Many of the families which fled southern Kyrgyzstan during the recent conflict, crossing the border into Uzbekistan, are now returning. WFP's Abeer Etefa met the members of one of these families as they began the journey from the border to the city of Osh. With their home destroyed and uncertain weeks ahead, WFP's assistance will be vital.
OSH -- Early Friday morning we met a family returning from Uzbekistan. There was an old man, his wife, a grown-up son and daughter in law and five children. They were returning to their village at the foot of the hills on the south side of Osh. They fled across the border to Uzbekistan after the fighting began on June 11 and their homes were set on fire.
They had spent the night sleeping at the border crossing at Saratoch, unable to cross because of the curfew still in effect in southern Kyrgyzstan. They were going to stay with friends and relatives as their own homes have been destroyed. They had just been picked up on the Kyrgyz side of the border by a relative.
"We are returning to nothing and 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 and living in difficult conditions," said the head of the family, a 70 year old farmer.
"So much at stake"
The man was especially worried about the patch of land near Osh where he grows wheat, potatoes and some other vegetables. "I want to go and check on my piece of land. This is our livelihood. There is so much at stake," he said.
"The next days will be very difficult for us. I do not know how we will manage. I lost my mother, my home. We’re returning to rebuild lives," said the 25-year-old wife and daughter in law.
Each member of the family related stories of young men and women and children who lost their lives and the many houses destroyed and burnt down.
High Energy Biscuits
The family were handed some High Energy Biscuits by Amir Abdulla, WFP’s deputy executive director who was heading out to the border with other WFP staff to see how many people were trying to return. The biscuits would keep them and the children going until they reached their destination.
Once there, they will receive more food. WFP is distributing food to all people affected by the fighting in the city of Osh, giving them a two-week ration. WFP has so far helped 240,000 people with emergency food assistance.
Arriving at the border later, we saw that many other families were preparing to take the journey back to their homes in Osh. WFP is now assessing the returnee needs and will provide assistance to help people rebuild their lives.