in southern Kyrgyzstan. The first two flights landed in Andijan.

A young worker unloads UNHCR aid from a plane at Andijan airport in Uzbekistan.  © Reuters/S.Zhumatov

ANDIJAN, Uzbekistan, June 16 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee on Wednesday began airlifting tonnes of aid to Uzbekistan for tens of thousands of people fleeing violence in southern Kyrgyzstan. The first two flights, loaded with humanitarian aid from the agency's central stockpiles in Dubai, have landed at Andijan airport.

The two Ilyushin-76 cargo planes, belonging to Uzbek Air, brought in 800 lightweight tents, plastic sheeting for emergency shelter, blankets and sleeping mats to meet the growing shelter needs of refugees fleeing from Kyrgyzstan. According to Uzbek authorities, more than 75,000 refugees have 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 two of six 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 have arrived in Andijan and the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, and are working with the government on planning and distribution of UNHCR assistance.

UNHCR is also preparing an 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 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 partners on the ground.