In Kyrgyzstan, food assistance doesn't stop even at - 30 celsius. Copyright: WFP/Maxim Shubovich
In Nooruz, a New Year’s Day for Kyrgyzstan, Ainura Jumagulova, who lives in a remote Issyk-Kul village of Kyzyl-Suu, will work hard to make her festive food somewhat different from her usual bread and tea.
In Nooruz, a New Year’s Day for Kyrgyzstan, Ainura Jumagulova, who lives in a remote Issyk-Kul village of Kyzyl-Suu, will work hard to make her festive food somewhat different from her usual bread and tea. A life-tired mother with no home, no assets, no land and a very little hope to break out of poverty, Ainura struggles every day to have meals for her two kids.
Ainura amongst other Kyrgyzs believes that Nooruz symbolizes renewal, new hopes, prospects for well being and arrival of spring. And she believes in an ancient Kyrgyz tradition that enjoins people to settle debts and family discords, and feed the hungry and poor people, a long-awaited moment Ainura and kids. They impatiently wait for Nooruz which means wealthier people from her village will share meat, fruits and sweets with them.
“For all Kyrgyz families preparations for Nooruz begin long before this day,” says Ainura. “We also did what we could – we cleaned our place and the yard, washed all our clothes and cooked boorsoki, fried pieces of bread. We couldn’t afford more expensive activities like buying new clothes or cooking plov, a traditional meal made of meat, rice, carrot and oil.”
Ainura is one of thousands of poor rural women in Kyrgyzstan who face the hardship of raising children alone as their husbands died, migrated or left their families. While she did her best to make ends meet, fading self-confidence and lack of employment opportunities in rural areas often mean her very survival hang in the balance. “We were stranded for years before I was able to find a place to live. Last winter, my children would take turns to go for a walk as they were all sharing one pair of winter shoes,” says Ainura.
This year’s extreme temperatures once again tested her ability to survive through long and harsh winter months when there was no work, and food was scarcest and unaffordable for her impoverished family. It was a remote acquaintance who helped her sign up for WFP’s winter food assistance programme for the poorest and most food-insecure population in the Kyrgyz Republic.
“I received 50 kgs of wheat flour and 6 litres of vegetable oil in December – a wealth I couldn’t dream of! It helped me to make it through the winter.” says Ainura Jumagulova. Food assistance that Ainura received from WFP helped her kids to have meals every day while she worked to repay a small loan she took to launch a small grocery shop in one of her hut’s rooms. Ainura used a 3,000 Kyrgyz som (around US$ 80) loan from a local microfinance company to buy some food commodities such as salt and tea and resell it to earn some money for her family.
“Every month I have to pay 200 Kyrgyz soms to repay the loan and interests, and I use the remaining to make sure my kids eat every day. With food assistance I receive from WFP I am able to save some money and buy another pair of shoes for my kids,” continues Ainura. Nooruz’s prospects for renewal and better life for Ainura are quite simple. She looks forward to the next few weeks when she will start receiving WFP spring food assistance which will help her continue her grocery business and feed her children.