BISHKEK — Kyrgyzstan is a former territory of the Soviet Union located in Central Asia. The mountainous country is landlocked and bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the south and China to the east. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kyrgyzstan suffered violent economic and government upheavals. As a result, the top diseases in Kyrgyzstan revolve around a failing economy.
Without the public health and economic safety provided by the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan was ushered into the world of the free market without a capitalist economy. Compounding the turmoil of transition from a communist to socialist/capitalist regime was Kyrgyzstan’s predisposition as an isolated market with few commodities to offer global trade giants. Kyrgyzstan’s idling economy and a highly dispersed and rural population has proved to be the most significant obstacle in overcoming the top diseases in Kyrgyzstan.
The nation’s geography is the largest obstacle to adapting to the free economy. The rough terrain of Tien Shan mountain range makes infrastructure construction extremely costly. As of now, Kyrgyzstan has no significant trading partners that could help stimulate economic growth, and much trade is conducted via overpriced air freight.
Kyrgyzstan’s idling economy means that national communications are also lacking simply because there is not enough money to invest in national communication. This general lack of funds means that public health is suffering.
Without the Soviet Union to provide basic sanitation or the funds to develop an independent sanitation program, government reports show that 75 percent of rural homes lack adequate sanitation, resulting in a large number of preventable medical emergencies every year. Infant mortality is high in Kyrgyzstan with 66.5 deaths per 1000 live births, which is more than 10 times the mortality rate of Europe.
High infant mortality means Kyrgyzstani families often have many children, as a large family is a form of insurance against economic and social uncertainty. Large families are the equivalent of social security programs that more industrialized nations, like the U.S., enjoy from the government.
However, large families also allude to one of the top diseases in Kyrgyzstan, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). The spread of infectious diseases is due in part to the cultural disposition that intercourse leads to a big family and economic security. A more salient reason for this spread is inadequate public education about sex, which is perhaps a legacy of the Soviet Union.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, syphilis rates rose from 1.9 cases per 100,000 people to over 151 cases per 100,000 people. The jump in syphilitic cases demonstrates poor public health infrastructure and a changing cultural climate within the country.
The underlying structural issue is that trade brings prosperity, at least when it is conducted ethically. Possibly a foreign stimulus plan tailored to Kyrgyzstan’s idling economy could be a viable solution to the public health problem.
In turn for the small amount of aid donated to Kyrgyzstan, foreign nations could establish new business relationships with an economy that can only stand to increase its GDP, effectively bolstering the global economy and alleviating chronic public health issues in Kyrgyzstan.
– Spencer Linford