Real lives











October 2006, Pictures tell the story behind the numbers

© UNICEF Kyrgyzstan
Begging on the streets

“My mum used to wake me every morning and push me out to beg on the streets. When I returned in the evening, both my mum and dad would be drunk and they would beat me if I had got only a little money. No matter how much money I brought back, there was never enough left for food for me and my three younger brothers” said twelve year old Misha.

"My friend’s mother used to sit behind the bushes watching her son begging and then advising him how to do it better"

Misha spent almost a year begging on the streets. “There are more poor children than adults in my country and if the adults don’t have money, they force their children to beg or steal. My friend’s mother used to sit behind the bushes watching her son begging and then advising him how to do it better.”

Misha drew a picture showing what poverty means to him. It shows a small boy near a rubbish bin, a fine house and a stray cat. Misha is in the middle of the picture washing his hands. “Poor people often search in garbage bins for food and are always dirty. My friend and I, when we lived on the street, always tried to clean ourselves”.

In the drawing, Misha can see a rich family eating dinner inside their home. “I would go and ask for food in the rich house. If they didn’t give me anything, I would just have to go away and I wouldn’t have anything to share with the hungry cat. I would just caress it.” explained Misha.

A small boy looking for food in the rubbish is a reality for many children. It is a world Misha lived in for too long. 

© UNICEF Kyrgyzstan
Misha's drawing describes the reality of poverty

Misha is one of thirty children from the Bishek Rehabilitation Centre for Street Children who have expressed in drawings how they perceive the poverty in which they live. UNICEF supports this project which encourages the children to share their experiences with social workers and psychologists.

In Kyrgyzstan, 80% of children live under the poverty threshold of USD 2.15 per person per day

Their stories and drawings will be a living illustration of the Innocenti Social Monitor 2006: Understanding Child Poverty in South-Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States released on 18 October 2006. The new report states that in Kyrgyzstan, 80% of children live under the poverty threshold of USD 2.15 per person per day. This is the highest rate of child poverty in Central and Eastern European countries and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Since 1998, Kyrgyzstan, like almost all countries of the SEE/CIS region, has experienced an economic expansion after years of stagnation and decline. However the children of Kyrgyzstan have not automatically benefited from this economic growth and levels of child poverty continue to remain extremely high.

The report highlights that almost 40 percent of Kyrgyz children aged 4-6 have spent the last four year of their lives in extreme poverty. Chronic poverty can have a severe impact on the development and well-being of children in particular when experienced at very young age. 

The Social Monitor report argues that the future of the region depends on a healthy and educated generation of young people and that better investment in children is an investment in a better future for all.

The Innocenti Social Monitor 2006 report together with Kyrgyz children’s pictures and perceptions on poverty will be used by UNICEF in Kyrgyzstan and its local partners to address the challenges posed by the persistence of child poverty in the country and to call on the government to work towards:

  • More generous and better targeted income support for families with children
  • Improving access to and quality of social services (health, education and social protection)
  • A policy shift away from the widespread practice of placing children in institutions in some countries of the region
  • More visibility for children in setting policy priorities and poverty reduction strategies
  • Timely collection, analysis and dissemination of data and research on the situation of children



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