With night-time temperatures currently hovering around zero and forecast to drop to minus 15 degrees Celsius in a few days time, communities badly affected by the June violence in southern Kyrgyzstan are worried about how they will manage over the winter.
Keeping warm is a big challenge. A family of 4-5 people needs at least 2-3 tons of coal to keep warm over the winter, and with a ton of coal costing the equivalent of US$100-110 and very low average incomes, life is tough: Children can easily fall ill.
Nasiba,* who lives in the village of Kyzyl-Kyshtak near the southern city of Osh, has been struggling to look after her three children. “We live off a small plot where we grow vegetables. I try to sell them at a market to earn some money for my kids’ food and clothes. My husband is not working these days as there are no jobs for him,” she said.
Another Kyzyl-Kyshtak resident told IRIN they were receiving food and non-food aid but pointed out that they had large families (at least 3-4 children), with grandparents to look after, and little paid work.
“We have small plots on which we grow potatoes and vegetables. Before the mayhem in June our men used to work in the city [Osh] as taxi drivers or doing other jobs. Nowadays, there are not many jobs, and some men are reluctant to go to the city and work there as they are scared,” she said.
Apart from the cold weather, fears of a resurgence in violence are ever-present: Local media on 29 November reported on a raid on a hideout in Osh in which four Islamist militants are said to have been killed. The city was the scene of inter-ethnic violence in June during which nearly 400 mostly minority Uzbeks were killed, according to BBC.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said in a statement on 29 November that it was distributing winter aid - warm clothing, blankets, boots, cooking sets, kitchen utensils, water containers, kettles and other relief items - to thousands of families in the Osh and Jalalabad regions. UNHCR said partners were also providing coal to help keep people warm.
”This is a very critical time of year for many families,” said Hans Friedrich Schodder, a UNHCR representative in Kyrgyzstan. “Poor families in all communities need extra help to overcome the winter in dignity. We can see that our aid is having a positive impact on people’s lives. For example, children from poor families, who could not attend school because they did not have any winter clothing, can now go to school, wearing new, warm clothes and boots.”
According to UNHCR, the second phase of its winterization project running from November to February will assist more than 50,000 vulnerable people in the south. Vulnerable people in all communities as well as public and civil society institutions will be provided with winter clothing, folding beds, mattresses, bed linen, blankets, pillows, towels, kitchen sets, heating fuel and other items, UNHCR said.
Meanwhile, Jantoro Satybaldiev, deputy prime minister and head of the state agency for the reconstruction of Osh and Jalalabad provinces, said they were aware of the problems that many southerners faced: “After the shelter project is completed we, in cooperation with our international partners, will work on providing affected communities with fast loans so that they [can] regain their livelihoods,” he said.
*not her real name
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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