Cold Harms Those in Poverty
It may be easy to guess that during the colder months, those in poverty have a much more difficult time surviving than in warmer times. All around the world, people are struggling to stay warm – many in poverty must decide whether it is more important to have “heat or eat.” One cannot underestimate the reality of how the cold harms those in poverty globally.

Why the Cold is So Difficult for Those in Poverty

For many, cold weather signifies the dreaded winter season. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), families who are poor are four to five times more likely to live in cold homes and more than 30% of houses that are lower-income cannot keep their houses warm globally. Especially during the pandemic, families who have lost jobs are struggling now more than ever to keep their households at a decent temperature. Fuel poverty was a term that first emerged after the 1973 oil crisis to mean a period marked by increased prices in fuel which disproportionately affects low-income families. In essence, it is the inability to afford heating for one’s house at a reasonable cost.

Fuel poverty becomes all the more alarming when one considers the ramifications of living in cold homes during the winter. It is unimaginably uncomfortable and the Institute of Health Equity also reports that cold homes lead to higher mortality and morbidity rates. Lancet Planetary Health found that five million people die a year simply from the inability to adjust to temperature changes. Colder temperatures have links to more deaths of those in poverty and the stress of not being able to afford fuel can come in the form of both physical and mental illnesses. Those in poverty sometimes cannot afford the extra expense of fuel and heating for their homes. If they do, the population must sacrifice other aspects of their spending, such as basic nutrition. Thus, it is clear that the cold harms those in poverty much more than the average-income family.

Examples of the Effects of the Cold in Lebanon

Several regions around the world are struggling because of cold, winter weather. Studies have not shown that colder nations are more subject to poverty. However, more people are struggling to pay fuel costs as a result of rising costs due to the pandemic and inflation. Thus, during times of economic peril, low-income families struggle immensely in the cold. Most recently, Storm Hiba has left Lebanese citizens and Syrian refugees in desperate circumstances.

Lebanon’s recent currency crisis has left many families in poverty, thus unable to afford the resources necessary to protect against the cold. Many are burning old clothes and plastic goods to keep warm, while others are simply relying on blankets. Since 90% of the Syrian refugees who live in Lebanon are in poverty, it is clear that the cold is disproportionately targeting them. Costs of wood are five times the minimum wage, while costs of diesel are 10 times what they were in 2019. Thus, those in poverty cannot afford to stay warm.

How Cold Harms Those in Poverty in Kazakhstan and Other Parts of Europe

Several other countries are victims of the cold weather’s effects on those in poverty. Kazakhstan, one of the coldest nations in the world, is deeply reliant on coal for heating. According to a study by Nazarbayez University, 28% of families in Kazakhstan have to spend more than 10% of their income simply on fuel for heating in the winter. This is a major problem for families who are in poverty, especially as energy prices rise.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 6.9 million children have experienced displacement from their homes are at high risk for severe winter weather. The children come from numerous countries, such as Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Already, they are trying to keep warm in plastic containers and deaths have occurred as well. Even wealthier nations experience severe cold weather plights due to fuel poverty. National Energy Action found that 9,700 people die in the U.K. from living in cold homes.

Save the Children and the Community Action on Fuel Poverty (CAFP)

Many organizations are trying to help victims of the cold. Save the Children is a U.K.-based organization that seeks to provide aid to children in poverty globally. The organization has continuously been searching for better accommodations for children in severe temperatures and has provided blankets, hygiene baskets and warm clothing to those in desperate need. The Community Action on Fuel Poverty (CAFP) is an organization that seeks to spread awareness of poverty through outreach to everyday people. It hosts workshops and sessions, training and energy-efficient campaigns to promote knowledge about the fuel poverty crisis in different communities in England specifically.

Learning about different benefits to lower the cost of fuel prices and information on legislation affecting fuel costs are what work the CAFP promotes. Also, people can call upon local and international governments to increase awareness of thermal discomfort, especially for poor families during the lockdown. Governments need to make long-term plans for sourcing heat for all families during the winter.

