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 families 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.
Food insecurity is seasonal and correlated with chronic and deepening poverty. Over 340,000 people – or six percent of the population – are estimated to be suffering from dietary energy deficiency. 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 under 5 suffer from anaemia. Almost 13 percent of children in the same age group 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 families, 70 percent of whose income is spent on food.
Insufficient social safety nets 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.
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.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Kyrgyzstan
WFP provides the Ministries of Health and Education policy support to feed students in a sustainable and cost-efficient manner. We also implement pilots to introduce nutritious meals in more than 260 schools, renovate school canteens, train cooks, improve sanitation facilities and start vegetable gardens. Some 62,000 students now receive daily nutritious meals that include soups or milk-based porridges, fresh pastries and vitamin-rich drinks.
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.
Social safety nets and nutrition
WFP provides technical support to the Kyrgyz Government for the development of national safety net programmes aimed at reducing food insecurity and undernutrition.