Faith-Based Aid Group Presses Kyrgyzstan Gov't for Safe Access

( [email protected] ) Jun 19, 2010 11:59 AM EDT

A global network of churches and related aid organizations is calling on the provisional Kyrgyz government to guarantee the safe transportation of life-saving assistance and access for aid workers to avert a humanitarian crisis in southern Kyrgyzstan, where the flaring of conflict has displaced an estimated 300,000 people from their homes.

“We are losing time, people are dying, and we need to find a way to distribute aid as soon as possible,” said Ray Hasan, head of the Central Asia region for Christian Aid, one of three groups representing the ACT Alliance in Kyrgyzstan.

“We are very concerned that the situation is getting worse for those most vulnerable,” he added.

According to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), an estimated 200,000 people are displaced within Kyrgyzstan and up to 100,000 have fled across the border to Uzbekistan. Hundreds of homes, meanwhile, have been destroyed, leaving thousands living in makeshift conditions.

Deadly rampages in the country's south have gripped the region since June 10, when mobs of ethnic Kyrgyz torched homes and businesses of ethnic Uzbeks. Many sections of Osh – a city of 250,000 – were burned to the ground and the rampages have since spread into surrounding towns and villages.

“Many people haven't eaten for days, with women and children suffering the most,” reported Tatiana Kotova, regional manager of Danish ACT member DCA.

“They are in desperate need of international assistance,” she added.

ACT Alliance is presently represented in Kyrgyzstan by Christian Aid, DanChurchAid (DCA) and ICCO en Kerkinactie, working with local partners.

The primary concern for the ACT Alliance is security and humanitarian access to deliver impartial aid to all persons in need of assistance.

Reports claim that many of those most in need are not receiving aid made available by the interim government authorities or private sources. The greatest needs identified are for food items, hygiene kits, medical supplies and emergency shelter.

“ICCO en Kerkinactie, DCA and Christian Aid have a wide network of local partner organizations that have been able to distribute some aid, but many are running short of basic supplies such as food, water and shelter,” shared ACT Alliance General Secretary John Nduna.

“The priority must be to save lives and protect all people affected by the crisis,” he added. “We urge the interim government to enable the impartial delivery of assistance, working with the UN and NGOs who have professional staff able to ensure this.”

On Friday, Kyrgyzstan's interim president said 2,000 people may have died in the ethnic clashes that have rocked the country's south.

The United Nations, meanwhile, said that as many as one million people may eventually need aid in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, including the refugees, internally displaced, host families and others who may suffer from the unrest.

UNICEF spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume said the figure was an estimate to help aid agencies plan.