Kyrgyz violence sparks 'immense' relief crisis: Red Cross

16th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

The International Committee of the Red Cross warned on Wednesday that Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan faced an "immense" humanitarian crisis from a wave of ethnic violence and a flood of refugees.

Relief teams had taken advantage of a brief break in the clashes which broke out in remote southern Kyrgyzstan nearly a week ago to reach pockets of people displaced by the fighting, the ICRC said in a statement.

"It's an immense crisis," said Severine Chappaz, the ICRC deputy head in Kyrgyzstan.

"The number of people displaced within Kyrgyzstan is easily in the tens of thousands, while on the Uzbek side of the border the authorities now say they've registered 75,000 adult refugees, who are mostly women, but that doesn't include their children," Chappaz added.

Kyrgyz authorities say nearly 180 people have died in the fighting but the ICRC said in a separate statement earlier that the figure was too low and that "several hundred" had been killed.

The ICRC said it found about 3,000 people in a single building complex in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh who were seeking food as well as diapers for an estimated 500 children.

Five babies were reportedly born there in the last three days, it said.

The agency also described "credible" accounts of rapes and severe beatings after staff found several young women near Osh who said they had been raped, including one who was examined by a gynaecologist.

An ICRC planeload of relief supplies including blankets, tarpaulins, cooking utensils, jerrycans and soap for 1,300 families was flown into Osh on Tuesday, with more set to follow in coming days.

ICRC workers also joined the aid effort for the huge influx of refugees staying in camps, car parks, schools and factories, and with relatives in neighbouring Uzbekistan, including tracing specialists to help families find lost relatives.

© 2010 AFP

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