Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How the Kyrgyzstan story relates to poverty

A big international news story during this past week has been the political turmoil in Kyrgyzstan. The impoverished country of 5 million people serves as a military base for the US Afghan war. Along with the take over by the opposition of government strongholds came rioting in the streets. In reaction to government takeover, people looted shops and businesses and tried to seize private property.

For a background on the rioting and the poverty that is prevalent in the country, we turn to this analysis from the BBC.

Shapina Teleushova's voice trembles in fear as she recalls the night of the protests.

"It was quiet and then suddenly I heard a crowd yelling in the street," the bed and breakfast hotel employee said.

"Suddenly about 200 people stormed the building, they were equipped with sticks and rocks. It was chaos.

"They destroyed everything, the doors, the windows, smashed all the TV sets and other equipment. Our guests were so scared."

It was a night of looting and shooting in Bishkek, following the mass protests across the country on 7 April.

The next day, thousands of residents in Bishkek woke up to chaos. Smoke was still coming out of dozens of shops that were looted and set on fire.

"We had mobile phone sets worth 4m som ($90,000, £58,000); nothing is left now," one shopkeeper at Vefa trade centre cried as she swept shattered glass and mobile phone packaging into a pile.

Kyrgyzstan's uprising was a result of the worsening economic situation in a country of five million, where the majority of working-age males seek employment elsewhere.

They travel as migrant workers to Russia or Kazakhstan. But the remittances they had been sending back home dried up after the global financial meltdown.

The government's decision to double household utility prices from January 2010 caused widespread discontent.

Small protests erupted in February and March in mountainous regions, where people were demanding price cuts. In a country where the average monthly income is $70 many simply could not afford to pay over $100 for utility bills.

"If you look at some of the root causes of what happened, it is that the population has got poorer and poorer over the last two years with price increases and the drop in remittances," said Catherine Brown, Mercy Corps country director in Kyrgyzstan.

"Some of the destruction, the looting, happened because people saw an opportunity to get things there is no way in their life they can afford.

"The root cause of this is the poverty level of people."

Médecins Sans Frontières is heading to Kyrgyzstan to providfe medical healing from the violence takeover and protests. From the MSF press release we learn more about their new operation.

Hundreds of wounded arrived in Bishkek hospitals following violent confrontations between armed forces and protesters in the streets of Kyrgyzstan’s capital on April 7. The Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team in Kyrgyzstan immediately responded by providing the National Hospital and the main ambulance station with emergency medical supplies and drugs, including bandages and other sterile material, intravenous injection sets, antibiotics and painkillers. More material and drugs are to be donated today by MSF to three health structures in the capital city.

In coordination with ICRC, MSF staff in Bishkek are visiting hospitals and meeting health authorities to further assess needs in terms of medical material and human resources. “In the National Hospital, injured people are still arriving today. We have to ensure the hundreds of victims have access to proper medical care. Most of them have been beaten or shot, and some suffered heavy traumas to their heads or chests,” said Alexandre Baillat, MSF’s Head of Mission in Kyrgyzstan.

Additional shipments of more surigcal material and special medical kits that contain enough supplies to take care of 300 wounded people, are currently being sent from MSF’s supply center in Bordeaux, France, to Kyrgyzstan.

Médecins Sans Frontières has been running a tuberculosis programme in Kyrgyzstan's penitentiary system since 2006.


Anonymous said...

This article repeats, over and over again; that the civil unrest caused property damages, but their is no mention that this break away state of Kyrgyzstan was due to American influence and the wealthy in the area. That the poor people there are being played with by political games involving corrupt puppet government meant to take from the citizens and give to the wealthy. This stored anger from the locals was unleashed with sticks and stones. The poor conditions in this state is from their public servants who have collaborated their efforts to steal the futures of the local people there.

So, I suggest this story teller (author of this article) tell the story according to the perspective to the local people. Right now, the article has a big twist on it which paints the local citizens who are rebelling against unfair influence in their futures. The ellites should be glad they only threw rocks, and shook sticks at these thugs. Right now, Russia is is trying to fund this state with support, since the old American puppet government ran out the back door stealing what they could grab on their way out. So no, this article is hardly an investigative piece, it is more like a rant for the rich. If you want to help these people, then tell your government to keep it's thugs out of other peoples lives far far away.

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