Health care a priority for thousands affected by Kyrgyzstan violence

Copenhagen and Geneva, 22 June, 2010

The World Health Organization is coordinating the international health response to the humanitarian crises in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, where delivering health care to thousands of displaced people remains a major challenge.

At least 300 000 people, mainly ethnic Uzbeks, have reportedly been displaced in Kyrgyzstan since conflict erupted in the south of the country on 10 June. At least 75 000 more people have fled the violence into Uzbekistan where they are now registered as refugees. Many are living in temporary camps.

The official death toll in Kyrgyzstan is 192, with 2029 people wounded and 912 hospitalized in Osh and Jalal-Abad. Senior government figures and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have stated, however, that the real number of casualties is likely to be several times higher.

“WHO and health partners stress the urgency of providing the necessary health care and support to the communities affected by violence,” says Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “People affected by the violence must be able to receive health services – in particular those who have been wounded in gunfire, those who have suffered from sexual and gender-based violence, those suffering from chronic diseases, and children who need vaccination against polio.”

WHO has deployed teams to assess and coordinate the emergency response in the two countries. Humanitarian aid, including medical supplies, has been sent to the cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad in Kyrgyzstan, as well as to Andijan in Uzbekistan. Providing health services to ethnic Uzbek communities inside Kyrgyzstan along the border with Uzbekistan is a particular challenge. Further, sexual violence is increasingly reported among affected communities in both countries.

To support Kyrgyzstan, WHO has deployed two Interagency Emergency Health Kits over the weekend, which are scheduled to arrive on 23 June. These kits will cover the basic health needs of 60 000 people for a period of a month. Further, through support from the Government of Italy, WHO has sent medicines and kits to enable health workers to treat trauma patients. The Ministry of Health of Kyrgyzstan has sent 1.5 tonnes of medicines and a team of 58 health professionals to support the health services in Osh and nearby areas.

Uzbekistan has received one Interagency Emergency Health Kit, and two more are scheduled to arrive on 23 June. These health care supplies will allow the provision of basic health care services to 90 000 people for a month, and enable doctors to perform 200 surgical interventions. An interagency mission to five sites in Andijan on 17–18 June found that the basic needs of refugees were being met, but health care, water and sanitation were among areas needing further attention.

Health services in the Uzbekistan refugee camps in Andijan appear to be well organized, with facilities for treating minor injuries and referral mechanisms to central hospitals. Refugees entering Uzbekistan are being screened for health issues at the border. But the refugees who have suffered and witnessed high levels of violence, including gender-based violence and rape, are in major need of psychosocial support. WHO has mobilized Post-Exposure Prophylaxis Kits for victims of gender-based violence, particularly rape.

Similarly in Kyrgyzstan, gender-based violence is increasingly reported among communities affected by the conflict. In Osh, which witnessed the bulk of the recent violence, the main hospitals are reportedly functioning well and have relatively good stocks of supplies, but peripheral health facilities need support.

“As the crisis continues, the international effort to provide health care support will need to be sustained,” says Zsuzsanna Jakab.

Working to control the spread of polio

Given the polio outbreak in Tajikistan, WHO has been working with the health ministries in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan since April to limit the possibility of importation and spread of wild poliovirus.

The Government of Uzbekistan has conducted two rounds of nationwide supplementary immunization activities, and will conduct one more during the week of 5–9 July 2010. In addition, Uzbekistan reports that it is vaccinating all refugees aged under 15 years against poliovirus. 

The Government of Kyrgyzstan is planning two rounds of nationwide supplementary immunization activities in July and August. WHO recommended that Kyrgyzstan begin polio immunization activities immediately in camps and other places of mass population gathering in less stable areas.

For more information, please contact

Zsofia Szilagyi
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Tel.: +45 3917 1627
Mobile: +45 2467 4846

Fadéla Chaib
WHO headquarters
Tel.: +41 22 791 3228
Mobile: +41 79 475 5556