The European Union’s Plans to Address Fuel Poverty

The European Union has developed a program to address fuel poverty, recognizing the budget to prevent fuel poverty has decreased greatly. Its plan “Energy Efficiency in Household Buildings” offers incentives to citizens who meet income criteria to maintain energy-efficient heating and cooling. The “Better Energy Warmer Homes” plan provides energy efficiency measures to low-income households specifically. Similar programs should begin in nations with fuel poverty crises currently as there is a lack of similar government initiatives in countries ranging from Lebanon to Kazakhstan.

While the cold harms those in poverty, there are ways in which poor families can find relief and comfort. Calling on governments to do more and donating to organizations similar to Save the Children can greatly benefit those in the cold.

Rachel Reardon
Photo: Flickr

Inclusive Education Programs
UNICEF is working alongside NGO Zhan, a software development company and a youth center to help children in Kazakhstan who have visual impairments gain more out of online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program teaches children with visual impairments how to access useful learning resources and maximize the benefits of technology. Inclusive education programs are particularly valuable in developing countries where many often stigmatize disabilities and those with disabilities do not receive accommodation from schools. The COVID-19 pandemic has made inclusive education even more essential due to an expansive surge in digital learning, which is rarely accessible to children with disabilities.

UNICEF’s Approach

UNICEF and NGO Zhan program taught children how to navigate smartphones, computers, web resources and messenger and navigation apps. The children also learned the basics of programming and became familiar with several software programs, as UNICEF reported.

Children who participated in the program ended up with heightened abilities to communicate with their teachers, peers and families, both inside and outside of school. Children with visual impairments who learn technological skills like computer programming have better chances of finding stable jobs later in life. Inclusive education programs like UNICEF’s help provide opportunities to children with disabilities who may otherwise lack access to education altogether, especially in developing countries.

Educational Benefits

Children with disabilities are often marginalized within educational systems, which makes it difficult to find career opportunities as adults. Children with disabilities face disproportionate amounts of exclusion in low-income areas, according to the World Bank. Educational programs that provide learning resources for children with disabilities help put them on level playing fields with their classmates.

Teachers in developing countries often lack the training and resources to assist children with disabilities, so outside organizations like UNICEF can help make schools more inclusive. According to the World Bank, inclusive education programs may involve teacher training, removing physical barriers for students and obtaining accessible learning materials. These resources allow children with disabilities the opportunity to learn the same material as their classmates without falling behind in school or missing out on job opportunities in the future.

Socioeconomic Benefits

Around the world, 57 million children lack access to primary education. While many children with disabilities struggle to keep up in school without accommodations, others lack access to education altogether. Educational disparities in low-income areas are particularly common among young girls.

Inclusive education programs and policies can improve child literacy, gender equality and educational opportunities at large for children with disabilities. When more children have access to positive educational experiences, more children can enter the workforce and contribute to their local and national economies.

UNICEF’s program for children with visual impairments is a prime example of how inclusive education can benefit children’s education and social lives. Inclusive education accepts and embraces all children, allowing them to succeed in school and pursue their ambitions for the future.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

Kazakhstan COVID-19 vaccine
Kazakhstan’s struggle to motivate its citizens to receive the COVID-19 vaccine is leading to increased COVID-19 cases. In April 2021, 137,000 Kazakh citizens out of a population of 19 million received the first dose of the vaccine and less than half of those had received the second dose. Pressure from Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has helped increase the number of fully vaccinated citizens, but as of August 2021, only about 22% of the population is fully vaccinated.

The Kazakh President

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev expressed his outrage over the slow pace of vaccination. He warned both the health minister and his government, saying, “In April, you must turn the tide, otherwise a personnel decision that is going to be very disappointing for you will follow.”

Reasons for the Hesitancy

The country began administering QazVac, Kazakhstan’s domestically produced COVID-19 vaccine, before the completion of clinical trials. The Research Institute for Biological Safety Problems, a state-backed research center, assured the public that the vaccine is safe. However, many Kazakhs fear that the vaccine has not yet gone through enough testing. The QazVac vaccine finished trials in July 2021. However, some experts remain skeptical because these trials only included 3,000 people as test subjects, compared with approximately 43,000 Pfizer trial participants.

