Child poverty

Investing in children in the era of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Camera focuses on young girl in a group of children in traditional dress
UNICEF Kyrgyzstan/2015/Vlad Ushakov

The challenge

Nearly every third child in Kyrgyzstan lives in poverty: there are 750 000 children living in poverty in Kyrgyzstan – that is over 32 per cent of the country’s children.  Child poverty rate is 40 per cent if remittances were to be excluded from the calculation of household income.

Child Poverty Index
Child poverty index

Although 10 per cent of GDP is spent on social protection, social assistance directly addressing child poverty is limited both in terms of coverage and value, making up only 0.5 per cent of GDP.

Many children from the poorest families are actually missing out on social benefits as a result of barriers and administrative bottlenecks.

UNICEF’s research revealed that, in spite of the policies adopted at the national level to eradicate poverty, many children from the poorest families were actually missing out on social benefits as a result of barriers and administrative bottlenecks. This results in a largely ineffective social policy deprived of commonly agreed objectives, criteria and performance indicators rooted in sound evidence.

Furthermore, Kyrgyzstan’s social policy does not reflect the real needs of the most vulnerable, as beneficiaries are not represented in the planning and decision-making process at the local level. 

The multi-dimensional nature of child poverty presents a statistical challenge as well, as the necessary data to address its interrelated root causes is not easily available. Although measurement of monetary child poverty is institutionalized in the State statistics and shared within the government, non-monetary aspects would require similar attention.

A girl in her house
UNICEF/Simon Lister
Umida (11) lives in Jany-Kyshtak village, Osh province. Over 4,000 residents live in this isolated Lulu community that settled in the Osh region for more than 20 years.

The solution

UNICEF promotes the best interests of children in social and economic policy and public discourse. 

Following research revealing that many children from the poorest families were missing out on social benefits, a legal framework has been developed and put into practice allowing for a considerable expansion in the number of children eligible for benefits. Moreover, the Government is increasingly prioritizing complex social support measures as part of its strategic documents for the period of 2018-2020 and up until 2030. 

In vulnerable communities, UNICEF supported 317 local government representatives and other stakeholders to improve their planning knowledge and skills to ensure that local strategies, plans and budgets are child-sensitive and improve social welfare, particularly for the most vulnerable. 

UNICEF cooperated with authorities and expert community to develop a better understanding of the multi-dimensional nature of child poverty and effective ways to address it by adopting further measures and monitoring progress over time.

UNICEF is advocating for a multidimensional approach to eradicating poverty by highlighting the links between social protection, health, education and other relevant sectors in support of the first Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) – ending poverty in all its forms everywhere.

In order to help Kyrgyzstan achieve this goal, UNICEF works with the Government to improve resource allocation and use with a focus on efficiency, effectiveness, equity and value for money, which will require a stronger coordination of the social policy system rooted in detailed analysis, clear targets and an agreed set of indicators at national and local levels.

UNICEF assists the Government in developing a reform of social care services with stronger coordination mechanisms. 

The Child Well-being Index, an innovative statistical tool developed with UNICEF support combining material poverty with other broader indicators of wellbeing, is being used by the National Statistical Committee to track trends in the country and inform decision makers. In recognition of UNICEF’s key role in social policy, it has been appointed the chair of the donor community’s coordination council on social protection as well as co-chair of the Regional coalition on social protection.


These resources on education represent just a small selection of materials on social policy produced by UNICEF and its partners in Kyrgyzstan. The list is regularly updated to include the latest information: 

Assessment of State Benefits to Disabled Citizens and Poor Families in the Kyrgyz Republic, 2008

Effectiveness of Benefits to Families and Children in the Kyrgyz Republic, 2008