18 December marks the International Migrants Day, a day to acknowledge the opportunities and challenges that migration poses for societies, communities and individuals. In Kyrgyzstan, thousands of people have left the country looking for opportunities abroad. While migration can benefit children and their families, it also increases the vulnerability of children who are left without parental care.
Parents play a unique and vital role in the life and development of a child. However, according to MICS 2018, 12% of children in Kyrgyzstan – over 277,000 children – have one or both parents living abroad, and 4.3% of children – over 99,000 children – have both parents abroad. The absence of parents may lead to emotional, psychological or social difficulties for children.
Furthermore, children of migrants can face difficulties in accessing essential services and are at a higher risk of violence. “While parents earn money to improve their children’s material well-being, we must also recognize that children have only one childhood, and nothing could replace parents’ love and care”, underlines UNICEF Representative in Kyrgyzstan, Christine Jaulmes. As enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, parents have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of the child. When parents leave their children in the care of others, they should ensure the child’s well-being and protection.
- Keep the bond: When parents leave their child in the care of relatives, it is important that parents keep in close contact and stay involved in the child’s everyday life (such as school issues and health) despite the distance by being in touch often via internet and taking an interest in the child’s life to maintain the vital parent-child relationship. Especially in the early years of a child’s life, parents (and caregivers) play a critical role and help the brain development through care, love, talking, playing, reading and singing.
- Leave your child protected: When children are (temporarily) left under the care of relatives, it is important that the child has a legal representative (guardian) who will be responsible for the upbringing and development of the child until the parents return. Having an officially registered guardianship will protect the child, for example in cases of emergencies, when the signature of the parents or legal representative is required.
- Seek support, if needed: Children, parents or caregivers facing difficulties can seek help under the Child Hotline 111 or at one of the Child Support Centres. Adults who have questions about migration can contact the hotline of the Information Consultation Centre of the State Migration Service at 1899.
To provide support to the Government of Kyrgyzstan on strengthening the protection of rights of children affected by migration, UNICEF has partnered with the European Union under the project “Protecting children affected by migration in Southeast, South, and Central Asia” and is working with national and international partners.
On the 25th Anniversary of the ratification of Kyrgyzstan of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF calls on parents, caregivers and institutions to continue working #ForEveryChild left behind, ensuring they have a chance to develop and thrive.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.