12 Aug 2010 - 19 Dec 2011
Lifeline radio in Kyrgyzstan
The BBC World Service Trust and Internews are providing humanitarian news reporting for victims of ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan. Humanitarian Liaison Officer Filip Noubel reports from Osh.
On 10 June 2010, ethnic violence erupted in southern Kyrgyzstan, leading to hundreds of deaths and displacing an estimated 400,000 civilians.
The Red Cross (ICRC) have described the situation as an "immense crisis". The official death toll from the conflict centred around the cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad currently stands at around 300, but in early July, interim Kyrgyz leader Rosa Otunbayeva said as many as 2,000 people may have died in the rioting.
Kyrgyzstan itself, along with the international community, was little prepared for the scale of the ensuing destruction of infrastructure and social institutions.
The worst violence is now over, yet curfew is still imposed, thousands of families live in tents, bodies continue to surface and there are reports of people being kidnapped, tortured and threatened to this day.
The BBC World Service Trust and Internews, two international media development NGOs, are working in partnership to produce rapid-response broadcasts to provide life-saving information to affected communities.
It is so hard to find out what is really happening ... at least when listening to you we know
Daily humanitarian news is now being aired in Kyrgyz and Uzbek, the two major languages of the region.
The five-minute programme starts with a human interest story and ends with practical and detailed information on where and how to access services and products provided by local and international NGOs, UN agencies and the regional government.
Stories typically cover hygiene and sanitation, nutrition, access to medical care, psychological health, children and women’s health, ID recovery and hotline information and are broadcast from London through the BBC World Service and then rebroadcast via local radio stations.
For many humanitarian projects now starting in the region, this is the most effective way to reach their target community and to spread information that literally saves lives.
Besides the immediate and practical impact of providing information about services, the humanitarian news coverage also helps counter widespread rumours that have fuelled high levels of stress and panic.
As one listener said, “It is so hard to find out what is really happening. We see a lot of UN cars and agencies flags all over the place, but at least when listening to you we know exactly what they can provide us with.”
Local media was itself targeted during the violence, leaving media outlets and equipment destroyed or stolen, and many journalists physically and psychologically injured.
As a result, the mobile phone became the dominant vehicle and source of communication for people in hiding, seeking refuge across the border and now returning to host families or former homes.
Unfortunately, threats and hate messages continue to spread via mobile phones and text messages.
Humanitarian information, focusing on practical and neutral information, offers a real balance to potentially deadly rumours as a renewal of riots is a threat from various groups.
In this context, BBC journalists, supported by expert liaison through the BBC WST / Internews partnership provide a trusted source of content with dual language programming in both Kyrgyz and Uzbek, a notable exception in a sharply divided society.
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