Will Lynch: A Slow Return to Normalcy?

WilliamLynchHeadshot05 Osh, Kyrgyzstan 

June 21

Today was the first official day back to work in Osh. Traffic was light, but heavy by recent standards. The purple public busses carried commuters instead of soldiers around the city. Motorists even stopped at traffic signals, and checkpoints allowed most cars to pass unquestioned. Some barricades around Nariman have been removed opening more of the city to traffic

We see more smiles among the larger, but still sparse, crowds. However the unease was still there. We witnessed a sharp exchange between Kyrgyz and an Uzbek outside the mayor’s office. An official said he felt starting a program should wait until after the planned June 27 referendum on constitutional changes.

Save the Children delivered 300 health and hygiene kits today. Uzbeks sheltering in and living near a school in Nariman received 150 kits, and another 150 were distributed in Charumushka. To date, we have reached 5,000 people with health and hygiene supplies. We also are conducting needs assessments and administering 6-page questionnaires — and sharing the results with the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

Meetings were held in Osh to plan child protection centers based in schools. Attending were a range of officials and professionals, including the chief of the department of Family and Children’s Support, the Vice Mayor of Osh, the president’s special representative on children’s security and protection, the president’s special representative on the distribution of humanitarian aid, the head of education and the head of the Osh Children’s Home.

Save the Children will engage in planning school-based child protection. This will include providing supplies as well as supporting reconciliation and counseling.

Will Lynch, Save the Children’s Central Asia Country Director: A Tense Calm Holds

WilliamLynchHeadshot05 Osh, Kyrgyzstan 

June 20

Traffic is picking up, more stores are opening and many of the barricades on the main streets near Uzbek mahallahs have been pushed to the side in accordance with a government order. Side streets are still largely barricaded. The barricades are positioned so they can be reinstalled on short notice.

Our three Uzbek drivers came to work with their cars today and were among 11 of the 15 staff who came into the office.

One staff member took the day off to visit family. Much of the leadership of the Ministry of Emergency Situations here also took a day off after sleeping in their offices for more than a week as the government worked to establish peace.

The results of our assessment indicate a huge difference in the well-being and living conditions of Uzbeks and their Kyrgyz neighbors. The Uzbeks have greater need for the basics of life, such as NFIs and shelter. Children in both communities have been left with nothing to do.

Supplies for safe play areas along with children’s shoes and clothing arrived with the latest batch of health and hygiene products from Tajikistan. We provided 300 hygiene kits and 134 disposable diapers to women from the Kyrgyz enclave of Barak, who fled to Aktash village 35 kilometers northeast of Osh.

Barak enclave is surrounded by Uzbekistan, a remnant of Stalin’s gerrymandering in the region. The women’s husbands drove them to Aktash, where many have connections. The male family members returned to their farms but are barricaded in their houses unable to farm for fear of attack. The women said it has been tense in Barak since the 1990 fighting and that they’d been recently threatened after years of harassment. The women asked for land in Kyrgyzstan so they could rebuild their lives. The children asked for apples.

Approximately 300 women and 140 children, from infants to adolescents of 15 years old, are encamped at a kindergarten. They have 10 walled tents from the government of Pakistan and four latrines in very poor condition. Water comes from a tap for one hour a day and is stored in a tank. The local village has provided some onions, potatoes and flour. Soldiers from a nearby base have provided flour, macaroni and oil.

The women and children are getting by, but it is a precarious situation, especially as the hottest part of summer sets in and temperatures reach the 90s. They are tired, scared and bedraggled. They need clean clothes and a bath. But more, they need a sense of what the future holds.

A group of men in the Uzbek mahallah of  Nariman in Osh described in vivid detail to staff how they today captured a Chechen woman who was sleeping sitting in a nearby field propped on her rifle. They said she was a sniper who’d grown too tired to keep going. The men said they turned her over to the police.

Reports the Main Market is on its way back appeared premature on a visit today. Scavengers still searched for anything of value among the debris. The smell of rotten food is strong. The place is a mess. Large sections can be salvaged, but it will take a huge amount of work to restore it. But the initial cleanup efforts are underway and a little commerce is occurring.

We spoke to several traders in the market who described personal debts in excess of $3,000 to banks and NGO micro finance programs. They want to start selling their sweets ad dried fruit again, but are bankrupt in the truest sense.

Part of the Save the Children emergency response team arrived over night in Bishkek including the team leader, health specialist, child protection specialist, head of finance, security specialist, education and protection coordinator and a communications person. See staff tracker for details. Two logisticians are due in to augment the loggie already here and the 15 local staff in Osh. Two four well drive vehicles were driven down from Bishkek today increasing our fleet to five vehicles.

On a personal note, my suitcase also arrived.