Kyrgyzstan: MSF Increases Medical and Humanitarian Support to Victims of Violence

MSF now has six teams on the ground providing medical care to people wounded or displaced by the recent violence in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan 2010 © François Dumont/MSF

MSF staff treat an injured boy in Osh.

The situation is still very tense in the cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad in southern Kyrgyzstan, where violent clashes that began on June 10 have left hundreds dead. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins San Frontières (MSF) teams are on the ground providing medical care to the victims and the displaced and giving support to local health structures.

Violence in Nariman

On Monday, June 21, an MSF team learned of a new outbreak of violence in Nariman, on the outskirts of Osh. The team then visited Nariman’s hospital and found that 25 wounded people were receiving care. Two others reportedly had already died from their injuries.

“The patients were all men suffering from wounds such as head injuries, ribs fractures, and bruises,” says Andrei Slavuckij, MSF coordinator in Southern Kyrgyzstan. “These wounds were clearly related to violent beatings. This is just a new example that violence and tensions are far from over here.”

The hospital personnel could cope with the number of patients they had but lacked basic drugs and medical material, which MSF then donated.

MSF witnessed four unidentified armed persons who were conspicuously present in the hospital—a situation that could deter other wounded people from seeking medical care. “If other people are wounded, they may be hiding somewhere and be too scared to come and get medical care at the hospital,” Slavuckij says. “In addition, some ambulances cannot refer severe patients to more specialized medical structures because their drivers have received death threats in some places at checkpoints for doing so. It is essential that patients who need care have total, unhindered access to medical structures.”

Activities Started in Onadir

On June 22, an MSF team visited a health facility in Onadir, an Uzbek community of 55,000 people south of Osh, that was stretched to its limits. “The medical personnel are totally exhausted,” says Sonia Peyrassol, MSF psychologist and project coordinator. “They have been treating patients night and day since the first day of the crisis. Both the patients and the medical staff are in deep shock. When we asked them ‘How are you?’, they started crying and telling us terrible stories.”

On the same day, MSF provided post-operative care to 50 patients who had been wounded in the early days of the crisis. MSF is now supporting the clinic by setting up surgical capacity and reinforcing maternal and pediatric care and treatment for chronic diseases. MSF is stationing a surgeon, a medical doctor, and a nurse to work alongside the clinic’s staff. Psychological care will be at the core of MSF’s work.

Some of the people who fled the recent clashes by crossing the border into Uzbekistan have begun returning to their places of origin. Many houses in Osh and its surrounding areas were burned, however, and many people are still very scared, hiding or barricading themselves in their neighborhoods. Rumors are running rampant as well, aggravating the atmosphere of fear.

Six MSF Teams on the Ground

MSF is now working in Osh and Jalal-Abad, as well as in four sites located close to the border with Uzbekistan, providing medical support to health structures and care to the many people who have been affected and displaced by violence.

MSF has organized six teams comprising doctors, surgeons, nurses, psychologists and logisticians. Four of the teams are focused on giving assistance to families displaced by the violence and now living in dire conditions. In addition to offering medical care and psychological support, MSF has been distributing 1,000 hygiene kits and other emergency relief goods for 5,000 people.

The teams based in health structures in in Osh and Jalal-Abad are assisting local health personnel and providing them with medical supplies–the 2,000 treatments for chronic diseases that were donated to the clinic in Onadir, for instance. As of Wednesday, June 23, MSF staff was giving around 300 medical consultations a day, many of them to wounded people.

Twenty-five MSF international staff are now running the organization’s activities in southern Kyrgyzstan. On the other side of the border in Uzbekistan, MSF has been training and supporting local psychologists in order to offer mental health support to refugees, concentrating on group counseling sessions and training for counselors.

An assessment of water and sanitation needs is also planned. MSF has been supporting the refugees with relief items, which had been donated into a central stock. Many refugees began heading back to their hometowns on June 23, which led authorities to order that mental health activities be suspended. The team on the ground is continuing to monitor the situation while preparing to support other MSF teams on the Kyrgyz side of the border.

MSF has worked in Kyrgyzstan since 2006 and in Uzbekistan since 1997 providing medical treatment to tuberculosis patients, including those suffering from the most resistant form of this disease.