Kyrgyzstan Conflict Prompts Emergency Response

Catholic Relief Services is sending an emergency response team to Central Asia, where ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan has left more than one hundred dead and led to a growing humanitarian crisis.

The Vatican ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendia, told Vatican radio, “In Osh, there is a situation of absolute humanitarian catastrophe: There are no lights, no gas, no water and no food in the markets.”

The southern part of the impoverished nation has been rocked by days of rioting targeting minority Uzbeks, which has left the country’s second largest city, Osh, in ruins and sent more than 100,000 Uzbeks fleeing for their lives to neighboring Uzbekistan.

Archbishop Maury said old ethnic rivalries between the Uzbeks and Kyrgyzs are the root of the conflict.

Uzbekistan closed the border on Tuesday, leaving many people displaced—camped out on the Kyrgyz side or stranded behind barbed-wire fences.

The United Nations has sent planes carrying tents and other emergency supplies to respond to the growing humanitarian crisis. Representatives from Catholic Relief Services have been in contact with Church officials in Central Asia, and are ready to respond with emergency relief when needed.

The clashes are the worst ethnic violence to hit southern Kyrgyzstan since the dying days of the USSR when several hundred people were killed.

From Catholic News Service and CRS staff accounts.

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