Current issues and what the World Food Programme is doing
Independent since 1991, the Kyrgyz Republic (or Kyrgyzstan) is landlocked and largely mountainous. The country, at the crossroads of Central and East Asia, has had a tumultuous post-Soviet transition: a legacy of political volatility, coupled with economic shocks and frequent natural disasters, threatens development gains.
More than two-thirds of Kyrgyzstan’s 6 million-strong population, which includes significant ethnic minorities, live in the countryside; agriculture is their main source of income. But poor infrastructure and technology hinder productivity levels. This, combined with a lack of employment opportunities, has sent many Kyrgyz looking for work in Russia. Many households thus find themselves dependent on uncertain remittances.
Kyrgyzstan’s poverty levels, although diminishing, remain above 30 percent – and are much worse in the south. By contrast, overall access to primary education is high, with minimal disparities between genders or regions.
Current issues in Kyrgyzstan
Food insecurity is seasonal and correlated with chronic and deepening poverty. An estimated twelve percent of the population are food insecure. Although Kyrgyzstan’s gross domestic product (GDP) has increased over the past decade, growth has not trickled down to the poorest.
Malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are widespread – 43 percent of children suffer from anaemia. Almost 13 percent of under-fives are stunted. The country's high dependency on the import of basic foods such as wheat, and the high price of domestic wheat flour, continue to affect the most vulnerable households, half of whose income is spent on food.
Insufficient social safety leave the poorest families with few opportunities to develop their skills or chances to meet their immediate needs. Frequent natural disasters, such as landslides and earthquakes, as well as a complex ethnic and political environment, further exhaust people’s resources.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Kyrgyzstan
Initially operating in an emergency capacity, WFP assisted nearly a million of Kyrgyzstan’s most vulnerable in the wake of the global food crisis and the failed harvests of 2008, and again following interethnic violence in Osh and Jalal-Abad in 2010.
Since then, our overarching objective has been to strengthen the Kyrgyz Government’s capacity to reduce food insecurity and undernutrition and to support communities’ long-term resilience. In 2011, with the emphasis shifting towards development and recovery, we implemented a country programme supporting more than half a million people through asset creation and income generation activities. WFP’s current activities focus on an improved school meals project, rural development, social protection, disaster risk management and climate change adaptation.
• Primary School Meals Programme
In 2013, WFP launched a four-year project to help the Kyrgyz government improve the efficiency and quality of its school meals programme. We are offering the Ministries of Health and Education policy support to feed students in a sustainable and cost-efficient manner.
We are also implementing pilots to introduce nutritious meals in more than 260 school across the country, renovate school canteens and improve sanitation facilities. Some 62,000 students now receive daily nutritious meals that include soups or milk-based porridges, fresh pastries and vitamin-rich drinks. As well as providing a variety of meals, the programme supplies school kitchens with equipment, trains school cooks, and helps schools start vegetable gardens for fresh, healthy ingredients. Given the success of the programme, the government is already replicating the WFP model elsewhere.
• National Productive Safety Nets and Longer-term Community Resilience
WFP improves the livelihoods of rural Kyrgyzstani families by rehabilitating infrastructure, such as disaster mitigation facilities, roads, irrigation and potable water systems. More than 290,000 vulnerable small-scale farmers are benefitting from this project, which helps them build roads, irrigation and drinking water systems, and allows them to boost their incomes by growing vegetables and creating fruit gardens.
WFP is also providing technical support to the Kyrgyz Government for the development of national safety net programmes aimed at reducing food insecurity and undernutrition. Similarly, in cooperation with multiple international partners and the Ministry of Health, WFP is supporting a study of awareness and practices regarding micronutrient intake in adolescent girls and nursing mothers in four Kyrgyz provinces.
World Food Programme partners in Kyrgyzstan
WFP cannot fight global hunger and poverty alone. These are our partners in Kyrgyzstan:
• Centre for the Activation and Development of Rural Initiatives
• UN Women
Featured Kyrgyzstan publications
A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.
Looking for more publications on Kyrgyzstan? Visit the Kyrgyzstan publications archive.