September 2008, Focus on the Most Disadvantaged Children and Families of Kyrgyzstan
Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), September 2008: Kyrgyzstan has gone forward to revise its system of the state benefits to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children and their families. Although the Kyrgyz Government’s social support system has made valuable progress in the identification of families eligible for such support, the current system is far from perfect: in danger of losing sight of its principal purpose. Income calculations on paper based on the current criteria sometimes look far different from what we see in reality: some non-eligible claimants receive the benefits while those most urgently in need of help are left out.
A major programme to improve the situation began in 2007 by the Kyrgyz Ministry of Labour and Social Development with support from UNICEF in the Kyrgyz Republic. In May – November 2007, local researchers embarked on the assessment of the effectiveness of the current state benefit system. UNICEF helped to organize a review of the recommendations by international experts. One of the recommendations was to develop new selection criteria and delivery mechanism. Eight areas were identified to try out the new model. In June 2008, UNICEF supported a study tour of a group composed of representatives from selected areas and key ministry employees to Armenia to learn from that republic’s experience in social assistance reform. The developed model is now going through the last discussions and consents to start the innovation in 2009. UNICEF has already provided office equipment to the district social protection departments and local self governance bodies in the selected areas.
It is a good news for Arina Raikeeva, who heads the state benefits section in the social protection department of Issyk-Ata Rayon (district) State Administration – one of the eight selected areas. She is one of those who visits families and sees the situation with her own eyes. She explains: “The criteria we have now exclude many very poor families. We convene a commission to enquire into special cases, but it is a long way which does not always bring to possible results: quite often there is nothing we can do. The law is the law.”
The case of the Belalovs in Yuryevka village, Issyk-Atinski Rayon, has been revisited by the commission several times. They have five children, of whom one is disabled. The family’s per capita income is 203 Som (about US$6) which exceeds the threshold for the guaranteed minimal consumption level (benefits eligibility) by three Soms.
The system does not allow much to do for the Sadykovs in the neighboring village Pervomaiskoe either. Zamir and Aigul Sadykov have nine children aged between two months and 18 years live. Zamir, the father, who when we called had just brought a barrel of drinking water by cart from a well two kilometers away, invited us to sit down at a small table, the only visible piece of furniture in their two room house. Neither parent has paid work. ‘I take care of the children: that’s my job’, smiles Zamir. And in fact there is no wage-work in the village, where nearly all revenue is generated in farming and livestock. The Sadykovs are no exception: their sole source of income is seven hectares of arable land and a cow. “This year it was a struggle to get hold of enough water to irrigate the crops, and the harvest was poor. We made 6,000 Som (about US$170) by letting out some of our land, but that went on land taxes and I still owe 8,000 Som (US$230). I have to find ways how to buy coal for the winter.”
Families with many children are often the most vulnerable in the Kyrgyz Republic. The problem has been widely acknowledged by the Kyrgyz Government; and the effective delivery of state assistance and social services to vulnerable and disadvantaged children and their families and has become one of the key priorities of the Country Development Strategy for 2007-2010. The on-going project with support from UNICEF is a practical step in pursuing the country commitment and reducing child poverty level which still remains much higher than the one of general population: 52 against 39.9 per cent (Source: National Statistical Committee, 2006).