CENTRAL ASIA: Weekly News Wrap

IRINnews Asia, Fri 23 Aug 2002

ISLAMABAD, - Uzbekistan received medical supplies and equipment worth US $51 million from the United States on Thursday for use in the Fergana Valley region. Ambassador William Taylor, coordinator of US assistance to Europe and Eurasia, delivered the aid personally at a ceremony in the capital Tashkent, local media reported.

The donation included equipment worth US $16 million from the Defence Department and US $35 million worth of medicines and other supplies donated by American pharmaceutical manufacturers and US-based private organisations.

Uzbekistan, in common with other Central Asian countries, has a host of health problems with insufficient resources to meet them. The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) this week organised a seminar in Tashkent, on how to fight anaemia, which is endemic in the country and related to a poor diet.

According to the UNICEF office in Tashkent, a US $2.6 million project is being carried out to provide medical aid to two million children and women in some parts of the country.

Tashkent also witnessed a rare though small demonstration of ethnic Russians outside the Ministry of Justice to demand greater rights and less government corruption. According to local Uzbek media, the lives of Central Asian's non-indigenous peoples were greatly complicated by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Many Russian and Slavic people left Central Asia after 1991, though about seven million have remained, with more than half of them in Kazakhstan. The demonstration, not opposed by the police, was against falling living standards in Uzbekistan.

Poverty is forcing many ethnic Kazakhs to leave Uzbekistan. Because of unemployment thousands of Kazakhs living in Uzbekistan were trying to emigrate to the land of their ancestors, according to a local newspaper report.

Every day, 30 to 40 people come to the Kazakh embassy in Uzbekistan. But many of these return because they are unable to find any employment in Kazakhstan either, the newspaper reported.

Astana was planning to send its first consignment of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan on Friday. According to the Foreign Ministry, the cargo - a total of 3,000 mt of cereals - was due to be shipped from Kazakhstan by rail on Friday afternoon.

Afghanistan this week signed an agreement with its neighbour Turkmenistan for the import of electricity to the western Afghan province of Herat. Work on the project, whose first installment is of US $3.5 million, started this week. Discussions on the purchase of power have been going on between the two countries for several years.

Meanwhile, the Aga Khan Foundation extended its work in neighbouring Tajikistan by starting a new initiative for raising domestic food production. Through its Mountain Societies Development Support Programme, the foundation will develop local farms and bring more farmland under cultivation.

At least 80 percent of the population of seven million in Tajikistan lives in poverty, and a third of the children are malnourished.

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