The United Nations refugee agency today called on Kyrgyz authorities to improve conditions to allow 75,000 people who remain uprooted after last month`s deadly ethnic clashes, as the world body and its partners appealed for more funds to help those affected by the violence.
The clashes between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in early June displaced at least 300,000 people within Kyrgyzstan, sending many fleeing to neighbouring Uzbekistan.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) said today that its teams in the hard-hit cities of Osh and Jalalabad have heard of frequent instances of detention and harassment.
The uprooted also speak of difficulties in accessing basic medical services, and of conditions of no electricity and poor waste management, " agency spokesperson Melissa Fleming told reporters today in Geneva.
She said similar messages have been communicated through a free 24-hour telephone line operated by UNHCR and its partners.
The agency is helping to counsel people on their rights and on how to restore lost or destroyed personal documents, while also assisting Kyrgyz authorities to boost their capacity to issue new documents.
Ms. Fleming said that UNHCR is encouraged by recent Government moves to set up mobile teams to help communities affected by the June violence and to waive the fee for issuing temporary identification cards.
UNHCR advocates for a stable and sustainable return, " Ms. Fleming said, welcoming President Rosa Otunbaeva`s recent statement calling for the possibility of those affected by violence to opt for either a new apartment or for rebuilding their destroyed homes.
Reconstruction of houses and emergency shelter is a key concern for the agency, with many returnees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) showing reservations about new plans by local authorities to erect multi-story buildings to replace traditional neighbourhoods.
Most of the people want to restore what they have lost " a family home respecting their customs and lifestyle, " the UNHCR spokesperson said. Most importantly, the displaced are asking for urgent shelter assistance to rebuild their homes before winter. "
The UN and its humanitarian partners today revised the amount they need to respond to the situation in southern Kyrgyzstan upward to $96 million.
People in the south need to feel safe again in order to move on to recovery, reconstruction and reconciliation, " said Neal Walker, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Kyrgyzstan.
Violence and insecurity hampered humanitarian access when the $73 million appeal was first launched in early June, but the situation on the ground has improved enough to allow aid workers to ramp up their operations.
UNHCR is appealing for $23 million of the money sought through the flash appeal, which is currently one-third funded, for emergency shelter and protection projects. Fresh funds will allow us to continue our protection, legal and humanitarian assistance to the affected population until the end of the year, " Ms. Fleming said.
For his part, the head of the UN Children`s Fund (UNICEF) said today spotlighted the plight of children affected by violence in Kyrgyzstan, now that the political situation is calmer.
As their stories vanish from the front page, we risk putting their safety on the back burner, " said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.
We cannot allow that to happen for the 100,000 children displaced by violence, " he stressed. We cannot allow that to happen for the 400,000 children who need to start school in September and yet find their schools damaged or destroyed. "
To date, UNICEF has raised some 40 per cent of the nearly $12 million it needs to help children, having already airlifted 200 metric tons of supplies into the region, and provided water and sanitation kits to uprooted families.
But Mr. Lake warned that with winter approaching, Kyrgyz children are in desperate need of extra support.
Unless we take the steps now, the harsh winters common in this region will result in further harm to children, many of whom already suffer from psychological trauma and health problems, " he cautioned.
UNICEF is working with its partners to set up child-friendly spaces where children from all communities can feel safe and where women can also receive psychological support.
We must take the steps that can protect Kyrgyzstan`s children, " Mr. Lake emphasized. The time to act is now. If we succeed, we will have not only helped save children`s lives, but helped promote peace in the region. "