Response to COVID-19 in Kyrgyzstan
In Kyrgyzstan, jointly with other international partners, UNICEF led support efforts in the Education, WASH and Child Protection sectors, with a focus on women and children.
COVID-19 pandemic reached Kyrgyzstan in March 2020. UNICEF immediately activated emergency response. As part of the UN-wide response to COVID-19 pandemic in Kyrgyzstan, jointly with other international partners, UNICEF led support efforts in the Education, WASH and Child Protection sectors, with a focus on women and children. It also led the Supply and Procurement Sub-Group of the health sector. UNICEF mobilized its full staff contingency of 63 staff, including from the Osh Zone Office.
Health and nutrition
For the health and nutrition response, funding was allocated to:
- procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE);
- clinical management and treatment;
- the development of guidelines and policy.
The Ministry of Education and Science (MOES) rapidly responded to the quarantine and lockdown measures introduced at the beginning of the pandemavlmic outbreak in Kyrgyzstan. All schools in the country were immediately closed and the entire last quarter of the 2019/2020 academic year (April–May 2020) was completed through remote learning platforms for all grades. In September, the academic year 2020/2021 started with new Grade 1 students learning in schools while the rest continued with remote learning for the first quarter (September–October 2020).
From the second quarter, schools started to re-open based on the epidemiological situation of each district. Decisions are made by district education departments under the MOES, considering the recommendations from District Sanitarian Epidemiological Surveillance, which is under the MOH. As of 16 December 2020, 89% of schools had re-opened for students.
The COVID-19 pandemic in Kyrgyzstan highlighted some unexpected and critical Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) issues in relation to infection, prevention and control (IPC) requirements. In order to understand the extent of the response required, UNICEF, together with the MOH and MOES, completed two rapid assessments of WASH in schools and in Health Facilities and provided support.
UNICEF also allocated $161,000 for WASH supplies (sanitizers, soap, waste management supplies, water purification, hygiene kits) in healthcare facilities:
The provision of psycho-social care and support for vulnerable children and families and coordinated response to domestic and gender-based violence are essential interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic. UNICEF worked with the Ministry of Labour and Social Development (MLSD) and other partners to address this secondary impact of the public health crisis.
Child poverty and social protection
Study on socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on children
UNICEF, in partnership with the World Bank, conducted a COVID-19 impact assessment on poverty with a focus on child poverty and the implications for social protection. The study suggests that the number of ‘new poor’ could range from 384,800 to 1.5 million, and that between 160,000 and 570,000 children under 16 years old could also fall into poverty, depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic is managed. This would mean that, in the worst-case scenario, up to 55% of children could be living in poverty in Kyrgyzstan. Recommendations were made to extend the coverage of the main social protection programme for poor families with children. On of these recommendations was implemented by the Ministry of Labour and Social Development.
Piloting humanitarian cash transfers
A demonstration project on humanitarian cash transfer (HCT) took place during the lockdown in a disadvantaged remote rural village, which is prone to natural disasters and was also affected by COVID-19 (in this locality the first cases had been registered). A total of 105 children from 27 poor families received one-off multi-purpose HCT of $54, which is equivalent to the minimum subsistence level for children.
UNICEF supported the National Red Crescent Society to design and test a Humanitarian Beneficiary Registry with options for self-identification and self-registration. The registry will serve for effective and transparent aid delivery to the most vulnerable groups in case of shocks and emergency situations.
Risk communication and community engagement
To raise awareness of all citizens in all areas of Kyrgyzstan, UNICEF has focused on communication materials, information
dissemination and community engagement as part of the COVID-19 response.
UNICEF website became a major hub on COVID-19 information, reaching 531,946 visits, five times more than in 2019. As chair of the UN Crisis Communication Group, UNICEF supported the Government to design and implement the National Communication Campaign #Sakta. The campaign united the risk communication efforts of the Government, international partners and civil society to raise the general population’s awareness on COVID-19 preventive measures, debunk myths around the virus, and foster personal and social responsibility via communication tools and products.
Data for children
A special Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) assessment on the impact of COVID-19 on women and children was completed by the National Statistics Committee in November using phone interview.
The assessment is based on the subsample of the MICS-2018 households, benefiting from known household selection probabilities and sample weights. A reduced number of the most relevant Kyrgyzstan MICS-2018 modules combined with newly developed COVID-19 specific modules formed the core of the survey questionnaires.
Telephone interviews were successfully conducted with 3,886 households in October and November 2020. According to the preliminary findings, the COVID-19 crisis has multiple, profound and long-lasting effects on children’s well-being. A reduction in income was reported in more than half of the households and loss of employment in one out of four. Widespread job and income loss and economic insecurity among families are likely to
increase rates of child labour, sexual exploitation, teenage pregnancy and child marriage.
UNICEF would like to thank all the development partners that have contributed to its response to COVID-19. Specifically, we would like to thank the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank (WB), the European Commission (ECHO), the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Secretary General’s Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF).