IOM Helps Conflict-Displaced Families in Kyrgyzstan as Big Chill Sweeps Central Asia
Batken, Kyrgyzstan – Parts of Central Asia are enduring the coldest winter in half a century, as fuel prices and air pollution add to daily challenges.
Particularly hard-hit are the hundreds of families who remain homeless after violence broke out in the remote Kyrgyz-Tajik border area last September.
IOM has just completed a donation of kitchen sets, bedding, winter clothes, shoes and other items to 429 homeless families who were among the tens of thousands that fled from the Batken and Osh districts of Kyrgyzstan.
The majority of those displaced have returned to their home areas, but those whose homes were destroyed are still displaced.
“Even before the conflict, Batken was considered the poorest region in Kyrgyzstan, with limited access to basic services such as education, medicine, and healthcare. Now, with temperatures down to minus 25 degrees, humanitarian assistance is vital”, said Tilek Orunbaev, Program Assistant at IOM’s sub-office in Osh.
The UN’s Rapid Emergency Assessment and Coordination Team (REACT) has been active since 19 September, with IOM leading the cluster of responding agencies on Emergency Shelter and Non-food Items. Stoves, flashlights, power cables, and disposable plates were distributed in earlier rounds.
Ashyrbai Khalmatov, a native of Kapchygai village in the Batken region received household appliances, a kitchen set, bedding, warm clothes, and shoes.
“I made a living raising sheep in my village until my house and everything we had, including the sheep, burnt. We had to relocate to Bujum village and are now living in a two-room apartment of our relatives,” he said.
Currently, a ceasefire holds in the border area. However, a lasting solution to the border disputes remains beyond the parties’ grasp, complicating the return of the families who lost their houses and livelihoods.
“Central Asia always faces harsh winters, and up to a point people have coping mechanisms to survive. However, there are persistent needs due to the added burden of displacement, or even secondary displacement in the case of a small number of ethnic Kyrgyz displaced from Afghanistan,” said Ammarah Mubarak, IOM’s Senior Regional Emergencies and Post-Crisis Specialist.
The aid distribution was funded by the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the Government of Germany.
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