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Child Poverty in Kyrgyzstan 

In 2013, child poverty in Kyrgyzstan was and remains around 32 percent. Although the number is high, the Central Asian country reduced the child poverty rate from 65 percent in 2002. Kyrgyzstan focused its efforts on reducing the overall poverty rate through social programs as the country developed economically after independence in the early 1990s. Despite the overall poverty rate dropping from 40 percent in 2006 to 25 percent in 2017, child poverty remains high. The negative effects of poverty, such as lack of education, clean drinking water and balanced nutrition, leads to a harsh life for children and the families that care for them.

Reasons for Child Poverty

Unemployment of parents is one of the main reasons for child poverty in Kyrgyzstan. The lack of sufficient income affects children in many ways. Healthcare and education might have to be cut if the parent or parents are in dire circumstances. Having one working parent reduces the risk of child poverty from 53.5 to 40 percent. Household size also increases the risk of child poverty. About 42 percent of children in poverty live in houses that contain four or more children. Similar to adult poverty, child poverty is mainly in rural areas. About 78 percent of poor children live in rural regions. Poverty among rural regions varies widely as well. Child poverty is 6.8 percent in Bishkek, 56 percent in Osh Province and 57.1 percent in Jalalabad Province. In these two regions, large families contribute to high poverty. The average household in these two regions has 2.9 children.

What’s Being Done

A social passport system, in use since the early 2000s, is one direct way that Kyrgyzstan is fighting child poverty.  The Unified Monthly Benefits includes discounts on heating, gas and hot water charges. In 2002, 92 percent of poor families had social passports.

As part of the Family and Children Support project, Every Child assists the most vulnerable families seeking help. The project included cultivating access and information to health and education services and recalculating social benefits. In 2018, Kyrgyzstan’s National Healthcare Reform Programme was completed. The results were on par with the Sustainable Development Goals relating to the key indicators for health. Children’s under-five mortality rate reduced from 33 percent in 2000 to 21 percent in 2015.

Ending Child Poverty

Child poverty reduced from 65 percent in 2002 to 32 percent in 2013, yet further assistance by NGOs and the government is needed to bring long-term changes to reduce it in Kyrgyzstan. Rural regions such as Osh Province and Jalalabad Province still have high rates that need addressing. Without sufficient income, families, especially large families, have difficulty providing proper healthcare and education to their children. Unified Monthly Benefits have helped grant families assistance to an array of benefits. Thanks to social programs, child poverty in Kyrgyzstan is being addressed, yet more work needs to be done to completely eliminate child poverty. With further progress, and based on the massive reduction in child poverty from 2002 to 2013, the country could end child poverty within the next 10 years.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Hydroelectric Power in Kyrgyzstan
The increasing demand for centralized electrical power has put growing pressure on the government to modernize Kyrgyzstan’s hydroelectric capacity. 1“’s government has sanctioned the expansion of its energy infrastructure to mitigate extreme poverty and improve access to fundamental necessities in rural communities. As a focal point of its export economy, hydroelectric power modules supply 76 percent of its electricity. With lowering water inflow and deteriorating infrastructure, Kyrgyzstan faces a unique problem in mitigating and expanding its hydroelectric import/export industry while balancing the rampant poverty and income inequality among rural and urban communities. The surrounding Kyrgyzstan economy relies mostly on agricultural cultivations and the cotton export industry. With the increased development of modules of hydroelectric power in Kyrgyzstan, the controlled water supply offers the potential for massive growth in the agricultural industry. As a renewable energy source, hydroelectric energy provides the potential to control the rate at which the water flows and of the amount used, which is crucial to energy production.

Socioeconomic Implications

Traditional agricultural methods that rural communities commonly practice create the potential for extensive economic growth through the implementation of an updated hydroelectric system. Through a controlled system, the irrigation of various crops is more efficient with a renewable energy source that has less pollution. With substantial economic implications, hydroelectric power in Kyrgyzstan encourages more commercial enterprises to migrate to agrarian areas where people cannot access basic public services like running water and education as easily.