The Impact of Vaccine Hesitancy in Kazakstan

Kazakhstan’s recent struggle has included its largest economic shock since the late 1990s. The COVID-19 pandemic decreased economic activity worldwide, causing the price of oil to drop. As oil is Kazakhstan’s main export, the price drop caused its economy to contract by 2.5% in 2020. As a result, the poverty rate increased from 6% in 2016 to 12-14% in 2020, curtailing years’ worth of progress.

The pandemic has increased urban unemployment by halting travel and social outings, limiting jobs in retail, hospitality, wholesale and transport. According to the World Bank, these four main industries account for 30% of urban employment in Kazakhstan.

While poverty has surged in cities, the pandemic has hit rural areas even harder. World Bank Country Manager for Kazakhstan Jean-Francois Marteau has expressed that to combat this disparity, Kazakhstan needs to implement reforms focused on inclusive economic recovery and productivity. Long-term reforms will be necessary to alleviate Kazakhstan’s struggle as the pandemic’s economic impact will last two to three years.

Economic Recovery

Kazakhstan’s economic recovery is largely dependent on the world’s economic recovery. As COVID-19 cases decrease and countries lift restrictions, allowing travel and day-to-day activities to resume, oil prices will recover. Additionally, as more people become vaccinated and vaccines become more readily available and trusted, the spread of COVID-19 should slow. Retailers, restaurants and the hospitality industry will begin to reopen and managers will be able to rehire employees they had to let go due to lockdowns.

As this recovery takes place, predictions determine that Kazakhstan’s economy could grow by 2.5% in 2021 and 3.5% in 2022, providing hope to the nation.

Lily Vassalo
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid in Central Asia
Central Asia comprises Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. The combined population of these countries is about 72 million. Promising foreign aid efforts in Central Asia are working to combat a variety of issues in these countries.

Food Distribution

One critical area for foreign aid in Central Asia has been food security. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been leading a program to provide food to impoverished children in Tajikistan. This program has given vegetable oil and flour to more than 22,000 households in Tajikistan.

This has been part of a more significant effort by the WFP School Feeding Programme to ensure student food security in Tajikistan. The School Feeding Programme has helped more than 600,000 students across the country.

Russia is a critical contributor to these aid programs. Since 2012, Russia has given more than $28 million to the School Feeding Programme to facilitate food distribution and the modernization of food infrastructure for schools.

The World Food Programme and Russia are not the only sources of food aid in Central Asia. The United Arab Emirate’s 100 Million Meals campaign has distributed more than 600,000 meals to Central Asia as of June 2021.

The organization gave out food baskets with enough food to feed an entire family for a month. It assists families in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The campaign coordinated with other charity organizations within these three countries, and the campaign target has already increased from 100 million meals to more than 200 million meals.

Electrical and Water Supply

Another critical area for foreign aid in Central Asia is the development of electrical infrastructure and water management. The U.S. recently started an effort via USAID to develop a sustainable and reliable electricity market in the region. An October 2020 agreement between USAID, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan planned to create an electrical market with “expected economic benefits from regional trade and… reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

USAID also recently started the Water and Vulnerable Environment project, which will help all five Central Asian countries. The project aims to “promote regional cooperation to improve natural resources (water) management that sustains both growths, promote[s] healthy ecosystems, and prevent[s] conflict.” This is the second water management project USAID has supported in the region in recent years, as it recently completed the Smart Waters project.

The Smart Waters project successfully ensured that dozens of citizens received degrees in water management or received additional training in the field. The project also trained almost 3,000 people in “water resources management, water diplomacy, water-saving technologies, and international water law through 100 capacity building events.”

Medical Assistance

USAID partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2021 to help Uzbekistan address the management of drug-resistant tuberculosis. The project’s goal is to better manage the disease by providing assistance to Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Health. The program conducted 35 training sessions throughout Uzbekistan, which resulted in more than 600 specialists receiving certification to prevent, identify and treat drug-resistant tuberculosis.

In recent years, foreign aid in Central Asia has resulted in food distribution, medical assistance, efforts to develop an electrical grid and assistance in water management. The U.S., Russia and the United Arab Emirates have contributed to these efforts alongside various international and local organizations.

