Kyrgyzstan faces critical months: UNICEF

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A senior UN aid worker warned on Wednesday that Kyrgzystan needed sustained international attention during a critical period of instability until parliamentary elections in October.

Jonathan Veitch, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) representative in the Central Asian nation, said the mix of ethnic tensions, political uncertainty, displacement and hardship meant that aid should not be wound down.

"The period between now and October is a very critical time. It's a very unstable situation," Veitch told journalists in Geneva.

Kyrgyzstan's provisional government announced Wednesday that interim leader Roza Otunbayeva will be sworn in as president this weekend and confirmed that parliamentary elections would be held on October 10.

About 375,000 people are still displaced in Kyrgyzstan following the deadly flare-up in violence earlier this month between predominantly ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in the south of the country.

At least 294 people were killed according to an official toll.

The vast majority of the more than 75,000 refugees who fled to neighbouring Uzbekistan have since returned to Kyrgyzstan after the fighting died down, according to the UN refugee agency.

But Veitch said he feared that the returns would be taken by donors and governments as a signal that less aid was needed.

"The crisis is very much not over yet. When you return to a situation where you have nothing, this is still a crisis for you," he added.

Veitch highlighted patches of destroyed homes in the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad, destruction of schools, as well as the large numbers of guns circulating in the region.

"There was quite systematic and targeted destruction in some places," he added.

"You can feel the tension on the surface. There were not a lot of Uzbek men on the streets... They're not confident enough to come out and walk around Osh."

A UN survey is due to come up with an estimate of the number of homes and businesses that were destroyed in the fighting by the end of the week.

Veitch said an international donors conference would take place in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek on July 27 to pledge aid for reconstruction.

© 2010 AFP

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