With 32 percent under the poverty line, the need for a centralized hydroelectrical grid can have vast socioeconomic implications, with an improved water supply system and improved access to basic health necessities. With Kyrgyzstan’s main hydroelectric infrastructure outdated and in need of a sufficient upgrade the inconsistency attached to this older hydroelectric module creates insecurity in basic necessities. With access to basic social programs tentative on ideal weather conditions in urban communities, the expansion of clean renewable energy sources can potentially create an influx of economic prosperity and improve energy efficiency throughout the country.

A focused effort toward improving consistent energy output will allow the quality of life to improve and give the impoverished a promising start toward economic mobility with increasing hydroelectric power in Kyrgyzstan. Reducing toxic chemicals put into the air from traditional cooking/heating methods in rural communities can allow room for a more comprehensive hydropower infrastructure. Rural communities on average tend to use more fossil fuels with more than 60 percent using those perishables due to inconsistencies within hydroelectric distribution and no updated grid system that would make those other methods obsolete.

Government Legislation

Since its independence, Kyrgyzstan established a network of standard practice in energy distribution with a comprehensive legislative agenda. People are underutilizing the potential for an increased hydroelectric presence as a larger kinetic energy source with geographically crucial bodies of water producing 5-8 billion kW·h per year and the country only using 3 percent. A more consistent hydroelectric grid is necessary for Kyrgyzstan’s economy to boost its agricultural sector. The government introduced the National Energy Program that assists in renovating abandoned hydropower plants and initiates constructing new ones. Additionally, government sectors have committed to actively work on the cultivation of Kyrgyzstan’s massive untapped energy sector. Along with a growing private sector and updated technology to improve the essential food and health infrastructures hydroelectric power in Kyrgyzstan will increase the capacity of its economy.

Adam Townsend
Photo: Flickr

Why Is Kyrgyzstan PoorOnce known as one of the great crossroads of the Silk Road, the mountainous Kyrgyzstan lies in Central Asia. After being controlled by a rotating series of tribes and clans, the country finally gained sovereignty in 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Since its inception, the nation-state of Kyrgyzstan has made economic progress, but there have been serious obstacles during the transition. So, why is Kyrgyzstan poor?

Kyrgyzstan is undoubtedly a low-income country as it has the second lowest Gross National Income (GNI) in Europe and Central Asia and 32 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. There is also a significant wealth disparity between the urban and rural populations, with 74 percent of the country’s poor living in rural areas.

Kyrgyzstan’s economy heavily depends on farming which accounts for about one-third of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Furthermore, 48 percent of the workforce is employed in agriculture and 55 percent of the farming output comes from household plots where many individuals participate in subsistence farming.

Kyrgyzstan is only able to export cotton and tobacco as the country has few natural resources desired by the rest of the world. While there are untapped coal deposits and a major gold mine in the country, there has been little done to take advantage of these resources.

When asking “why is Kyrgyzstan poor?” one of the most important factors to be considered is the severe lack of access to proper banking and financial services. There has been little competition between large commercial banks, and the country has continued to rely on imperfect Soviet methods for accounting and banking. Furthermore, the Kyrgyz Revolution of 2010 led to the discovery of high-level corruption in the banking sector. In fact, over $170 million or 10 percent of the country’s assets, was stolen by the former president’s son.

As a result of these serious issues with the banking infrastructure, many living in Kyrgyzstan do not have access to banking services, preventing investment and economic growth. There is also a lack of services crucial to aiding entrepreneurs, such as credit risk assessments and bank loans.

To find a solution to the question “why is Kyrgyzstan poor?” the country’s government needs to implement reform that leads to the creation of an effective, corruption-free banking system and the diversification of the domestic industry.

