WFP Winter Rations Give Lifeline to Destitute Families in Southern Kyrgyzstan
Share
Published on 20 December 2010

Gulsara and her family are now among 240,000 conflict-affected people in Osh and Jalalabad who will continue to receive WFP assistance. Copyright:WFP/Robin Lodge

The air is crisp with the first winter’s frost as Gulsara describes the stomach-wrenching devastation she felt when discovering her home had been stripped bare. “They took absolutely everything, even the windows and the roof. Nothing was left,” Gulsara recalls as she stands in a queue to receive WFP food assistance outside a kindergarten in Osh.

 

OSH  –  The air is crisp with the first winter’s frost as Gulsara describes the stomach-wrenching devastation she felt when discovering her home had been stripped bare.

“They took absolutely everything, even the windows and the roof. Nothing was left,” Gulsara recalls as she stands in a queue to receive WFP food assistance outside a kindergarten in Osh.  

She fled to Uzbekistan with her children when deep-seated tensions between the country’s two main ethnic groups, Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, reached boiling point in June. Entire neighbourhoods were destroyed, homes burned, and roads were barricaded with the torched carcasses of cars. Hundreds of people were killed and tens of thousands were forced to flee southern Kyrgyzstan. 

 

When Gulsara, like the vast majority of refugees and the displaced, returned to Osh a few weeks later, she found only the walls of her family home remained.  From being an average  middle-class citizen in Osh, her life had been transformed into a living hell. She had no money, no shelter, there were no markets or shops to draw a credit line, and her children were hungry. 

WFP immediately provided her family with food. “It was very hard. The food assistance meant a lot to us.  No one starved.” Gulsara explained, adding: “We are very pleased to see your distributions again and hope you will continue to assist us.” 


Donors such as USAID, the Russian Federation, and ECHO provided USD 19 million for emergency food assistance in the aftermath of the conflict.


Gulsara and her family are now among 240,000 conflict-affected people in Osh and Jalalabad who will continue to receive WFP assistance through the winter and lean spring months of 2011.  While WFP initially distributed food to more than half a million people affected by the conflict, assistance is now focused solely on those who have not been able to get back on their feet. 

To outside appearances, the southern city of Osh is now back to normal, with bustling traffic and shops and restaurants doing a brisk trade – a complete transformation from the ghost town it resembled in the weeks following the violence. However, the damage to the infrastructure, closed businesses, restricted movement of goods and people across borders as well as neglected fields and loss of life-stock still affect all in the community.  leaving the population of Osh the most food insecure in the Kyrgyz Republic.  Below the surface, tensions run deep as many mourn the loss of loved ones and reconciliation efforts have yet to start in earnest.


“For now there is such fear and distrust that people are terrified to go out in the street, let alone find work. I hope Osh can recover. I hope Kyrgyzstan can recover,” explained Gulsara expressing a sentiment heard in both Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities. 

 

With wheat prices in Osh the Kyrgyz Republic and especially in the South, having increased by 167 percentsharply  since the beginning of the year, the need for continued assistance for those struggling to get through the winter after the conflict this summer is evident.  Another USD 4.5  million are needed for WFP and cooperating partners to extend food assistance to the most severely affected in Osh and Jalalabad, like Gulsara,  until mid 2011.