Overview Kyrgyzstan, officially the Kyrgyz Republic, is a landlocked, country in Central Asia dominated by the majestic Tian Shan snow-capped mountain range. A former Soviet Republic, the country gained independence in 1991. Although it has since made some economic progress, almost 40% of the people remain below the poverty line and an estimated 27% are food-insecure. One of the main reasons large parts of the population are locked in a cycle of poverty and hunger is that the country is frequently exposed to shocks (natural disasters, such as earthquakes, mudslides and flooding) combined with dilapidated infrastructure and a complex ethnic and political environment.
Already a food deficient country, Kyrgyzstan suffered a crippling drought that destroyed the harvest 2008 followed by the harshest winter in 40 years. Energy black-outs and food shortages for weeks on end, combined with a significant drop in remittances from relatives working abroad, soaring food prices due to the global economic crisis and shortages, pushed food insecure households over the edge.
The economic recovery process that had started in late 2009 came to a grinding halt in April 2010 when former President Bakiev was overthrown in a violent uprising, leaving a caretaker government in power until elections last October and the formation of government in December. After the events in April, a fragile political and security situation prevailed until inter-ethnic tensions engulfed the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad in June 2010, causing tens of thousands to flee across the border to Uzbekistan. 300,000 people were displaced within the country, large parts of Osh destroyed, lives and livelihoods lost. While the vast majority of refugees and internally displaced people have since returned, the physical, economic, and social schisms born out of the violence will require long-term assistance to rebuild infrastructure, livelihoods, and above all trust.
WFP first started operations in the Kyrgyz Republic in January 2009. Food assistance was provided to the poorest and most food insecure families in rural Kyrgyzstan during the times of the year when food is scarcest - just prior to winter and again before the harvest. Through this programme, WFP provides a two-month food ration to more than 374,000 people across six of the country’s seven provinces, twice a year.
Following the violence and destruction in June 2010, WFP responded with an emergency operation. In-country food stocks were released to feed the first wave of destitute hungry people. Additional supplies were airlifted from hubs in Italy and the Middle-East to ensure refugees, internally displaced people, and other affected residents were able to get urgent food supplies. Within a very short time, WFP assistance was reaching more than 560,000 people inside Kyrgyzstan. As the situation stabilized, WFP started targeting assistance to the worst-affected people – the ones who were unable to get back on their feet without external support. This programme will be phased out by June 2011 and replaced with assistance aimed at helping communities restore agricultural infrastructure to become more food secure.
WFP uses food assistance as a tool to enable vulnerable communities to rebuild livelihoods through a wide range of Food for Work projects. Initiated by the communities, these projects address disaster mitigation (e.g. through reforestation) and the rehabilitation of agricultural infrastructure (e.g. establishment of seed farms and reinstating water systems). Projects in the former conflict areas of the south often aid the peace-building process, as communities work together for a common goal, from which all benefit. This programme will become the focus of WFP efforts in 2011 and beyond.