Akhil Reddy

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in KyrgyzstanOn June 27, the European Union hosted representatives from the Kyrgyz Republic in Brussels for the eighth installment of its annual Human Rights Dialogue, discussing human rights in Kyrgyzstan. Much of the conversation centered around improving existing structures within the Republic, as well as implementing new legislation to benefit certain groups’ rights. The EU representatives stressed the importance of reform of Kyrgyzstan’s judiciary system as well as praised the introduction of new bills to protect the rights of women and children.

Earlier in June, U.N. secretary-general António Guterres made remarks about his belief in the importance of increased responsiveness in public service, particularly in regards to supporting and protecting the poor and marginalized.

Guterres promised continued U.N. assistance to Kyrgyzstan and expressed his confidence that it will lead the way in this sector: “I am also sure that Kyrgyzstan will play a very important role in what I hope will be future developments in Central Asia for better cooperation, better integration among the different countries and peoples of [the region] to guarantee its prosperity and its development,” he said.

According to Amnesty International’s 2016/2017 review of human rights in Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyzstan has some progress to make on the home front before it can turn to leading the region. Torture and ethnic violence are common, and when taken to court the cases are often stretched out over months or years.

Domestic violence against women and children is widespread, with more than 4,960 cases of domestic violence reported to authorities between January and October of 2016. A mere 158 of these reports led to prosecution. Many women, due to social stigma and inability to support themselves independent of their husbands, do not feel confident in going to the police, which suggests that the number of actual domestic violence cases is even higher.

Human Rights Watch reports that amendments to Kyrgyzstan’s constitution are currently pending after a December 2016 referendum, and are supported by nearly 80 percent of voters. These amendments could greatly strengthen the executive branch at the expense of Kyrgyzstan’s parliament and its judiciary, which several organizations believe will lead to increased discrimination and a superseding of domestic over international law.

Amnesty International notes that one of these new amendments establishes a family as being founded on a marriage between a man and a woman, a distinction not made in the current constitution. Members of the LGBT population, as well as other marginalized and stigmatized groups such as sex workers, face widespread abuse and discrimination, the majority of which goes largely unacknowledged and unpunished.

A bill that would have made positive language, or “propaganda,” about “nontraditional sexual relationships” illegal was voted down for the second time. Kyrgyzstan has also recently voted against a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that would have implemented an independent expert to evaluate the treatment of LGBT people.

Kyrgyzstan joined the U.N. Human Rights Council in early 2016, around the same time as it was awarded the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP+), which, Human Rights Watch states, “[The GSP+] grants tariff reductions for improved human and labor rights and environmental protections.”

Following the nation’s induction to the Human Rights Council and the GSP+, the EU states that it “expects the Kyrgyz Republic to fully implement the recommendations of the Human Rights Committee.”

The next Human Rights Dialogue between the EU and Kyrgyzstan is scheduled to take place in Bishkek sometime in 2018. In the meantime, Kyrgyzstan has an upcoming election, as well as the results of further constitutional referendums. Both of which could affect the nation’s willingness to work with the EU and the U.N. to strengthen human rights in Kyrgyzstan.

Erik Halberg

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Kyrgyzstan
Eighty-two percent of the world’s urban population has access to clean drinking water. This fact may sound impressive until it is juxtaposed with the 51 percent of the world’s rural population without the same benefit. In total, that’s 2.4 billion people without access to proper water sanitation. In Kyrgyzstan, a country in Central Asia, about 64 percent of the population lives in rural areas. Water quality in Kyrgyzstan is, therefore, a major threat to everyday life. Here are some facts about water quality in Kyrgyzstan:

