As the ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan abates, a reported 74,320 refugees have crossed the border from Uzbekistan back to Kyrgyzstan in hopes of returning to their homes. International Medical Corps’ has coordinated a response team consisting of psychologists and doctors from our Russia field office to aid refugee populations.
The cities of Osh and Jalalabad in Southern Kyrgyzstan have been severely damaged by pogroms and mob violence. Hundreds of homes were destroyed, burned and looted. There is a serious concern that returnees may face further displacement as living conditions for refugees and IDPs who return are often appalling. While the destruction and displacement of thousands of people was covered by major media outlets worldwide, the internal suffering and trauma experienced by those who witnessed their relatives being violently assaulted or killed remains hidden from most outsiders’ eyes.
International Medical Corps’ first response team arrived in Kyrgyzstan on June 18th to respond to the humanitarian crisis. With assistance from 15 local volunteers – students, teachers and health professionals – our team conducted an assessment in the towns of Osh and Jalalabad focusing on the psychological effects of the recent violent events. They seek to identify how best to assist those who have experienced these traumatic events by surveying returnees from different ethnic backgrounds, ages and sex.
According to the preliminary data analysis conducted, over 97% of the surveyed are experiencing psychological conditions which require immediate professional assistance. Fear and anxiety are being experience by most of the respondents (84%).
“I was shocked to hear the stories of survivors. A man in Nariman (village outside of Osh) told me that two female members of his extended family were burned alive in their own home. I don’t know how the rest of the family can cope with seeing and knowing that this happened to their loved ones”, said Said-Akhmed Israilov, International Medical Corps emergency response team member in Kyrgyzstan.
Our team in Kyrgyzstan is currently in contact with a number of international donors and is planning to implement an assistance program in the coming weeks to target returnee communities affected by the conflict.