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

Since the turn of the millennium, Kazakhstan has made tremendous strides in reducing hunger and is now classified as a low-priority nation according to the 2016 Global Hunger Index (GHI). The GHI ranks countries based on a 100-point scale, taking into account the proportion of the population undernourished, and malnutrition among children and adults. According to the GHI, hunger in Kazakhstan is decreasing, having gone from a moderate level in 2008 with a score of 10.7, to a score of 7.8 in 2016.

In the heart of the central Asian region, Kazakhstan is the economic giant of the area. With a population of 18 million, it generates 60 percent of the region’s GDP. Its sustained economic growth in the last 20 years has helped lift millions out of extreme poverty, and in turn decreased starvation and malnutrition rates.

In addition to its economic growth, reducing hunger in Kazakhstan has been a concentrated effort in the last decade in the country. In 2007, as a partner of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) program, Kazakhstan aimed to cut the proportion of people who have no access to balanced nutrition in half. This goal focused on solving nutrition deficiencies in children and women of reproductive age, including “hidden hunger,” defined as a lack of vitamins such as zinc and iron in the diet. Tackling malnutrition and famine in Kazakhstan continues to be one of the country’s top goals.

Since taking on this goal in 2007, Kazakhstan has reduced the percentage of the population that is undernourished from 3.5 percent to 2.5 percent.  It has also decreased the prevalence of stunted growth in children less than five years old from 18 percent to 13 percent. A comprehensive government program which strives to provide balanced nutrition for children under five to prevent malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies is the primary method of the reduction of hunger in the region. These measures may also be a contributing factor to why mortality rates under five continue to drop in Kazakhstan, reaching as low as 1.4 percent in 2016.

Hunger in Kazakhstan remains a problem due to the persistence of rural poverty, even though the country has seen significant progress in its fight against hunger. Rural poverty’s continued presence is due to a lack of development in farming areas in Kazakhstan, where across the country children account for 34.5 percent of those in poverty. Kazakhstan’s MDG initiatives aim to bring these numbers down and combat both poverty and hunger at once.

Kazakhstan is just one example of the many countries that continue to rise out of poverty and improve health and living conditions. In areas such as Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, continuing the efforts to stifle hunger and malnutrition is vital to achieving the GHI’s goal of zero hunger by 2030.

Nicholas Dugan

Photo: Flickr

malnutrition in kazakhstan
Malnutrition in Kazakhstan? In the heart of Central Asia, a region known for issues with health, Kazakhstan stands as a possible success story in the well being of its people. With child malnutrition rates below five percent, lower than the Central Asian average and well below the rates for some of its neighbors, the Kazakh government and aid organizations working in the country have made improvements in malnutrition efforts worthy of praise.

Born in the post-Soviet world, Kazakhstan is still a relatively new state. Made up of ethnic Kazakhs as well as a large population of ethnic Russians, Kazakhstan is the largest country to come out of the USSR other than Russia itself. It dwarfs its neighbors of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, spanning across almost three million square miles of continent but remaining landlocked. It is the biggest economy in Central Asia and is currently going through an economic diversification process that the government hopes will stabilize and lengthen growth.

Almost all indicators of malnutrition have improved in Kazakhstan in the last decade. From 2004 to 2014, the prevalence of food inadequacy declined from 10.1 percent to 5.9 percent. The percent of children who are stunted declined from 17.5 percent in 2006 to 13.1 percent just four years later.

The prevalence of anaemia in children, which is characterized by fatigue and decreased work output, decreased from 35.4 percent in 2004 to 30 percent in 2011. However, the overall presence of undernourishment had almost no change from 2004 to 2007, leaving 800,000 people vulnerable to undernourishment.

Central Asia as a region has an ongoing battle with undernourishment and malnutrition. Common demarcations of this are anaemia, which is a decrease in the amount of red blood cells in the blood, iodine deficiency, iron deficiency and Vitamin A deficiency.

Kazakhstan preformed well in all of these categories. Iodine deficiency, which was a huge problem after the collapse of the Soviet Union, has been almost completely eradicated in Kazakhstan by iodizing all salt consumed in the country. Anaemia levels are lower in the country than in most of its neighbors. Regional averages for iron deficiencies and vitamin A deficiencies hover around 50-60 percent for women and children.

While by no means in the clear with malnutrition, especially for children, Kazakhstan has continued to improve in most indicators. It is working towards a more stable, diversified economy that will hopefully keep food prices low and unchanging.

Caitlin Huber

Sources: CIA,  Knoema,  IRIN
Photo: Inter Press Service News Agency

The problem of hunger in Kazakhstan is no longer considered urgent. As of 2004, the country has successfully achieved the first target, within the framework of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) one: halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger. However, the larger issue remains that a majority of the proportion still suffers from poverty and lacks access to a balanced nutrition.

In Kazakhstan, four percent of children under five are underweight, while almost one percent are severely underweight. Another 13 percent are stunted for their age, illustrating measures of both acute and chronic malnutrition. Hidden hunger, or deficiencies of vital vitamins and minerals in a diet, is common among children in Kazakhstan and often leads to their morbidity and mortality.

In related news, women are likely to obtain iron-deficiency anemia, with almost 50 percent of reproductive age women suffering from the condition. High rates of anemia during pregnancy have led to large numbers of children in Kazakhstan suffering from slow brain development, stunted growth and a decrease of intellectual capacity. Mothers who suffer from iron deficiencies also create a greater chance of death for their child during pregnancy and childbirth.

Lack of Vitamin A for pregnant women has also caused concern in Kazakhstan, due to the fact that roughly 20 percent of children are born with depressed immune systems. Consequently, the children are more prone to infectious diseases without the capability of fighting it off.

Poverty, especially in rural areas, is to blame for the remaining starvation in the country. Levels of rural poverty are currently twice as high as urban poverty, leaving many children in remote villages with inadequate food intake. Children in West Kazakhstan are more likely to be underweight than any other children in the country. However, the percentage decreases depending on the level of education of their mothers.

Although hunger in Kazakhstan is well on its way in being eliminated, the country still has work that needs to be done. Kazakhstan is active on the regional and international arena in achieving development goals and objectives. Given Kazakhstan’s success within the framework of MDG 1, this bodes well for social service delivery in the future.

– Leeda Jewayni

Sources: UNDP, UNDG
Photo: Flickr