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WHO Plans Help for One Million In Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan

  • Lisa Schlein

The World Health Organization says it is still assessing the health needs in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, but it is planning on helping around one million people directly or indirectly affected by the ethnic fighting.

The World Health Organization says it is planning to provide health care to some 700,000 people in Kyrgyzstan and to 300,000 potential refugees in Uzbekistan.

Giuseppe Annunziata is coordinator for the Emergency Response and Recovery Unit of the World Health Organization. He says the WHO has two major concerns.

He says there are unconfirmed reports of women being raped during the crisis, and WHO will need to address their health needs.

"Unfortunately, there are atrocities that have been reported targeting Uzbek minorities in Kyrgyzstan and there are several cases, 10 cases so far, reported of rapes among the women refugees in Uzbekistan. So, there is a special focus on this specific aspect," Annunziata said.

Dr. Annunziata notes the majority of refugees in Uzbekistan are elderly, women and children. He says they are likely to have chronic health problems that need to be addressed. In addition, he says those who have been wounded in the fighting will need surgical care.

He says there is always a risk of communicable disease outbreaks in a situation where displaced people and refugees are crowded together. He says health surveillance systems exist in both countries.

But Annunziata says it is likely health services are not fully functional in Kyrgyzstan because of the security situation. He says the health monitoring systems in Uzbekistan are operating, but adds they are under pressure from the refugees.

Fortunately, he says, there are no huge refugee settlements in Uzbekistan.

"We have a number of small refugee settlements at the moment here, and they're close to the border," Annunziata said. "And this is good, because it is better on the communicable disease control point of view to have small settlements rather than few but big settlements in which the communicable disease control is an issue."

Dr. Annunziata says there is no need for additional health personnel for surveillance purposes. Rather, he says technical advice is needed to help the national authorities adapt their systems to function in an emergency situation.

He says the World Health Organization soon will deploy experts in emergency surveillance systems to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

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