Mutual quarrels cause considerable delays in aid transport
After a problematic drive of more than 10,000 kilometres, our relief transport arrived in Kyrgyzstan. As of June 2020, we collected 22 pallets of relief supplies for Kyrgyzstan. A fundraiser collected large quantities of clothing, toys, educational materials, sports equipment and medicine. After leaving the Netherlands, the goods were confiscated in Belarus.
Upon leaving the EU, the problems began. In Belarus, the anti-Lukashenko protests had just begun when the relief supplies entered the country. The entire cargo was meticulously searched, and among the relief goods, a number of cans of tuna were found. As a result, the entire shipment was rejected, and a high fine had to be paid to get the goods released with support from the Dutch Embassy in Minsk. They managed to get the goods back to the Netherlands, where everything required repackaging.
Back in Hoogeveen, everything had to be repackaged. The “illegal” cans of tuna were removed, and everything was repackaged. In the intervening weeks, we received new donations and were able to add pallets of our own. Contact was made with Kyrgyzstan Customs to ease the whole process. They suggested sending a sealed truck. With a so-called TIR carnet, there would no longer be border controls in intermediate countries. That turned out a little differently.
In November, the Kyrgyz truck came to load the items. A TIR carnet was filled out, and the driver said he would arrive in Kyrgyzstan within a month. Contact hereafter went through Kyrgyz customs. They gave occasional updates on where the driver was. In December, customs in Kyrgyzstan indicated that the driver had crossed the border into Russia without incident. The hope was that things would move quickly now.
The relationship between Russia and Kazakhstan became quite clouded during the corona crisis. Kazakhstan kept many borders with Russia closed. Mainly for fear of the further spread of the coronavirus. Massive traffic jams and uprisings caused further delays. Russia is unprecedentedly popular with migrant workers from Central Asia. Many Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Tajiks and Kyrgyz were unable to return to their families at the turn of the year. The truck carrying relief supplies stood still for several weeks with no hope of progress. After the Orthodox Christmas, things finally moved forward. The relief goods were allowed to cross the border. Only 2,500 kilometres of Kazakh steppe remained to be braved. In a few days, this was accomplished, and the goods were in front of the Kyrgyz border.
As of January 2020, the border crossings between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan were closed. The truck carrying relief supplies was again in front of a closed gate. Again political to social unrest. There seemed to be no end in sight.
To make matters worse, many government employees in Kyrgyzstan were laid off. So did the contacts who had arranged everything. Contact was no longer possible, and many services were not operational. Land borders were still closed. Upon opening the borders, we were surprised with the news that all the goods had been in the customs terminal for some time. On the spur of the moment, the Kyrgyz partners went to the terminal. What they found there was unfavourable.
All the pallets had been opened. All the items were scattered throughout the terminal. Everything was covered in dust and sand. Fortunately, the cargo seemed complete, but many items required cleaning and repairing. As quickly as possible, everything was transported to our office in Karakol. The local organization cleaned and refurbished the goods to the best of its abilities. Despite countless setbacks, everything came together in the end. The first goods were distributed to locals in need.
Due to the corona crisis, no revenues were made, and setbacks have caused transportation costs to skyrocket. Therefore, we decided to sell traditional yurts (tents) in the Netherlands. Profits are spent entirely on social projects in Kyrgyzstan. In addition, Crowd Funding still exists for transportation costs. More information can be found here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/corona-hulptransport-kirgizie