A week after deadly riots killed more than 190 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more in southern Kyrgyzstan, foreign aid deliveries are starting to reach refugees in neighboring Uzbekistan.
Tents, blankets, and sleeping mats from U.N. agencies are being handed out to refugees from Kyrgyzstan who are staying just inside the Uzbekistan border.
But for survivors of the deadly violence in the Kyrgyz cities of Jalalabad and Osh, desperately needed relief supplies have been less available. Relief groups say they are having trouble accessing some ethnic Uzbek neighborhoods, where many families have barricaded themselves in their houses for fear of attack from ethnic Kyrgyz gangs.
The situation has eased since initial reports of killings and rapes emerged last week, said Miroslav Jenca, a United Nations representative in Bishkek. But southern Kyrgyzstan, he said, remains tense and volatile. U.N. teams are on the ground assessing the situation.
“We plan to have…to get back our presence there as of today already, if conditions permit, in order to assure that the aid is distributed equally to all who need such aid without regard to nationality or other, let's say, aspects, " said Jenca.
Azimbek Beknazarov, the acting deputy prime minister of Kyrgyzstan’s interim government, acknowledged rumors Thursday that humanitarian aid is being hidden or sold in Osh and Jalalabad. Monitors are watching the distribution of aid, said Beknazarov. In response, he said has personally requested that humanitarian supplies be distributed in Jalalabad and to Uzbek refugees in Atabek village.
Kyrgyzstan has been politically volatile since April, when a deadly uprising led to the overthrow of former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. The interim government that replaced him is blaming the ousted leader of instigating the latest violence. Mr. Bakiyev, living in exile outside the country, denies the claim.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has said whoever triggered the violence appears to have done so methodically – with five coordinated attacks intended to provoke a reaction. The unrest has deepened divisions between the country’s ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities.
Meanwhile, the top U.S. diplomat for South and Central Asian affairs, Robert Blake, is expected in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan Friday to discuss the crisis.