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U.N. launches $71 million Kyrgyzstan emergency aid appeal

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations is launching a $71 million emergency appeal for humanitarian aid for Kyrgyzstan, where about 400,000 people are displaced due to ethnic violence, the U.N. secretary-general said Friday.

“At this very moment OCHA is launching a $71 million flash appeal for Kyrgyzstan,” Ban Ki-moon told reporters. He was referring to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, headed by John Holmes.

Holmes “is now meeting with donor member states,” he said. “An appeal for Uzbekistan will be issued early next week.”

Ban said there were shortages of food, water and electricity in parts of Kyrgyzstan due to looting, lack of supplies and restrictions on movement.

“Hospitals and other institutions are running low on medical supplies,” he said.

Ban said an estimated 300,000 people have been displaced in Kyrgyzstan and up to 100,000 have fled to Uzbekistan, where around 80,000 are located in refugee camps.

“Tens of thousands more are reportedly waiting to cross the border,” Ban said.

The U.N. secretary-general said he had contacted Kyrgyzstan’s interim leader, Roza Otunbayeva, Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov and others “to explore options for restoring order, preventing further loss of life and coordinating humanitarian assistance.”

The humanitarian affairs agency said in a statement the appeal was for $71.15 million and would provide aid to nearly 1.1 million people affected by the violence for the next six months.

“I have been shocked by the extent of the violence and appalled by the deaths and injuries, widespread arson, sexual violence, looting of state, commercial and private property and destruction of infrastructure,” Holmes said.

“I therefore urge all donors and supporters to ensure that this flash appeal for Kyrgyzstan receives a generous and rapid response.”

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau and Patrick Worsnip; editing by Stacey Joyce