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International Aid to Kyrgyzstan On the Upswing

International efforts to assist hundreds of thousands of people displaced by ethnic conflict in Kyrgyzstan are gathering speed. The United Nations is planning a number of airlifts carrying essential relief supplies in the coming days.

United Nations and International aid workers say the security situation in Kyrgyzstan remains fragile and tense.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says its priority is to provide tents to tens of thousands of people who fled their homes and have no place to go.

ICRC spokesman, Christian Cardon, says people are taking refuge in mosques, farms, villages and administrative buildings that were emptied during the violence. He says food, water, shelter and medicines are urgently needed. He says on Thursday, ICRC aid workers began delivering 12,000 liters of water to some 15,000 victims of ethnic clashes in a camp south of the city of Osh.

"We are also starting a food distribution today in the neighborhood of Osh where you have also IDPs [Internally Displaced Persons] regrouped - oil, wheat and flour. Just to say also there is an important preoccupation about all the people that apparently remain hidden in houses in Osh, just fearing to go out and, of course, maybe some of them might be injured in those houses."

The U.N. refugee agency estimates some 300,000 people are internally displaced in Kyrgyzstan, while an additional 100,000 are estimated to have taken refuge in neighboring Uzbekistan.

UNHCR spokesman, Andrej Mahecic, says the agency is scheduling an airlift into Kyrgyzstan this weekend.

"There will be two Ilyushin-76 cargo planes carrying 80 tons of relief items arriving to Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan. The initial assistance is there to help to cover the immediate needs for about 15,000 people," he said. "The first flight will be carrying in 800 tents and is expected to land in Osh on Saturday and the second one is expected on Sunday."
Mahecic says the sixth relief flight into Uzbekistan is expected to land at Andijan airport later Friday. He says this will complete the initial airlift of some 240 tons of relief supplies.

The World Food Program reports food supplies in Osh are very low, and gas supply and electricity are not working in many areas. Furthermore, it says humanitarian access is limited because of the prevailing security situation.

WFP says it has begun distributing a two-week supply of food rations for 13,000 people and more distributions are planned in the coming days.

The UN Children's Fund says 35 tons of urgent relief supplies, including sanitary equipment and potable water, will arrive in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek on Saturday.