– Coulter Layden
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in KazakhstanIn 2018, a migrant named E.Sh.M. lost his documents while trying to cross the border into Kazakhstan. Upon arrival at the nearest market, human traffickers kidnapped him and sold him into forced labor on a farm. There, he was illegally detained and subjected to inhumane working conditions where his employer would regularly abuse him. On one extreme occasion, E.Sh.M.’s legs were beaten with an ax, and his finger was cut off. E.Sh.M. serves as just one example of the treatment that migrants who become victims of human trafficking in Kazakhstan endure.

The Influx of Foreign Migrants

Kazakhstan used to be a land of emigration and transit to Russia. However, this changed at the start of the new millennium when the country’s economy improved. The influx of migrants increased even more after the Russian financial crisis in 2014 as Kazakhstan became more financially accessible to citizens from Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, who now make up the bulk of the migrant population. In 2015, the U.N. estimated that 20% of Kazakhstan’s population were migrants.

What Leads to Migrant Vulnerability

The case of E.Sh.M. is not an anomaly. Rather, it is emblematic of the larger issue of human trafficking in Kazakhstan, which has registered more than 1,100 crimes in the last three years. Labor exploitation, especially of male migrants coming from Central Asia, is just as dominant as sexual exploitation in the country. Trafficked migrants are forced into construction and agricultural work. They are lured with the promise of a high income. Instead, they are illegally detained and forced into labor. Therefore, the poor economic conditions of the migrant’s native country combined with the common recruitment tactic of a deceptive income are factors responsible for the exacerbation of human trafficking in Kazakhstan.

Although E.Sh.M. lost his documents, a more sinister approach for human traffickers in Kazakhstan is forcefully taking away documents and leveling violent threats against migrants. Rodnik is an NGO that helps survivors of human trafficking in Kazakhstan. Diana Bakyt, a lawyer who works for Rodnik, reiterated this point in an interview with The Borgen Project. Bakyt stated, “the main risk factor for getting into a situation of human trafficking is the lack of identity documents.” If a migrant emigrates for work without proper documentation stating their relationship with their employer, they risk trafficking.

The Impact of COVID-19

With borders closing at the beginning of the pandemic, hundreds of Central Asian migrants were left stranded at the Russian-Kazakh border. However, as restrictions eased, the plight of the migrants did not. Migrants lost income during the lockdown, and they were also subjected to a migrant phobia media onslaught. Rhetoric, such as “hotbeds for infections” and “breeding grounds for the virus,” has stigmatized migrants. Migrants stranded at the border became “congestions.” These notions further worsen the vulnerability of migrants and increase the risk of human trafficking.

Rodnik has Solutions

Nina Balabayeva founded Kazakhstan’s first shelter, Rodnik, in 2006. The nongovernmental organization has since become the leading mitigator of human trafficking in the country and has provided assistance to more than 16,000 people.

Taking on the plight of the migrants, Diana Bakyt stated that Rodnik has assisted with documentation, securing of legal fees and the return of trafficked migrants to their homeland. The organization is also responsible for combating the migrant phobia supplied by the media and is working to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure to migrants. E.Sh.M.’s story could only have a platform today because Rodnik assisted in his return back to Kyrgyzstan in 2021.

Based in Almaty, Rodnik lies in a pivotal location. Almaty is the primary destination for migrant workers in Kazakhstan. In collaboration with USAID, UNICEF, Winrock International and the Eurasia Foundation, Rodnik has successfully implemented several campaigns and projects, including multiple information drives. During one of these drives, migrant workers on the streets of Almaty received booklets. In a single day, more than 500 people learned about the risks of the human trafficking of migrants in Kazakhstan.

Owing to their founder’s degree in psychology, Bakyt stated that the organization also prioritizes providing psychological help to victims. Other institutions that Rodnik works with include governments, schools, healthcare institutions, militaries, social workers, migration officers and law enforcement.

What Lies Ahead for Kazakhstan

While stories about migrants like E.Sh.M. are heartbreaking, his fight inspires others to stand against human trafficking. Kazakhstan has recently seen an increase of new migrants as a byproduct of the pandemic. However, the tireless efforts of organizations like Rodnik show that trafficking can be overcome.

