UNICEF works to improve infant and young child nutrition, helping ensure every child has the best possible start in life

a child eats with his mother

The challenge

In Kyrgyzstan, despite the decrease in child mortality rates over the years and significant improvement of the overall nutritional status of children in the country,  under-nutrition remains a critical public health concern – particularly in remote regions and new settlements around big towns. 

Stunting, low birth weight, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are major issues affecting the health and wellbeing of children in Kyrgyzstan.

As many as 22 per cent of cases of child mortality result from poor nutrition and an estimated 18 per cent of Kyrgyz children are malnourished (UNICEF/WB 2011).

Stunting among children under five age has fallen from 25 per cent (DHS, 1997) to 12.9 per cent (MICS,2014), Iron deficiency anemia from 50 per cent (DHS 1997) to 43 per cent among children five (DHS, 2012).

a woman breastfeed her baby

Breastfeeding gives children the best nutritional start in life, but only 41 per cent of infants were exclusively breastfed until they were six months old in 2014 (MICS). Micronutrient deficiencies continue to have lifelong consequences for children and women in Kyrgyzstan.

Under-nutrition is one of the factors that contributes to poor maternal health as well.   Poor maternal nutrition before conception and during pregnancy and the first two years of life threatens the chances of a safe delivery and a healthy baby, and can result in developmental delays that undermine a child’s potential.

There is a high prevalence of diseases caused by malnutrition, dietary preferences, yet, there is an alarming lack of awareness of the potential health concerns in case of nutrient deficiencies - including iron-deficiency anemia – and its effect on the prevalence of birth defects.

Nutrition is still considered as health issue only and not yet integrated fully in other relevant sectors.

The solution

UNICEF works with the Government and non-government partners to improve infant and young child malnutrition and tackle Kyrgyzstan’s nutrition concerns by promoting a multi-sectorial approach. This has led to the development of the country’s first National Food Security and Nutrition Strategy, which includes all the priority nutrition specific and sensitive interventions in the country, as well as key policies, laws and regulations to address micronutrient deficiencies among the population, especially young children and mothers.

As SUN (Scaling Up Nutrition) movement country facilitator since 2011, UNICEF supports country to improve coordination mechanisms, through building technical capacity to monitor, analyse, plan and develop sustainable mechanisms for nutrition interventions from the national to regional levels.


As part of a Ministry of Health programme, UNICEF together with other partners provides children with vitamins and minerals (Gulazyk) to reduce iron-deficiency anaemia among babies. Gulazyk was initially piloted in Talas province where anaemia rates fell by 26 per cent within one year (2009-2010).

The project also included the dissemination of key messages on early childhood development to support cognitive development of young children. Since 2012, it has been scaled up across the country reaching over 70 per cent of children under the age of two, annually benefiting from Gulazyk.

UNICEF also supports a flour fortification programme aiming at improving legislation and raising awareness on the importance of consuming enriched products involving all stakeholders.

Kyrgyzstan has made progress to address iodine deficiency disorders and implement an effective safeguard   against the world’s leading cause of preventable mental disabilities: in 2001 Law on Universal Salt Iodization was adopted with UNICEF support. Currently, measures have been taken to ensure the lasting elimination of iodine deficiency disorders.

boys and tomatoes