Members of the ACT Alliance, a global network of church-based development organisations, have begun the ‘impartial’ distribution of food to areas in Kyrgyzstan worst hit by recent attacks on Uzbek communities.
Around 20 metric tonnes of rice and vegetables sourced from local farmers have so far been delivered in the cities of Osh and Jalalabad. A further 7,000 family relief packages are being prepared which will include dry food rations, kitchen utensils and hygiene items.
ACT estimates that 5,000 metric tonnes of potatoes, rice, flour, vegetables and meat can at present be obtained locally.
The distribution to those in need, regardless of their ethnicity, follows criticism from ACT member organisations already working in Kyrgyzstan that government aid had not been distributed impartially.
Pepijn Trapman, Regional Manager of ICCO (the Interchurch Organisation for Development Co-operation) and Kerk in Actie, a Dutch member of the ACT Alliance said last week: "Those affected by the crisis think that the interim government has not been objective and the distribution of humanitarian aid by the authorities has not been impartial; nor has it been effectively coordinated."
Christian Aid, a UK-based international development NGO which is a member of ACT, is sending £50,000 to partner organisation Mehr Shevkhat to further facilitate food distribution to vulnerable people in the Osh district.
This is part of over £270,000 which ACT Alliance have already mobilised to meet humanitarian needs. An international appeal for more funds will be launched in the next few days.
ACT says that buying agricultural products from local farmers avoids long and dangerous transport routes and assists the local economy.
"By using local partners we can identify urgent needs, facilitate timely distribution and support local producers," explained Dr Michael Paratharayil, Christian Aid Regional Emergency Manager, from the capital Bishkek.
"Humanitarian aid is slowly reaching those in need. However, we need to start thinking about what will happen in the near future," said a spokesperson of the local aid organisation, Local Market development.
"We need to build up the local infrastructure and we need to enable people to buy things in the shops and markets from local producers," he added.
On Wednesday 23 June 2010, Christian Aid, along with other ACT alliance members, will send a team of experts to Jalalabad and Osh to identify priorities for further operations. The mission is being coordinated with other international NGOs including Eurasia Foundation, HelpAge, MSF, Oxfam and others.
As more humanitarian aid slowly reaches the city of Osh, the ACT Alliance plans to further invest in local infrastructure, bridging the gap between rural producers and urban markets such as the central bazaar of Osh.