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SPRING/Kyrgyz Republic Shares Four Years of Lessons and Accomplishments

SPRING community volunteers sing a song about the importance of mothers.

On June 22, 2018, the USAID-funded SPRING project in the Kyrgyz Republic hosted an event in Bishkek to share important lessons and accomplishments of the project from 2014 to 2018. The event was attended by Madamin Karataev, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Health, as well as other representatives of the Ministry of Health, including from the Republican Center for Health Promotion, Ministry of Agriculture, USAID/Kyrgyz Republic, the World Food Programme, and members of the Scaling Up Nutrition initiative, as well as other national stakeholders.

The event highlighted the achievements of the SPRING project – including increases in dietary diversity, consumption of iron folate during pregnancy, exclusive breastfeeding, improved child feeding, and reduced consumption of sugary foods among young children. The event included a presentation of survey results, showing positive and encouraging results among the project’s catchment populations of Jalalabad and Naryn oblasts, as well as the capital city of Bishkek, with respect to people reached with nutrition messages and information, and improved health services. SPRING’s approaches in the areas of strengthening health services for nutrition, engaging directly with communities, enhancing dietary diversity, production of videos and TV spots, as well as the use of social media to promote improved nutrition practices, were all on display at the event.

Meeting attendees enjoyed skits, performed by community volunteers, highlighting the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and dietary diversity. Community members from SPRING implementation areas were also invited to share their experiences, including Turukuianova Gulszat of Ozgorush village, Toktogul rayon, Jalalabad oblast who told her story. Gulszat shared that prior to SPRING’s arrival in her community, the mother of four suffered from anemia. She learned from SPRING that apples are not a source of iron (a common misconception in Kyrgyz Republic), and has since changed the foods her family eats to include iron-rich foods. As a result of improved diet, Gulszat no longer suffers from anemia and is full of energy. She now knows how to create a diverse diet to prevent anemia among her children. Ishenbek Kyzy Altynai of Kochkor rayon, Naryn oblast, a mother of two, expressed her gratitude to SPRING for supporting her to exclusively breastfeed her youngest child. Altynai lamented that when her first daughter was born, she didn’t have the information or support to exclusively breastfeed her, which she now knows is the way to give children the best start in life.

Many of the attendants of the event committed to continued priority and programming for nutrition in Kyrgyz Republic to further reduce stunting and anemia among women and children, which continues to be of national concern.

Prior to the national event in Bishkek, SPRING held regional events in Jalalabad and Naryn oblasts to share program learning and show appreciation for the community volunteers and valuable partnerships at regional and local levels that worked closely with the SPRING project. The Jalalabad event, held June 5, 2018, was presided over by Gulnara Mamatalieva, Deputy Director of the Jalalabad oblast Family Medicine Center, and Nora Madrigal, Director of the Health and Education Office of USAID/Kyrgyz Republic. On June 13, 2018, the event in Naryn was attended by Jarkyn Ibraeva, Deputy Governor of Naryn oblast and Murat Aliaskarov, Naryn Oblast Health Coordinator, Ministry of Health, and Elmira Imambakiyeva, Project Management Specialist, Health and Education Office, USAID/Kyrgyz Republic. In addition to program results, cultural performances and testimonial of program participants, the regional learning events provided an opportunity to present four facilities (Ak-Talaa Territorial Hospital and Family Medicine Center of Naryn oblast and Shamaldy-Sai General Practice Center of Jalalabad oblast), with Mother-baby Friendly Hospital certifications. These certifications, the latest of 20 over the life of the project, are the result of a long effort of quality improvement, supported by SPRING.