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South Asia: Central Asians Join World Aid Effort To Tsunami-Struck Region

Tsunami-ravaged Aceh in Indonesia The United Nations has asked donor nations to contribute nearly $1 billion by the end of the month to address the immediate needs of victims of the South Asian tsunami disaster. The world body says it has already secured concrete commitments for about two-thirds of that amount. Meanwhile, relief supplies continue to arrive in the region. As RFE/RL reports, Central Asian nations, including war-ravaged Afghanistan, have joined the international effort to raise funds and provide humanitarian aid to the affected areas.

Prague, 12 January 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The nations of Central Asia are doing what they can to contribute to the global relief effort for the millions of victims of South Asia's tsunami disaster.

While no firm dollar figures are available, the Central Asian aid includes planeloads of food, medicine, and hygiene supplies, as well as donated blood.

Kyrgyzstan is dispatching a jet with relief supplies to the countries hit by the tsunamis, carrying foodstuffs, medicines, and vital necessities.

Kyrgyz presidential spokeswoman Irina Orolbaeva said: "A regular chartered flight [from Bishkek] will deliver [humanitarian aid] to Delhi. However, [Kyrgyzstan's] aid does not end with this action. A special bank account has been opened, and we are expecting to get [some money]."

In the meantime, a charity marathon in Kyrgyzstan is raising funds for victims of the calamity that hit South Asia on 26 December. A special public committee headed by State Secretary Osmonakun Ibraimov has been set up to coordinate the consigning of aid to Southeast Asia.

More than 150,000 people in a dozen countries were killed by the huge waves, which were triggered by an underwater earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

The Afghan government has launched a campaign throughout the impoverished country to collect blood for the victims. Ahmad Khaled of the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif is one of those who donated blood. "I am a shopkeeper. I am giving blood for the victims of the earthquake," he said. "We want to help them this way [because] we cannot help them economically."

The Afghan Defense and Health ministries are also planning to send two teams of 25 doctors each to the region.

The Uzbek government sent a plane carrying 35 tons of humanitarian aid to the city of Medan on Indonesia's Sumatra Island earlier this week. A Foreign Ministry statement said the aid included medicines, tents, food, two off-road vehicles, a motor boat, field kitchens, drinking water, and helicopter parts.

Uzbekistan's national air company noted that the flight marked the start of a series of charter flights to Southeast Asia to provide humanitarian aid. The Uzbek Foreign Ministry statement said the company is also helping the Agency for Emergency Situations of Denmark and the government of Switzerland to transport humanitarian aid to the region.

One week after the disaster, the first Kazakh plane containing humanitarian supplies flew from the central city of Karaganda to the capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo. Kairat Daribaev, a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry, said in Astana, "There are about 40 tons of food and 4 tons of medicines onboard Kazakhstan's IL-76 plane." According to the ministry, the aid is enough to feed more than 4,000 people over 10 days and provide hygienic supplies to 12,000 more. More than 1,000 victims will receive Kazakh medical aid.

The Kazinform news agency reported that the staff of the ministry and its regional departments decided to transfer one day of their earnings to a fund to help tsunami victims. A special account also has been opened in a commercial bank to collect donations for tsunami victims. The Kazakhstan Today news agency quoted Torgeldy Sharmanov, president of the Kazakh Food Institute, as saying the structure of the fund and the process of distributing money will be absolutely transparent.

The United Nations' humanitarian relief coordinator, Jan Egeland, said yesterday in Geneva that it has secured more than $700 million in record time for tsunami victims in Asia. "This has never ever happened before that we -- two weeks after a disaster -- have $717 million that we can spend on the immediate emergency relief effort," he said.

Egeland added that the immediate outpouring of aid has helped prevent a second wave of death from disease and starvation. However, the Red Cross has warned that the emergency phase of the Indian Ocean disaster is far from over.

(RFE/RL's Kyrgyz, Afghan, and Kazakh services contributed to this report.)