Gulazyk Unites People of Different Ethnic Groups
By Zhumabubu Doskeeva
Ayana and Mahamatyusuf have much in common. They were both born in May 2010 in Nookat village near Osh city, which was shaken by last year’s ethnic clashes. Both were the first children in their families and spend much of their time with their grannies. What is more, for various reasons, both of them were only breastfed for five months. One of the few differences, which they did not care much about, was a line in their birth certificates. One of them was born to ethnic Kyrgyz parents; while the other is ethnically Uzbek.
They met in clinics while their mothers were discussing how their babies’ health had improved after using Gulazyk. The children knew about Gulazyk, but their knowledge was limited to “Ai-ai Gulazyk”, a fun book for children which they enjoy a lot. They also see their mother or grandmother taking small sachets with the word “Gulazyk” written on them, and adding the contents to their food.
The mothers knew more. Gulazyk has helped improve the immunity and appetite of their children. It is a mineral and vitamin powder that is distributed free of charge by local clinics for all children of 6 to 24 months. The programme has already proved its efficiency by reducing anaemia by 25 per cent.
Initially, the programme was a response to the alarming results of an international survey in 2006. The stunting rate among children under fivewas over 20 per cent. Every second child was found to have anaemia. The 2010 emergency aggravated micronutrient deficiency by increasing stress and fear among children in the affected areas.
Thanks to the funds received from the Spanish National Committee for UNICEF, the Gulazyk programme was rolled out to Osh and Jalalabad provinces to help children like Ayana and Mahamatyusuf.Using amechanism developed previously in a pilot province medical workers were trained; parents received a full package of communication materials, which included information on nutrition as well as child development; and babies received a book, for many their first book ever.
Ayana’s mother GulmiraAbizova first received a package with Gulazyk on 1 June 2011 – International Child Protection Day. At that moment she found out that she was pregnant. Her pregnancy was complicated by sleepless nights caring for her constantly sick first child. Today she is not afraid: “With Gulazyk, we will manage”. Ayana is taking her first steps and saying funny words which Gulmira perfectly understands. “Ayana is a different child now. She sleeps well and does not whimper like before”.
Gulazyk has become a common topic of discussion in society. The progress of their children,whichtheir parents and grandparents cannot wait to share, is much more interesting than disputes over the line on ethnicity in birth certificates and passports.