  1. Of the 1,805 rural villages in Kyrgyzstan, 595 do not have access to centralized drinking water, and 390 have no water supply networks at all. Instead, people drink from open water sources.
  2. The 150,000 people in those 390 villages depend solely on aryk for drinking water supply. Aryk water is from open irrigation channels that are vulnerable to contamination from animals, debris and trash. Even something as simple as leaves falling into the aryk in autumn significantly increases the number of acute waterborne diseases.
  3. In villages without access to clean water, homes, schools and hospitals must all collect water in buckets. The water should be filtered through cheesecloth and then left overnight to let the dust settle to the bottom. Finally, the water should be boiled. Unfortunately, those without the time or patience to go through this process pay the unfair price for skipping steps.
  4. The poor water quality in Kyrgyzstan offers an ideal breeding ground for diseases. Consumption of contaminated water causes 24 percent of acute intestinal infections due to parasites and 86 percent of typhoid cases.
  5. The impacts of climate change also threaten the water quality in Kyrgyzstan. The average rise in temperature in Kyrgyzstan due to climate change is three times higher than the global average. This climate change can cause droughts and therefore, a lack of water for the population.
  6. Glaciers cover 4.2 percent of the land in Kyrgyzstan. Glaciers can often be a steady source of water. However, one impact of climate change is the transformation of glaciers into glacial lakes. The accumulation of such mass amounts of water in unprepared terrain leads to the threat of mudslides, landslides and floods, all of which threaten water supply and water quality in Kyrgyzstan.
  7. Thankfully, Kyrgyzstan’s government has taken notice of the water crisis in its abundant rural regions. In 2017, the government launched a new program to develop the water supply and sanitation sector. The program, called “Ala-Too bulagy,” allocated $51 million toward the program’s implementation in the areas of Osh, Chui, Issyk-Kul and Jalal-Abad.
  8. The World Bank has already promised to allocate $36 million to the “Ala-Too bulagy” program in its second stage beginning in 2018.

While the “Ala-Too bulagy” program holds much promise for the future of water quality in Kyrgyzstan, the situation in the country’s rural communities is much too dire to simply write off the issue as resolved. Further efforts to both increase water supply and sanitation services and decrease the effects of climate change are necessary to help Kyrgyzstan and the countless other nations affected by the global water crisis.

Sophie Nunnally

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is a small, mountainous country, landlocked amongst countries that spent most of the 20th century under Soviet rule. Hunger in Kyrgyzstan is an issue that overshadows the progress the country is making.

Of Kyrgyzstan’s six million citizens, 30 percent live in poverty. Twelve percent of the population is food-insecure with 43 percent of children under five suffering from anemia. Thirteen percent of this under five population have stunted growth from malnutrition.

Two-thirds of Kyrgyzstan’s population lives in the countryside where agriculture is the main source of income. The fragmentation of the small family farms, however, inhibits overall production from reaching the scale necessary to meet the market demand.

Farmer-to-Farmer is a five-year program introduced in 2013 by USAID designed to bring technology transfer innovations to Kyrgyzstan’s agricultural sector through short-term technical assistance. The goal of the USAID program is to generate economic growth with person-to-person assignments. The farmers of Kyrgyzstan learn such things as new pruning techniques, ways to improve cold storage management or food safety standards. The volunteers who arrive in Kyrgyzstan gain a better understanding of U.S. foreign assistance outside their country.

A bright spot in Kyrgyzstan is its 99 percent literacy rate and the fact that gross primary school participation is 100 percent. One way to conquer hunger in Kyrgyzstan, as well as childhood malnutrition, is to improve school meals. The U.N. World Food Programme funded a pilot project called School Meals Optimization, which provides culinary training and kitchen equipment to schools. It also aids in renovating school cafeterias and helps schools establish vegetable gardens to source their fruit and vegetables. By 2015, more than 62,000 primary school students in 260 schools received a nutritious, hot meal during the school day, almost six times the number of students in the project’s first year. The program has since expanded to all schools across the country.

The focus on healthy, nutritious meals is gaining momentum in this former Soviet satellite. Recently, 20 school chefs from across the country were chosen to meet in Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, for a competition and a master class with one of Kyrgyzstan’s top chefs. They spent one day cooking vegetables, pureeing soups and making chicken fricassee among other things, all using affordable local produce. On day two, all 20 chefs competed to make a three-course meal in 90 minutes using ingredients from a mystery basket. These competing chefs can attack the issue of hunger in Kyrgyzstan in a positive and productive manner.