– Iris Anne Lobo
Photo: Flickr

Oil and Poverty in Kazakhstan
Oil and poverty in Kazakhstan have an inextricable link. Kazakhstan is located in Central Asia with a population of over 19 million people. The last country to declare independence from the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan spent its first years as an independent nation focused on nation-building rather than economic policy. However, thanks to the development of the country’s oil and gas resources and a focus on exports at the turn of the century, the country became one of the top 10 fastest-growing economies in the world as recently as 2015.

This dependence on oil exports has created challenges for the country. In 2014 and 2015, large drops in oil prices cut export revenues in Kazakhstan by almost half. The deficit that followed caused the government to take quick action. It reduced or delayed previously planned spending on infrastructure and tightened exchange rate policies.

Poverty in Kazakhstan

The statistics on poverty in Kazakhstan are hopeful. In 2018, only about 4.3% of the population lived below the poverty line and the unemployment rate was only 4.8%. This is an impressive improvement from the 48.9% poverty rate in 2005. The improvement is largely due to new employment opportunities from the oil industry that have allowed more people to have a steady income.

While this decrease in poverty has been inarguably a good development, the rate at which the increase has happened has led many to worry that the country could just as quickly fall back into decline. With so much of the economy dependent on oil prices, a very volatile industry, the impact of oil and poverty in Kazakhstan is something that experts are very concerned with.

On top of the regular fluctuations in oil prices, the COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact on the economy of Kazakhstan. The pandemic brought activity across the globe to a halt. As stay-at-home orders went into place, the demand for oil dropped significantly, which caused oil prices to drop. 

The Good News

Despite the link between oil and poverty in Kazakhstan, there is good news. According to the World Bank, the life expectancy in Kazakhstan is 73 years. This has been steadily rising since the country became independent in 1991. Infant and maternal mortality rates have also been in decline in recent years. 

Kazakhstan has also improved the basic necessities of its citizens. About 97.4% of the population now has access to clean drinking water and 99.9% have access to sanitation facilities. Meanwhile, 100% of citizens have access to electricity. Education, which has a direct link to economic growth, is doing well with 99.8% of people over 15 being able to read and write. 

Looking to the Future

Looking forward, there are ways for Kazakhstan to mitigate the damage fluctuations in oil prices can cause to its citizens. Oil and poverty in Kazakhstan will always have a link. However, diversifying the economy is a major step to reducing the impact of changing oil prices on the country. The country must focus on the non-oil economy by implementing new policies that will focus on investing in infrastructure and human capital. By focusing on expanding the economy, decreases in oil prices will not result in such massive deficits in the future.

Taryn Steckler-Houle
Photo: Flickr

hunger in kazakhstanKazakhstan has made great strides in reducing hunger levels within its borders. In the 1920s, the country experienced a famine that led to up to 33% of the Kazakh population dying. The country experienced another famine in the 1930s, during which up to 1.5 million people died. Today, Kazakhstan has put forward a tremendous effort in reducing hunger to a very low hunger level. The country ranks 20th out of 117 qualifying countries, behind nations such as Uruguay, Bulgaria and Chile. Less than 2.5% of children experience undernourishment, and Kazakhstan boasts an under-5 mortality rate due to hunger of 1%. However, even with low hunger levels, efforts to reduce hunger in Kazakhstan remain steady. Without reducing hunger levels, children’s growth can be stunted and malnourishment can cause future health problems, something the country has been trying to avoid following its post-Soviet rule.

Hunger in Kazakhstan: A New Food Crisis

While hunger in Kazakhstan has largely been eliminated, the country is taking a new approach to food accessibility and education. Now, the types of foods that Kazakhs are eating are not as nutritious as they could be. Almost 20% of children from ages six to nine are overweight, and only about one in three children consume fresh fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. These eating habits are due in part to cultural practices of Kazakhs, as many come from nomadic cultures where food, mainly meat, had to be preserved with high levels of salt. This practice continues today, and both traditional and commercially produced food has extremely high levels of salt. The average salt intake in Kazakhstan has reached almost 17 grams a day, four times the WHO recommended daily limit. This makes Kazakhstan’s salt intake the highest in the world. Additionally, many Kazakh foods contain very high levels of trans fatty acids, which often connect with higher blood pressure, obesity, a higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Without regulating and changing the food industries to guide consumers toward healthier options, Kazakhstan will be looking at increased medical costs for rising health issues related to nutrition.

