First day in Andijon. We arrived by car at the airport because it is the command central point for all the international agencies offering help. Of course the first thing we want to do is assess the situation, and we are offered a ministerial official to escort us to two camps. I’m hesitant that we can’t see a map or listing of camps and select one at random, but we are guests in this country, and it seems they have the capacity to manage this crisis.
The two camps we see are well managed and organized. People have bottled water and there seems to be sufficient tent shelters and pit latrines. These are emergency needs. It’s only been a few days since the violence erupted and I’m sure people need mental health support as well. I’m introduced to the head epidemiologist at the first camp, and he walks us around, pointing out water sources and calling children to show me their stained pinky fingers demonstrating they’ve received a polio vaccination. I voice my concern about vaccinations for measles and whether there is a mechanism to report diseases to a central level to monitor any potential epidemics. My guide is more interested to show me how well everything is running. We’re communicating through my database manager who is acting as a translator. I try to connect with him by explaining my background; that I was in Karakalpakstan when this emergency occurred, and that I’m not here checking on him, but rather offer any assistance I can. He’s looking at me as my words are translated. He has bags under bloodshot eyes. I’m sure he hasn’t slept for days. I ask him when this cotton factory (currently not in use) was converted to the camp and he has to think, forgetting what day it is, he recalls four days. I ask him if he’s slept much and he stares at me then points at his face, “Can you tell?”
I don’t have any official numbers with me when we leave. I’d rather go around and count for myself, but we have to see one more camp before returning to the command center to meet the other stakeholders. We’ve already spent too much time here. The next camp is supposed to be 10 kilometers away, but it seems like more. We drove through road blocks guarded by soldiers. The area feels like it’s in lockdown.