UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake visits a youth centre in Kyrgyzstan
(Bishkek, 30 June 2011) - Nearly one in every four deaths of young children in Kyrgyzstan is caused by under-nutrition, and the physical and mental development of many other boys and girls is being delayed in the Central Asian country, according to a United Nations report launched today.
The joint report of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank finds that, despite improvements in the past decade, at least 22 per cent of all deaths of children under the age of five are the result of under-nutrition.

Under-nutrition is having a serious impact on the Kyrgyz economy, leaving estimated losses of as much as $32 million each year, the report notes.

It calls for scaled-up investment in nutrition, particularly in ensuring that all salt that is sold is iodized and all stocks of wheat flour are fortified with iron, folic acid and other B vitamins.

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, who has been visiting Kyrgyzstan this week, said the country’s authorities, UN agencies and their development partners have the opportunity to drastically reduce the number of children who suffer from stunting and other effects of under-nutrition.

“These children learn less, and they will earn less – deepening the cycle of poverty,” Mr. Lake said. “Investing in good nutrition is the smart, cost-effective thing to do, helping to save more children’s lives and accelerate progress towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with equity.”

The World Bank has estimated that at least $6.2 million of Kyrgyzstan’s economic losses from under-nutrition could be eliminated by scaling up the country’s existing nutrition projects, especially those on the iodization of salt and the fortification of flour.

UNICEF is also promoting good nutritional practices such as exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life, the timely introduction of complementary feeding programmes and an increase in the intake of vitamins and minerals among young children.

Photo: UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake visits a youth centre in Kyrgyzstan