A week after massive and violent inter-ethnic clashes erupted in the south of Kyrgyzstan, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are providing medical care and assistance to the victims. The medical humanitarian organization plans to rapidly increase the level of its aid efforts, with more humanitarian workers dispatched to the field and with tonnes of medical and logistic material for the displaced being flown in from Europe.

Reaching out to victims in Osh and Jalalabad

“Our medical teams based in the cities of Osh and Jalalabad report there is still a high level of tension there, and huge humanitarian needs,” says Alexandre Baillat, head of mission for MSF in Kyrgyzstan. “On Wednesday, for instance, our Jalalabad team provided medical care to 40 wounded people stranded in one of the town’s districts.” The main city hospitals are well functioning, but peripheral health structures need some support. Some dressing materials, drugs and medical items were delivered by MSF to the main regional hospital and drugs and first aid kits were donated to Jalalabad’s Family Medicine Centre. “We are also concentrating our efforts on reaching out to communities in the city that are without access to healthcare or living in dire conditions after they had to flee their home. Many of the wounded are afraid to move around or to go to a clinic,” says Baillat. On Friday, an MSF team also reached a village near the Uzbek border where 8,000 people have sought refuge. The teams report that these people “need almost everything, blankets, buckets, cooking sets, tents…” On Saturday an MSF truck will go from the capital city Bishkek to Jalalabad with some of these goods for 500 families, as well as hygiene and medical items. Also on Saturday, MSF plans to reach another village where 6,000 displaced people are said to have settled. A majority of them are reported to be women and children.

Care for refugees in Uzbekistan

In addition to tens of thousands of families displaced outside Osh and Jalalabad, at least 75,000 people have sought refuge on the other side of the border, in Uzbekistan. The MSF team is based in the region of Andijan, where many of the displaced have temporarily settled in camps set up by the local authorities. “The wounded are given proper medical care by local doctors, but there is a strong need for psychological support as a lot of the refugees have either experienced or witnessed acts of violence. The refugees experienced targeted killings, violence against their family members and targeted destruction of their houses. The authorities have deployed five mobile groups of psychologists and counsellors, and an MSF mental health specialist has started training this staff in the management of post-traumatic stress,” says Alex Telnov, MSF’s medical coordinator in Uzbekistan. Along with other international organizations, MSF is participating in assessing the needs of the population in Uzbekistan. MSF has distributed two truck loads containing mattresses, sheets, blankets, and hygiene utensils that arrived in Andijan. MSF will dispatch more trucks to meet the needs of the people who have not received any help yet. Other trucks with material will follow. A team of water and sanitation expats will arrive next week to assist the government within refugee camps.

Human resources and material on their way from Europe

MSF is mobilizing its resources to respond to this crisis, in a country where it has worked since 2006, running a tuberculosis program in the Kyrgyz penitentiary system. In addition to MSF’s staff already present in the country, more than 15 humanitarian workers are being flown in this week, including coordinators, surgeons, nurses, water and sanitation specialists and logisticians. A full charter plane is also expected to be flying from Vatry, France, to Osh, on Saturday. The plane will carry about 30 tonnes of medical and surgical material, drugs, water and sanitation and shelter material, as well as an MSF ambulance. MSF has been working in Uzbekistan since 1997.In Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic within Uzbekistan, MSF is treating patients with drug resistant forms of tuberculosis in Nukus and Chimbay and has recently expanded activities into Karauziak and Tahtakupir districts.