Kyrgyzstan: Secretary General Ban Discusses Crisis with Leaders as UN Mobilizes Aid for Civilians

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–15 June 2010 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke with the head of Kyrgyzstan’s interim Government today regarding the crisis in the south, as United Nations agencies launched operations to assist the thousands of civilians affected by the violence.

Mr. Ban told Roza Otunbaeva that the UN is closely coordinating with other organizations and players to respond to the crisis, in which over 100 people have reportedly been killed, at least 1,300 injured and some 75,000 displaced as a result of the clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks that erupted last week.

The Secretary-General voiced deep concern about the violence, especially given the inter-ethnic character of the unrest, in a separate phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He also thanked Russia for its efforts to address the humanitarian situation.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has launched an emergency operation to provide logistics and feed civilians caught in the crisis, while calling on all sides to allow the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian supplies, particularly in the southern city of Osh.

“This crisis is unfolding rapidly and WFP is mobilizing its global expertise to ensure that the vulnerable – particularly women and children – do not suffer,” said Executive Director Josette Sheeran. “We implore all sides to ensure humanitarian access to the vulnerable, trapped by the crisis.”

The agency noted that transporting aid from the capital, Bishkek, is difficult, as roads are not safe and commercial trucking companies are reluctant to risk their vehicles.

WFP currently has 3,000 metric tons of food pre-positioned in Kyrgyzstan – enough to feed 87,000 people for two months.

The Uzbek Government estimates that around 75,000 people from Kyrgyzstan have crossed over and are seeking refuge on its territory. WFP is positioning itself to operate in both countries if needed.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offered its assistance to Uzbek authorities who are already dealing with needs of the displaced.

The agency’s spokesperson, Andrej Mahecic, told reporters in Geneva that the first of six planned cargo flights, each carrying 40 tons of UNHCR relief supplies for refugees fleeing the violence is scheduled to leave Dubai tomorrow morning.

The first UNHCR-chartered flight will be loaded with 800 lightweight tents to meet rapidly growing shelter needs, Mr. Mahecic said. The subsequent five flights will be loaded with blankets, sleeping mats, kitchen sets and plastic sheeting for emergency shelters.

“In total, we plan to deliver some 240 tons of humanitarian assistance from our central emergency stockpile in Dubai. Upon arrival in Uzbekistan the supplies will be loaded onto trucks and taken immediately to various sites hosting refugees in close coordination with the Government,” he said.

Part of the UNHCR emergency team is travelling today in advance of these flights and includes field officers as well as experts on operations, site planning and logistics. The agency is preparing a separate airlift and the deployment of an emergency team to Kyrgyzstan.

UNHCR said it was “alarmed” by the rapid escalation of violence since 10 June, which has led to the displacement of an estimated 200,000 people within the country, in addition to those who fled to Uzbekistan.

“We fear that unless peace and order is restored swiftly more people could be displaced as they flee to the countryside or try to cross the border to Uzbekistan,” Mr. Mahecic stated, appealing for a halt to the violence and efforts to ensure the protection of civilians.

Meanwhile, a group of UN human rights experts today voiced their alarm and deep concern about ethnic tensions that have erupted into violence in Kyrgyzstan, including the cities of Osh and Jalalabad.

“Putting a stop to the current violence and preventing its further escalation or spreading to other areas must be the first priority of the provisional Government. The security of those from all ethnic groups, including all minorities in Kyrgyzstan, must be protected,” they stated in a news release.

“The true causes of the tensions should be fully analyzed and addressed to help ensure that this appalling situation cannot happen again,” added the experts – Gay McDougall, Independent Expert on minority issues; Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and Githu Muigai, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

They noted that the present situation remains “extremely fragile and dangerous” and it must be confronted with swift and appropriate responses to calm the situation, restore order and prevent further outbreaks of violence.

“This must be done in full conformity with human rights obligations,” they stressed.