[SatNews] Aid agency Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) has deployed an emergency telecoms team to Kyrgyzstan as escalating civil unrest causes thousands to flee their homes.
TAGID communications experts from the Inmarsat-sponsored charity arrived in Bichkek on 18 June in order to provide ICT services for the current humanitarian relief operations, as part of its partnership with the United Nations. They will also be offering people who have fled the conflict the chance to make a call to loved ones to let them know they are safe.
On arrival, TSF coordinated with the UN agencies and has since deployed to the UN logistics base at Osh airport, where it has set up satellite connections and is providing technical support.
The team is also supporting international NGOs on the ground, in particular ACTED (Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development) and Save the Children. The violence, which broke out in the city of Osh on June 10 between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks and has claimed hundreds of casualties is the worst ethnic unrest in Kyrgyzstan in 20 years.
The south of Kyrgyzstan is home to an ethnic Uzbek minority of almost one million. Thousands flee as escalating ethnic clashes have prompted tens of thousands of ethnic Uzbeks to flee the country. An estimated 100,000 refugees from southern Kyrgyzstan have been admitted into neighbouring Uzbekistan, where the government has requested international assistance.
There are reports of 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDP) in Kyrgyzstan with 40,000 requiring shelter assistance and several concentrations of internally displaced ethnic Uzbeks in the border areas with Uzbekistan, particularly in Jalal-Abad province. This is not the first time TSF has been there, TSF deployed in 2001 to Uzbekistan to provide support during the conflict with Afghanistan.
The United Nations Foundation and Vodafone Foundation support the deployment of these emergency telecommunications teams to quickly deliver emergency aid, and to provide a valuable service to communities affected by disaster.