Foreign aid today started to trickle through to the hundreds of refugee families running short of food, water and shelter in southern Kyrgyzstan.
Days of ethnic fighting in the central Asian country have triggered an ‘immense crisis’ in the area, said the Red Cross (ICRC).
The violence between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks that erupted a week ago has killed more than 190 people and forced more than 200,000 people – mostly ethnic Uzbeks - to flee their homes, with many crossing into neighbouring Uzbekistan or gathering near the border.
The first two planes carrying emergency supplies landed in neighbouring Uzbekistan and the United Nations refugee agency said planes will bring 240 tons of supplies such as tents, blankets and sleeping mats by the end of the week.
Yesterday, a relative calm descended on the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad as the country began its second of three days of mourning for those killed in the violence. Flags flew at half-staff as troops patrolled the streets of Osh.
Red Cross workers have taken advantage of the fragile to reach refugees in the areas around Osh. "We've seen for ourselves and also heard about pockets of displaced people ranging from several hundred to several thousand in number," said the organisation’s Severine Chappaz.
A climate of fear, coupled with shortages of basic like food, water, shelter and medicine, were putting communities, hospitals and families under a huge amount of stress, it said. It added that it had also heard reports of rape and beatings and of soldiers looting food aid in Osh.
The situation is likely to get worse, warned Paul Quinn-Judge of Brussels-based security think tank, the International Crisis Group. "We're going to have an increasingly serious humanitarian problem which is going to affect both the Kyrgyz and the Uzbek communities in southern Kyrgyzstan," he told the BBC from the capital, Bishkek.
"The reports from the Uzbek communities in Osh and in Jalalabad are so bloodcurdling that I doubt whether anybody will want to go back in the near future. In fact they'd probably only go back if the Uzbek government forced them to."
A baker who fled to the border with his wife and five children on Sunday said his family had lost hope after supplies on the border ran out, and in desperation went back to Osh. "Is there any difference where to die? There is no food, no water, no humanitarian aid," Melis Kamilov told the Associated Press news agency.