Sanitation in Kyrgyzstan
With a population of just over six million people, Kyrgyzstan is a small, mostly rural country in Central Asia, nestled between the fertile Fergana valley and some of the highest mountain ranges in the world. Today, much of Kyrgyzstan’s population does not have access to proper sanitation facilities. However, with a rise in international support, Kyrgyzstan is making hopeful strides towards better health and sanitation. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Kyrgyzstan. 

10 Facts About Sanitation in Kyrgyzstan

  1. Geographic Issues: Dotted with hundreds of mountainous peaks, Kyrgyzstan’s geography makes it one of the most difficult countries to navigate in the world. With 65% of the population living in rural areas and steep terrain making travel between remote communities difficult, providing comprehensive access to sanitation in Kyrgyzstan has been a persistent challenge.
  2. Limited Sanitation Facilities: Kyrgyzstan has a large number of rivers running throughout the country, many originating from alpine glaciers. These include many tributaries of the Syr Darya, one of Central Asia’s longest rivers. Despite the presence of water resources, Kyrgyzstan lacks facilities that allow for national access to water and ensure water quality. As a result, many people in rural areas use irrigation water for sanitation and household purposes.
  3. Sanitation in Schools: According to UNICEF, more than 36% of schools in Kyrgyzstan have no water supply and many have not been renovated since the Soviet era. This lack of adequate sanitation facilities, along with an absence of menstrual hygiene supplies, has resulted in many female students dropping out of school.
  4. Waterborne Diseases: An estimated 88% of cases of infectious diseases in Kyrgyzstan are due to poor water quality. With limited wastewater treatment and a lack of supervision over water quality, waterborne diseases are highly prevalent in Kyrgyzstan. As of 2017, rules for water quality at supply facilities were only recommended and not actively enforced.
  5. Aging Water Facilities and Systems: A significant issue facing sanitation facilities in Kyrgyzstan is the deteriorating conditions of existing water systems. According to the WHO, 40% of water pipes are out of operation because they exceeded their terms of use. Now, more than 4,000 standpipes remain out of service. Although the Kyrgyz Department for Development of Water Supply and Sanitation bears the responsibility of repairing these pipes, the department has not yet implemented a plan.
  6. Urban and Rural Disparities: Access to sanitation in Kyrgyzstan is heavily dependent on economic conditions and location. In urban areas, wastewater management, water supply and water quality are all higher quality than in rural regions. According to the U.N., 42% of the capital has access to piped sewage, compared to only 3% of the predominantly rural Batken region.
  7. World Bank Efforts: Founded in 2016 by the World Bank, the Sustainable Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Development Project has invested more than $36 million in providing water to rural communities in Kyrgyzstan. The project has already provided water access to more than 250 remote villages and is expected to benefit 200,000 people.
  8. WASH: Partnering with the Kyrgyz government, UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Program has supported the construction of sanitation facilities in schools and hospitals. The program also involves awareness campaigns to educate the public on proper hygiene practices. According to UNICEF, WASH has been implemented in more than 100 schools in Kyrgyzstan. From 2006 to 2014, the proportion of the population using appropriately treated water increased from 35% to more than 77%.
  9. Asian Development Bank Funding: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has made significant contributions toward addressing sanitation in the rural Naryn region. These contributions include a $27.4 million financial package that aims to provide water to 64,000 people in the province. ADB’s program plans to increase access to safe water to 90% and sanitation facilities to 70% by the year 2026. 
  10. Improved Water Facilities: Funded by the government of Finland and created by U.N. Women, the Livelihoods through Participation and Equal Access Program collaborates with local governments, schools, and water associations to establish improved water facilities across the country. By 2018, the program had increased access to irrigation water for over 20,000 people in rural Kyrgyzstan. It had also helped conduct advocacy campaigns to 30,000 people on the efficient use of natural resources.

While sanitation in Kyrgyzstan remains one of the country’s most pressing issues, it is clear that progress is being made. With continued support, Kyrgyzstan may soon overcome one of its most critical issues, enabling people across the nation to transform their lives for the better.

Shayaan Subzwari
Photo: Flickr