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Home visits help families in Kyrgyzstan

Families whose houses were ruined in last month’s ethnic fighting in Kyrgyzstan are being visited at home to help them tap into social services support.

More than 100 people were killed after three days of fighting between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in southern city of Osh in June. Hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed and thousands of ethnic Uzbeks, mainly women and children, were forced to flee the country.

A month later, traffic jams have returned to the streets of Osh, restaurants reopened and, in some areas, people are rebuilding houses burned down just weeks ago. But in other parts, there is still the smell of smoke, water gushing from broken pipes, and many families are crammed into tents, often in the courtyards of their former homes.

Very few families in the central Asian republic completely escaped the turmoil.

Organised by Government Social Protection Officers and backed by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the home visits are part of an effort to better gauge the needs of families affected by the fighting and help them access aid and support.

Since the fighting, aid workers have found that many families are too afraid to go out to government offices to register for social help. And some families have lost all their paperwork in the fires and looting that destroyed so many homes.

The State Department of Social Protection has also started to review its current rules for state benefits, aiming to simplify and speed up the system to help affected families.

The government has promised to do everything necessary to rebuilt trust between the two communities. But commentators warn there are few signs of peace between the two ethnic groups. Instead, ongoing threats and allegations of abductions and torture are pushing the sides even further apart than they were immediately after the violence. The government has also said it will rebuild houses but residents are worried they'll have nowhere warm to live before winter sets in.

As well as some people now being too afraid to leave home and approach government offices, they may also be reluctant to let their children attend school. With the new school year set to start on 1 September, this is a major problem.

When school re-starts, if things are back to normal, then I’ll let them go,” mother, Gulnara Kozybaeva told UNICEF. “But it’s a long way away, so obviously I’m concerned.

Hayley attribution