Hundreds of refugees who fled the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan in May after government forces violently suppressed protests there and sought asylum in Kyrgyzstan were flown to Romania early on Friday, according to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
440 Uzbeks from Andijan flew to Timisoara in western Romania and would stay there before being sent to other countries for permanent resettlement. "Regarding this group we think we will be able to find a long term solution for them," Carlos Zaccagnini, head of the UNHCR mission in Kyrgyzstan, said.
Staying in Kyrgyzstan, media reports this week suggested that the Washington would continue using its military base there following the visit of US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "The [US] base at Manas will stay as long as the situation in Afghanistan requires," said Kyrgyz Defence Minister Ismail Isakov, on Tuesday after a meeting with Rumsfeld.
The US has been told it can keep its airbase in Kyrgyzstan as long as it is needed for operations in Afghanistan. But the Kyrgyz defence minister said that once the situation improved, US forces would no longer need to stay on. About 1,000 US soldiers are stationed in Kyrgyzstan.
The reports follow a statement on 5 July by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), of which Kyrgyzstan is a party to, calling on the US to identify a time framework for withdrawing its bases from the region.
Going to Uzbekistan, the former Soviet republic is expected to receive US $2.8 million over a three year period for a national campaign to reduce serious health problems amongst women of child-bearing age and children, caused by iron deficiency. The populous Central Asian state will be one of the first countries to benefit from the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition’s (GAIN) flour fortification programme.
Small amounts of iron are essential for a mother’s health and children’s growth and development. Without it, iron deficiency has a devastating impact, resulting in anaemia, a major cause of maternal mortality and of child mortality amongst children born to anaemic mothers. In Uzbekistan, it is estimated that 40-60 percent of 6-24 month-old children are at risk of disrupted brain development, whilst the rate of anaemia is estimated at 60 percent of women of childbearing age, according to UNICEF's recent report on the country.
In Tajikistan, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) reported on Monday, at least one member of almost every family in the poorest former Soviet republic - equivalent to 25 percent of the working-age population - was working abroad, mainly in Russia.
Official government estimates put the number of Tajik workers in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) at between 450,000 and 800,000, while the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has calculated that as many as 1 million Tajiks are working abroad.
Tajikistan's population is some 6 million. Annual remittances from labour migrants to Tajikistan are estimated at more than $1 billion, the report said.
Also in Tajikistan, three HIV sufferers have reportedly died of AIDS-related diseases in the southern Khatlon province over the past few years, the Tajik Avesta news agency reported on Monday, adding that nine HIV-infected were registered in the area in the first six months of the year. Although the official number of HIV-infected people in the area was over 40, the actual number could be much higher, Abdullo Shermatov, head of the regional HIV/AIDS centre, said.
Countries in Central Asia and parts of eastern Europe were facing an explosion of HIV/AIDS, the BBC reported on Monday citing scientists at a recent HIV/AIDS conference in Rio de Janeiro. The virus is continuing to spread to areas where the number of cases had previously been low. Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova are some of the countries facing the next epidemic.
Scientists at the International Aids Society conference say HIV is following the route of heroin traffic from Afghanistan, through Central Asia and the former Soviet Union, into Eastern Europe. Young men are most likely to inject heroin. As they are highly active sexually, they could quickly spread the virus into the general population, scientists warn.
Meanwhile, the World Bank approved a $13 million grant to fund a project to improve the management of water resources in the Ferghana Valley - a populous region straddling three countries in Central Asia, the bank said in a statement on Wednesday. The project aims at improving irrigation and drainage systems in northern Tajikistan with a view to expanding agricultural production and economic growth in the region, the statement said.
Additionally, it will enhance the operation of the Kayrakkum dam and reservoir, yielding benefits for Tajikistan as well as neighbouring Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, which also share the Valley, it added.
The Syr Darya river, the main source of water supply in the region, passes through the Ferghana Valley, a region of some 11 million inhabitants, the vast majority of which are impoverished and live in rural areas.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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