Children in Batken oblast riding a bicycle
Children in Batken oblast (Photo credit: USAID Advancing Nutrition Kyrgyz Republic)

USAID Advancing Nutrition together with the Ministry of Health of the Kyrgyz Republic, UNICEF, Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Programme, World Health Organization, and Mercy Corps, conducted the country’s first large-scale study on the nutritional status of children and women. The National Integrated Micronutrient and Anthropometric Survey (NIMAS) was designed to measure micronutrient deficiencies and other nutrition issues that affect children of 6-59 months of age, children 5-9 years, adolescent girls 10-18 years of age, non-pregnant women 15-49 years of age, and pregnant women.

In total, 3,062 households were included in the research, with about 60 percent recruited from rural areas. According to the key research findings, approximately half of the households are food insecure (up to 50 percent in Issyk Kul, Naryn, and Chui oblasts). Although the national prevalence of stunting—having low height for age—and wasting—low weight for height—is considered low (7 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively), dietary diversity is still a problem, which is closely tied to poverty.

Findings show that among children 6-59 months of age, only 26 percent achieve minimal dietary diversity and there is a high prevalence of iron deficiency (47 percent), which negatively affects physical and mental development. Anemia and folate deficiency in pregnant women is considered a severe public health problem, with national prevalence of anemia in pregnant women at approximately 49 percent. 

Other results show that a significantly larger proportion of urban households as compared to those in rural areas use adequately iodized salt. Significant differences were also found by region: more than 95 percent of households in Bishkek have adequately iodized salt, compared to just over 60 percent in Issyk-Kul, Batken and Osh oblasts.

Based on the NIMAS results, experts from the Ministry of Health recommend increasing public health nutrition interventions to sustain the necessary longer-term effort, developing sustainable national programs to tackle the burden of malnutrition, including incorporation of nutrition interventions into agriculture and social protection sectors, as well as raising awareness and sharing knowledge on the positive and negative impact of food on health.