Under-nutrition is a common problem in Kyrgyzstan and causes stunting (According to the 2006 MICS survey, 25% of children under 3 years old were found to be stunted), low birth weight (5.3% of children were born with a low birth weight in 2006), reduced cognitive and physical development and indirectly leads to 22% of under-five’s mortality.
A situation analysis of the impact of nutrition on the economy, led by the World Bank and UNICEF in 2011, demonstrated that under-nutrition accounts for a $32million loss of the country’s GDP. 4.5% of children in Kyrgyzstan are underweight, over one and a half higher that the MDG1 target.
Micronutrient deficiency causes Anaemia, which in turn increases the risk of maternal and child mortality, lowers immunity, putting children at risk of diseases and impairs children’s cognitive development. The Nationally Representative Nutritional Status Survey of 2009 demonstrated that an alarming 2 out of every 5 children in Kyrgyzstan have iron-deficiency anaemia.
UNICEF conducted a pilot study in Talas region, providing free “Sprinkles”, known as “Gulazyk” (micronutrient powder containing iron, zinc, vitamins A and C and Folic Acid) to children between the ages of 6 and 24 months of age, and educating parents on the importance of Early Child Development (ECD, see section on Education). This programme reduced the occurrence of anaemia in young children by 27%.
The widely acclaimed success of this programme has received much international attention and has led UNICEF to scale it up to Issyk Kul, Batken and Chuy provinces with the help of the Soros Foundation, and the Kyrgyz-Swedish-Swiss Health Project Cross to implement it in Naryn Province.
Vitamin A intake was found to be particularly low in young children and women, in the first eight weeks after giving birth. As a result, UNICEF along with the Ministry of Health, provided Vitamin A supplements to over 500,000 children between 6 and 59 months old and over 130,000 post-partum women.
Exclusive Breastfeeding in the first months of life prevents against disease, builds up the immune system and creates a strong bond between mother and child. However, only 31.5% of infants in Kyrgyzstan are exclusively breastfed. UNICEF has led an educational “breast feeding” campaign my mobilising volunteers in Village Health Committees.
Furthermore, UNICEF continues to encourages hospitals to implement the “Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative” (BFHI) to make sure women adopt the 11 principles of breastfeeding. In 2010, 32 hospitals had BFHI status and the coverage of exclusive breastfeeding went from 35% to 90% within these facilities.
Being a landlocked country, the salt found in Kyrgyzstan contains low levels of iodine. Iodine deficiency has disastrous effects, leading to still births when taken during pregnancy or leaving babies with severe brain damage; it also reduces mental capacity and productivity. With the help of UNICEF and other international organisations, Kyrgyzstan has made remarkable progress towards achieving Universal Salt Iodization. Over the last ten years, the use of iodized salt has tripled.
In collaboration with UNICEF, the government of Kyrgyzstan is working to improve the nutrition situation of the country and passed two important laws in 2009. The first made fortified flour mandatory so that the people of Kyrgyzstan can have access to iron and other micronutrients that prevent against Anaemia. The second regulates the marketing of breast milk alternatives so as to protect women against aggressive advertisements on breast milk substitutes and thus allow children to receive the unique benefits of their mother’s milk.
Read Real Lives:
 The World Bank, UNICEF, Situation Analysis – Improving economic outcomes by expanding nutrition programming in the Kyrgyz Republic, 2011
UNICEF, Situation Analysis Improving economic outcomes by expanding nutrition programming in the Kyrgyz Republic, 2011
 MoH, National Statistics Committee, UNICEF, CDC, The Nationally Representative Nutritional Status Survey, 2009, Unpublished
 MoH, National Statistics Committee, UNICEF, CDC Preliminary Results of the Joint Survey:Impact Evaluation Study of the Gulazyk Pregramme in Talas Oblast for children between 6-24months, 2010
 UNICEF, Situational Assessment of children in the Kyrgyz Republic, 2011, p20
 UNICEF Kyrgyzstan, Nutrition: the Issues, at http://www.unicef.org/kyrgyzstan/nutrition.html