The students of Kyrgyzstan also emulate the healthy, nutritious meals they enjoy when they graduate from the classroom into society. They are building a foundation to help decrease hunger in Kyrgyzstan for future generations. Through their efforts, the future for Kyrgyzstan’s food security looks bright.

Jene Cates

Photo: Flickr

Current Education in Kyrgyzstan
Many formerly Soviet-controlled nations struggle to this day to bolster strong national institutions and free compulsory education. Kyrgyzstan has proved one of the most difficult to satisfactorily supply.

Before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kyrgyzstan’s economy and industry were regulated by Moscow. Since Soviet disbandment, the nation has painstakingly transitioned toward a free market economy, which has had severe effects on the economy. Economic and governmental instability of Kyrgyzstan over the past 25 years leave 41 percent of the population below the poverty line, with many living on less than two dollars per day.

Kyrgyzstan’s challenging post-Soviet renovation undermined the nation’s education system. With more and more families slipping into poverty, many required every household member to work and contribute to sustaining the family, and schooling became a kind of luxury. Simultaneously, the staggering government could ill afford to provide effective educational benefits. With limited resources, the government reduced compulsory education to nine years and passed on the responsibility of funding schools to local governments and parents.

Poor access to education in Kyrgyzstan impedes the restoration of the educational system. Costs of schooling continue to rise while educational quality remains quite low. School infrastructures are deteriorating, discouraging students from attending and the cost of mandatory uniforms for primary school students deters poorer families from participating at all.

Teachers in Kyrgyzstan are underpaid and poorly trained, and with a student to teacher ratio of one to twenty-four, they are likewise over-burdened. The result is a student body that remarkably underperforms in science, mathematics and reading.

As concerns educational equity, there are hardly discernable discrepancies between boys and girls in school. However, the incongruities between urban and rural students are highly problematic. The difference is most drastic in pre-primary and secondary school students; about three times as many urban students attend pre-primary and secondary school than their rural counterparts.

After Kyrgyzstan gained independence in the 90’s, almost 75 percent of pre-primary schools closed for lack of funding, and to this day less than 25 percent of students benefit from early learning institutions. This lack of early education has exacerbated the low performance in attendance of primary schools in Kyrgyzstan, for early childhood stimulation enhances the intellectual and social development necessary to succeed in school.

Since 2015, UNICEF and the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic have worked to address the severe dearth of pre-primary and early learning schools throughout the country. Throughout the nation’s rural and underprivileged communities, 17 new kindergartens servicing more than 1,000 children have opened. These new facilities will be essential to expanding school readiness to rural Kyrgyzstan.

The World Bank has also implemented a project to improve the current education in Kyrgyzstan called Sector Support for Education Reform. The $16.5 million program will improve the management and accountability of schools, enhance teacher training and make Kyrgyz students better learners. By its conclusion in 2018, the plan should “reduce poverty, promote economic growth, and encourage a better quality of life.”

Robin Lee

Photo: Flickr

Education in kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan has been transitioning into its own government after the rule of the Soviet Union, which ended in 1991. Throughout the 1990s, Kyrgyzstan struggled economically due to a decline in production output after the termination of its reliance on the USSR’s industrial regulations.

Due to the country’s difficult economic history, there is a high poverty rate among its citizens; 22 percent of the population lives on less than $2 per day and 41 percent live below the poverty line. Due to the difficult economic situation in Kyrgyzstan, education in Kyrgyzstan has not been a priority. Here are five facts about education in Kyrgyzstan:

1. Low Employment Leads to Low Demand for Education

Due to the low employment rates, citizens of Kyrgyzstan saw less of a value for education after 1991. As a result, the government lowered the required education to nine years while changing other educational policies. Recently, the government has been re-investing itself in education, increasing educational spending and increasing access to education.

