A group of ethnic Uzbek refugees returning to their homes in southern Kyrgyzstan as peace returns to the region. Copyright: WFP/Cedric Charpentier
As tensions ease in southern Kyrgyzstan after the outburst of ethnic violence in June, refugees from the city of Osh have largely returned. Many, however, have little to come home to, as their houses and shops were destroyed in the fighting. WFP is helping them cope by making sure they have enough to eat.
OSH — Signs of life are returning to the southern Kyrgyzstan city of Osh, where clashes last month forced some 400,000 ethnic Uzbeks from their homes.
Now the barricades have come down, the markets reopened and the 75,000 refugees who fled across the border into neighbouring Uzbekistan have largely returned. However, life is far from normal for families who came back to find their shops looted and their homes burnt down.
Displaced family returns
Leading his family back home to Osh, this old farmer said food was a major worry. Read more
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"We are returning to nothing. We had no food throughout this trip and now we are going to neighbours and families who are already overwhelmed and have their own problems,” said one man, a 70-year-old farmer returning from Uzbekistan with his wife, son, daughter-in-law and five grandchildren. Read more
Hardships also faced the many families who stayed in Kyrgyzstan. During his recent trip to the region, WFP Deputy Executive Director Amir Abdulla spoke to a group of women at the site of a local distribution site who told him they had been barricaded inside their homes since the fighting broke out.
“For a long time, they weren’t able to get out of their houses. They’d been living on the food they had in their homes and they told me that was starting to run out,” he said.
Food aid flows in
Ongoing efforts to reach people affected by the violence with food aid received a major boost this week with the arrival of a truck convey from Uzbekistan carrying over 150 metric tons of wheat flour, oil and beans. The 28-truck shipment brings the total amount of food aid delivered to the region to over 970 metric tons since the crisis began on June 10.
So far, daily food distributions have reached over 270,000 people in Osh alone. Supplies are also on their way for some 15,000 people in the town of Jalal-Abad, another scene of violence. WFP aims to get food assistance to as many as half a million people over the course of its operation.
WFP has been working in Kyrgyzstan since 2008, helping the most vulnerable families survive the harsh winter months. In 2009 the agency distributed food commodities to 264,000 people.
How to help
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WFP has appealed for US $19 million to provide emergency food in Kyrgyzstan as part of a UN 'Flash' appeal. Download document (600KB)