Looking Forward to Solutions

To find solutions, Kazakhstan will need to include both healthy marketing techniques as well as provide more options for fresh fruits and vegetables. While it will be difficult to change traditional methods of food preparation, by including more fresh produce in food preparation Kazakhs can begin to reduce their salt and trans fatty acid intake, significantly improving their health. Additionally, while current levels of hunger in Kazakhstan are low, the coronavirus has impacted food prices and availability. Since January 2020, the costs of food have increased to be 11.3 % higher than they were in 2019. Global trade has been limited due to health and safety concerns, and since agriculture in Kazakhstan takes up a small percentage of its economy, accessing fresh produce during the pandemic has been difficult.

The country is making great strides toward reducing hunger in Kazakhstan and the effects of malnourishment within its borders. However, without an approach toward making healthy food accessible and informing citizens of healthy food practices, Kazakhstan is likely to see a rise in health concerns due to obesity and other non-communicable diseases. This process will take a coordinated effort from multiple areas of Kazakh society, but if Kazakhstan is successful in reducing obesity, the country will be well on its way to a full recovery from its history.

Julia Canzano
Photo: Pixabay

Kazakhstan’s Healthcare System
In the midst of a global health crisis, easy access to healthcare is more important than ever. Unfortunately, most people in Kazakhstan were already struggling with limited healthcare funding, high levels of chronic disease and restricted access to care prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the country’s daily new COVID-19 case numbers approached 2,000 in early July 2020, social reforms and organizations like the World Bank have worked to combat this crisis and improve healthcare in Kazakhstan.

Background

Kazakhstan is a country in Central Asia that Russia, China, the Caspian Sea and a number of former Soviet republics border. Once a member of the former Soviet Union, the world around Kazakhstan has shaped both it and its culture. The exploitation of its natural resources and the migration of surrounding peoples into the country have influenced its development and geography. A new movement to reinstate traditional Kazakh culture has resulted in various reforms in both its society and government, including reforms in healthcare.

Health and Kazakhstan’s Population

Poor diet, pollution and inadequate healthcare negatively affect the health of Kazakhstan’s population. Compared with the countries surrounding it, Kazakhstan’s infant mortality rate is one of the highest at 17.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. Additionally, Kazakhstan’s average life expectancy is at 72 years. Moreover, access to healthcare in rural areas has limitations. According to IntegratedCare4People, a website that the World Health Organization manages, the northern, rural region of Kostanay has 266 physicians per 100,000 people, while the rest of the country has, on average, 388 physicians per 100,000 people.

The Current Healthcare System

In the past, the healthcare system has failed to focus on the significance of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cancer, and blood pressure issues, focusing more on transmissible diseases. Recently, the government has expanded primary-care services (generalized care aiming to improve the life expectancy of a population) to combat the growing chronic disease mortality. The ultimate goal of Kazakhstan’s reforms is to transition to a universal healthcare system with greater cost transparency and a better quality of life. Over the years, the government has steadily increased healthcare funding and reduced the influence of private insurance.

The Shift Toward Universal Healthcare

The newest reform, the Compulsory Social and Medical Insurance (CSMI) program, which went into effect in January 2020, aims to create a single-payer healthcare system. The intent is for public insurance to pay for certain medical expenses and regulate healthcare quality. The goal of the program is to reduce out-of-pocket expenses (the cost of care that patients are responsible for), which made up 45.14% of Kazakhstan’s total health spending in 2014. However, despite steady growth in funding, healthcare financing in Kazakhstan is still very limited. Health spending makes up 3.1% of the GDP, in comparison with the global average of 9.89%, as of 2017. With an average yearly income of $26,300 per capita, Kazakhstan cannot achieve widespread public insurance without stimulating its economy.

The World Bank and Kazakhstan

In 2019, economic expansion caused wages in Kazakhstan to increase by 8.9% and poverty to decrease to 8.5%. Though the quick spread of COVID-19 in the country will likely backtrack some of these achievements, the World Bank has set up the Country Partnership Framework, a strategy for increasing economic support for Kazakhstan from 2020 until 2025. The goals of this framework are to expand economic diversity, minimize the healthcare gap between rural and urban areas, decrease carbon usage and increase energy efficiency. Part of the World Bank’s work in Kazakhstan includes offering grants to businesses to improve health and economic outcomes. The World Bank has sponsored and commercialized inventions like X-matrix (a wound dressing for burns) and invested in agricultural technology to boost Kazakhstan’s economy.