2. Decreasing Enrollment

The enrollment in Kyrgyzstan’s pre-primary schools is 10 percent; 87 percent for primary schools, 80 percent for secondary schools and 37 percent for tertiary schools. Throughout the past five years, these numbers have decreased. It is possible that this is due to the 2007 decree that a school uniform is mandatory for all students. Many families are unable to afford this uniform.

3. The Urban-Rural Gap

There is not a significant gender gap in education. There is, however, a gap in urban versus rural access to education. For secondary school, there are 6 percent fewer children attending in rural areas than in urban areas.

4. Struggling Academic Performance

In 2006, Kyrgyzstan scored 57 out of 57 countries for educational performance in reading, mathematics and science.

5. Low Teaching Wages

The student to teacher ration in Kyrgyzstan is one student to 24 teachers. In addition, teachers are paid less than 40 percent of the average national earnings.

Although Kyrgyzstan has been reforming its education — such as a $12.7 million grant to improve preschools — the country has many reforms left to be made in order to improve the quality of education offered to its citizens.

— Lily Tyson

Sources: 24 News Agency, UNICEF, Ministry for Education
Photo: Partnerships in Action

Poverty in Kyrgyzstan
Poverty in Kyrgyzstan remains a major issue. Kyrgyzstan is a former Soviet Republic located in Central Asia, having gained independence in 1991. The Kyrgyz Republic is one of the poorest countries in the world with a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita amassing $440 according to measures from 2005.

Since then, the economy of the nation has managed to stabilize slightly, but almost half of the civilian population continues to live in conditions far below the poverty threshold.

The majority of individuals in Kyrgyzstan dwell in rural locations with most of these rural workers engaging in livestock breeding in order to make a living. Furthermore, these rural populations constitute almost 3/4th of the country’s poor.

The livelihood of these farmers hinges on the quality of pastures, which are unfortunately a deteriorating resource in Kyrgyzstan. According to IFAD, winter pastures are overused while summer pastures are underused. A more even distribution of pastures would help curtail this issue of misuse and underuse.

One reason for the persistent rural poverty in Kyrgyzstan is the resounding effects of the economic transition during the 1990s where the Kyrgyz economy shifted from a command economy to a free market economy promoted by the collapse of the Soviet system. Recovery has been markedly slow with rural populations still lacking access to quality drinking water, infrastructure and education.

Many of these individuals have difficulty transcending poverty due to multiple factors. For example, farmers do not receive adequate training in land management and farming.

As a result, these farmers often unknowingly engage in defective farming practices contributing to the degradation of natural resources, such as pastures, which are essential for the Kyrgyz livestock and agricultural economy.

Furthermore, farmers do not have access to financial assistance that would ultimately allow them to invest in more efficient farming equipment and practices. Therefore, many farmers are stuck in the cycle of poverty.

In addition to agricultural troubles, many individuals in Kyrgyzstan also suffer to secure a sufficient amount of food. An unstable economy and widespread hunger almost always go hand in hand.

Often, the hunger crisis in Kyrgyzstan is exacerbated by natural disasters. For example, in 2008, a severe drought destroyed crops was followed by a brutal winter, contributing to national food insecurity.

However, the World Food Programme (WFP) is attempting to assuage the hunger crisis in Kyrgyzstan.

One program provides seasonal food assistance in the form of staple foods and general food assistance that provides immediate assistance to those in need. Rather than just providing emergency food funds to the nation, WFP has also offered an initiative that supports the improvement of infrastructure, disaster response, and environmental preservation.

Through these programs the WFP is attempting to help Kyrgyzstan sow the seeds of its own prosperity rather than providing temporary relief without any improvements in underlying conflicts.

– Phoebe Pradhan 

Photo: The Hindu
Sources:
WFP, Rural Poverty Portal