HelpAge distributes hygiene kits to older people in Kyrgyzstan


Around one million people have been affected by the violence in Kyrgyzstan. Photo: Reuters/AlertNet 2010. HelpAge International is to distribute 500 hygiene kits to older people caught up in the Kyrgyzstan conflict.

The kits, which include basic non-food items such as soap, shampoo, towels, toothpaste, cutlery and plates, have been prepared and are scheduled to be given out next week.

Over the longer term, the number of kits distributed will reach 3,000.

One million affected by violence

An estimated one million people have been affected by violence in Kyrgyzstan, in particular in Osh and Jalal-Abad provinces in the south west.

Thousands of people have been displaced as well as people blockaded in their homes while hundreds of thousands have fled across the border into Uzbekistan. 

High number of those affected are older people

Because significant numbers of younger adults leave Kyrgyzstan in search of work, an unusually high number of those affected by the crisis are older people.

A spokeswoman for HelpAge International's office in Kyrgyzstan said: "There are two groups of older people affected. One group is shut up in their own homes, too scared to go out. They are frightened and they are isolated.

"The other group are people who have been internally displaced. We are currently trying to identify exactly who is affected so we can help them."

Reaching those who are trapped and alone

This week HelpAge has been gathering information on older people who may be trapped at home in unsafe areas where no physical assessment is possible.

Staff have set up a team of callers who have so far telephoned more than 400 older people to see how they are and what they need. The priority is the oldest and those living alone. 

The spokeswoman added: "We ask them a range of questions such as how they are, whether they are safe. We ask them about their financial security, what provisions they have, what their dietary or medical requirements are and whether they are caring for anyone else. Every day we are getting new information."

Aiming to reach thousands

Over the next month, HelpAge aims to reach thousands of older women and men in Kyrgyzstan through a project set up with newly acquired emergency funding from the Consortium of British Humanitarian Agencies.

The work will focus on various areas such as distributing more hygiene kits and giving cash grants to 2,500 extremely vulnerable older people so they can afford essential items - prices of which have risen since the crisis began on 10 June.

The project should directly benefit 2,500 older people but will also indirectly help a further 6,000 people as the majority of the older people care for children, grandchildren or sick or disabled relatives.

HelpAge has worked in Kyrgyzstan since 2003 on various programmes including working with the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the State Agency for Social Security to ensure older people are included in emergency responses.

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HelpAge receives core funding from the British charity, Age UK, to support long-term development and short-term emergency relief work in over 40 countries around the world, including Kyrgyzstan.

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