GENEVA (Reuters) - More than one million people have been affected by the violent conflict in Kyrgyzstan and need food and other aid supplies, U.N. officials said on Friday.
They include some 400,000 people left homeless after fleeing ethnic clashes in the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad that erupted a week ago. Some 300,000 are displaced within Kyrgyzstan while another 100,000 people have crossed over into Uzbekistan.
“For the moment, we estimate that we will probably need to respond to the needs of more than one million people, displaced people, refugees and people in host families who have been affected by the conflict,” Christiane Berthiaume, spokeswoman of the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), told a news briefing.
“It is a planning figure, it could change,” she said.
A U.N. emergency funding appeal, to be issued later in the day in New York, is expected to seek more than $65 million to assist 1.1 million people in Kyrgyzstan for six months, according to U.N. sources. A separate appeal for Uzbekistan is planned soon.
The conflict has had “acute and pressing humanitarian consequences” in Kyrgyzstan, including on host families who have taken in people driven from their homes, they said.
At least 191 people have been killed since June 10 in southern Kyrgyzstan in clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, but interim Kyrgyz leader Roza Otunbayeva told a Russian newspaper interview published on Friday the toll could be 10 times higher.
On Saturday, the U.N. refugee agency plans to launch an airlift of tents and other emergency supplies into Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic with a population of 5.3 million.
Many of the 300,000 internally displaced in Kyrgyzstan have been taken in by families and host communities, but 40,000 of them require immediate shelter, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“The situation in southern Kyrgyzstan remains fragile and tense. There are continued sporadic reports of violence,” UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic told reporters in Geneva.
“Access for humanitarian workers to many parts of Osh and southern Kyrgyzstan is extremely difficult and limited.”
The U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) said it was already distributing a total of 150 tonnes of food in Kyrgyzstan and hoped to fly in 80 tonnes of high-energy biscuits.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that it had reports of overnight shooting in Osh, where it was due to start food distribution on Friday.
“This crisis seems far from over and we stand ready to respond to all potential humanitarian needs. We do not see any signs of the imminent return of the tens of thousands of persons who have been displaced,” Pascale Meige Wagner, the ICRC’s head of operations for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said in a statement.
There are acute shortages of basic necessities in southern Kyrgyzstan, according to the neutral humanitarian agency.
“The most urgent needs are food, water, shelter and medicines,” said ICRC spokesman Christian Cardon. “The people are usually taking refuge in mosques, farms, villages and also administrative buildings that were emptied during the violence.”
Red Cross officials delivered food to about 1,000 detainees at the main detention center in Osh two days ago, but had no information yet as to how many of them were being held in connection with the latest violence, he said.
The ICRC is stepping up aid to Uzbekistan and stands ready to help families separated by the conflict to trace their loved ones, he said.
The UNHCR, which began an airlift into Uzbekistan this week, expects it sixth and last scheduled flight to land in Andizhan later on Friday, completing delivery of 240 tonnes of aid there.