Half of the general population in Kyrgyzstan are children.
Child poverty remains a serious issue in Kyrgyzstan and concerns every second child lives. Poor children are deprived of access to quality public services of pre-school and school education, protection and health care, as well as malnutrition and violation of child right to harmonious and full development in early childhood. Poor children live mainly in rural areas, from the southern regions of the country, from families of three and more children and from families with no employed adults or with only one working adult.
Child mortality rates remain high: 38 of 1,000 infants do not reach their first year, and 44 of 1,000 do not reach their five years. (MICS 2006).
Children and mothers suffer also from micronutrients deficiency, such as anaemia. An estimated 50 to 80 per cent of pregnant women and children under age five years are anaemic and one half of all children aged 6-24 months are at risk of disrupted brain development due to anaemia. Each year, approximately 300 child deaths can be linked directly or indirectly to vitamin A deficiency. The rate of stunting is 13 per cent nationally and in three provinces is as high as 20 per cent.
On the positive side, more than 95 per cent of all children receive basic vaccinations and the country is free from poliomyelitis.
The number of people living with HIV/AIDS is estimated at 10 times higher than the officially registered figure of 2,500 cases (November 2009). HIV incidence has been increased among women. There is a lack of experience in providing continuous care to HIV-infected mothers and children, as well as of medical and social support for HIV-infected children and their families at community level.
Most children in Kyrgyzstan enter school without the required life skills and basic knowledge for their age, and therefore are unprepared to cope with the structured school environment. About 11 per cent of all children have access to pre-school activities, compared to 35 per cent in 1990. Many children do not have any books at home. The problem is further complicated by parents lacking the knowledge and skills for interacting effectively with their children in order to boost their child’s intellectual, cognitive, social, emotional and physical development.
Since the transition from the Soviet Union to an independent State, Kyrgyzstan is facing a number of new-child related concerns. Children are running new risks and families are in distress as the social welfare and protection systems are not adequately designed to prevent risks and to sufficiently support families.
Many children are separated from their families and are therefore deprived from the care of their parents or close relatives. Placement of children in institutions is a phenomenon which was widely practiced during the Soviet era. This practice has remained strong in today’s Kyrgyzstan, with over 6,000 children living in residential care institutions, even though 88 per cent of them have one or both parents. Exploitation, abuse and violence are considered to be widespread as a result of the increasing number of dysfunctional families and alcohol and substance abuse.
Extensive use of child labour and child trafficking are other areas of serious concern. According to estimates of two major non-governmental organizations (NGOs), there are about 2,000 children living and working on the streets of the capital Bishkek and 1,000 in Osh, capital of the biggest southern province. Many of the street children were left with no other option than to leave their families or the institution due to excessive alcohol abuse by the parents, violence or abuse.
The problem of juvenile delinquency is reportedly escalating rapidly. A disproportionate number of children in conflict with the law enter the juvenile justice system. Due to lack of alternative recourse, many children are deprived of liberty and are placed in correctional facilities for such petty crimes as robbery, theft or drug use.