Healthcare in Kazakhstan is majorly dependent on its economy. While government funding for healthcare is far behind similar countries, the steady growth of business and investment will allow it to slowly increase. The effects of COVID-19 in Kazakhstan are meeting with productive and long-term funding from organizations like the World Bank. With steady growth and progress, Kazakhstan’s healthcare system and overall health should be able to improve over time.

Ann Marie Vanderveen
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in KazakhstanPoverty in Kazakhstan compares to what small businesses around the world face now that COVID-19 has changed the game. Kazakhstan is not a developing country. It is not a top player in the international market either. It is somewhere in between. And with the new and confusing world that we live in now, Kazakhstan is going to have a difficult time maintaining its good trade relations.

Kazakhstan is Like a Small Business

COVID-19 has thrown the plight of small businesses around the world into the spotlight. Now more than ever people are realizing the struggle of small businesses to stay afloat during a pandemic among other larger businesses. Poverty in Kazakhstan is like a small business. It has been making headway in the global market, but now that the pandemic has hit, its economy will struggle to stay afloat among the other major players in the world economy, an economy that goes under spells with poverty in Kazakhstan for many of its citizens. With the GDP per capita increased by a factor of six, poverty in Kazakhstan has decreased. But, this upward trend may not hold if the pandemic continues to restrict the country’s international trade. According to the Asian Development Bank, Kazakhstan’s poverty rate is 4.3%.

The US–Kazakhstan Relations

Trade relationships and federal direct investments are a key part of success for small countries like Kazakhstan. The U.S.–Kazakhstan relations have been thriving in past years, having signed the U.S.–Kazakhstan Bilateral Investment Treaty and the Treaty on the Avoidance of Dual Taxation. And this has improved Kazakhstan’s economy tremendously; in 2006, Kazakhstan became a part of the upper-middle-income bracket instead of the lower-middle-income bracket. Trade makes up 60.6% of Kazakhstan’s GDP. Federal direct investments allow for the country to focus on its largest economic contributors: mining and manufacturing.

A major country recognizing a state’s independence is a colossal benefit to a rising state, and that is exactly what the U.S. did for Kazakhstan when it was the first country to recognize its independence. The U.S. set up an Embassy and a Consulate General in Kazakhstan. Now that Kazakhstan has excellent relations with countries of the east and the west, perhaps it will be able to maintain its footing in the global economy. Kazakhstan has excellent relations with Russia, the Middle East and Asia and is completing its term on the Security Council of the U.N. These are great strides, but the progress that Kazakhstan’s economy has made may backslide because of the restriction that the pandemic has imposed on so many countries.

The Impact of COVID-19

 The World Bank has stated that “If the pandemic continues to spread and the external economic environment deteriorates further, GDP could contract by as much as 3 percent in 2020, which would significantly increase the poverty rate.” Two of its major cities – Almaty and Nur-Sultan – are already inaccessible outsiders. Large corporations have been unable to get loans because the banks are too afraid that they will not pay them back. The deficit has already grown to 3.3% of the GDP as of 2019.

Here is a look at Kazakhstan’s predicted future in 2020:

  • There could be a 0.8% drop in GDP because of decreasing demand from foreign consumers and “COVID-19 mitigation measures sap[ping] consumer demand and investment.”
  • Predictions have determined that 6% of the GDP will increase the deficit because of the aforementioned trade decline and the fact that the price of oil will be lower.

In conclusion, Kazakhstan has become a thriving market over the years. It has excellent trade relations in almost every part of the world and its poverty rate has reduced due to a bolstering in the economy. COVID-19 is affecting every country, though, and Kazakhstan is particularly vulnerable because its economy was still growing, and now may see regressions.

The situation in Kazakhstan is not all bad, though. The U.S., along with USAID, is contributing to a relief fund that will give Kazakhstan $800,000. This money will go towards fighting the virus by preparing labs, tracking down cases, etc. Though the world is certainly not perfect, it is heartening to see the quick and unencumbered responses of countries to help each other.

