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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