Moriah Thomas
Photo: Pixabay

Sanitation in Kazakhstan
Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is critical for health and quality of life. As the last of the Soviet republics to declare independence in 1991, much of Kazakhstan’s population still faces the aftermath of the Soviet rule. Poor living conditions and limited access to water in rural populations worsened after the collapse of the Soviet Union. With structural elements of the state completely dismantled, the country faced shortages of basic goods and services, especially water. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Kazakhstan.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Kazakhstan

  1. Over half of the global population (4.2 billion people) lack safe sanitation. 2 out of 5 people in the world (3 billion people) lack basic hand washing facilities. In many parts of the world like Kazakhstan that have experienced recent economic, social or political turmoil, the ability to obtain safe and accessible water is a serious issue.
  2. Less than 30% of the Kazakhstan population has access to safe water and sanitation. About 50% of the population uses drinking water that does not meet the international standards of salinity, hardness and bacteriological standards.
  3. Before 1990, the rural water supply network in Kazakhstan included 54 major pipelines, bringing water to 3 million people in rural and urban areas. Additionally, 16.2 million livestock in 97.5 million hectares of irrigated land were supplied with water. Currently, the quality of nearly all Kazakhstan’s water bodies are unsatisfactory. Nearly 16 % of water tests taken from different water bodies showed sub-standard water quality across the country.
  4. Water scarcity and poor water quality are more prevalent in rural areas, where declining water supply networks and high pollution levels are common. In 2001, 17.3% of the rural Kazakhstan population had access to cold water on tap from the piped system, and 2.8% had access to hot water on tap. Many rural communities are still suffering from dilapidated Soviet-era plumbing projects, but even the functioning plumbing still carries water heavy with bacteria.
  5. According to the UNDP, the distribution of surface and groundwater in Kazakhstan is uneven. Central Kazakhstan has access to only 3% of the country’s water. While the Kazakhstani urban population is covered 90% by piped water, only 28% of the rural people have access to piped water. Around 20% of the rural population in Kazakhstan has the same level of piped water coverage as Sub-Saharan Africa.
  6. No significant changes in patterns of access to piped water have been noted in recent studies from 2001 to 2010. Access to piped water in Kazakhstan’s rural areas remains approximately 29%. These conditions may be surprising, given the massive governmental drinking water program launched from 2002 to 2010, aiming to increase rural access to piped water systems.
  7. Sanitation in rural areas also remains inadequate. In terms of bathroom facilities, 92.2% of the rural population has toilets outside the home, 7.5% inside the home and 0.3% do not have access to toilets at all. Previous UNDP studies show that only 2.8% of rural houses are connected to the sewage system.
  8. Water access affects a majority of those living in rural areas. Only 36% of the rural population has access to a centralized water supply. 57.3% use groundwater through wells and boreholes. Furthermore, 2.6% of the population use water from surface sources and 4% drink delivered water.
  9. Even in houses with connections to water supplies, 53% of people make sure to boil the water. The number climbs to 56% in areas where people have an intermittent supply or suffer from gastroenteritis. Such poor water quality can largely be explained by wastewater dumping, irregularities in wastewater disinfecting and the poor condition of sewerage equipment.
  10. One region where a lack of access to clean drinking water presents serious health problems is Kyrgyzstan. There, each official records 30,000 acute intestinal infections with 24% related to parasites. Up to 86% of typhoid cases occur in villages that lack safe drinking water.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require nations to ensure sufficient sanitation and access to safe water. To improve sanitation in Kazakhstan, rural areas will need much stronger attention, as past efforts neglected and overlooked these areas, to comply with UN Millenium Development Goals (MDGs).

From 2010 to 2013, the UNDP provided $1.5 billion to the Kazakhstan government for water management. The money was meant for the Kazakhstan government to invest in water management, pollution reduction and efficient use of water resources. Additionally, the European Union has also been sharing its experience and policies with Kazakhstan.

Moving forward, it is critical that national drinking water programs are based on surveys of existing water and sanitation services. In order to be successful, these programs must take into special consideration the needs of rural villages.

Danielle Straus
Photo: Flickr