A normal 500-km route to Kosh-Bulak from Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, takes approximately 10 to 11 hours. However, last week it took WFP Field Monitors two days to get there as they had to literally dig their way through the snow. At one point it started snowing and the rising mist was so thick that one of WFP's Field Monitors had to walk for two hours in front of the WFP car to guide them through and prevent the car from straying from the road.
WFP food trucks left for Kosh-Bulak several days in advance to make sure the food distribution starts on time. The distribution point was arranged in the yard of a Kosh-Bulak resident. Ulan Raimkulov, a WFP Field Monitor, is getting ready to register the first food-for-assets programme participants to receive their food rations.
For residents of the remote Kosh-Bulak village, WFP’s food-for-asset programme is the only opportunity to get food for their families. They volunteered in cleaning a drainage system and setting up a passage across a river. Each participant is happy to receive an average ration of 250 kg of fortified wheat flour and 25 litres of vitamin-enriched oil. Most importantly, an easier passage to Kosh-Bulak was restored to enable regular supplies.
The next destination for WFP Field Monitors was the neighbouring village of Toguz-Toro where food-for-assets volunteers recently restored two key mud-flow canals with a total length of more than 8 km, and constructed two community bridges. Though the project participants are happy to receive their food incentives that bring food and hope to their families, they are happier to feel assured that their houses and fields will not be flooded next spring.
In this mountainous and inaccessible region of Jalal-Abad province, food insecurity rates are as high as 48 percent and work opportunities extremely scarce. The food assistance residents receive in return for volunteering their labour to improve key village infrastructure is invaluable during the winter months.
Weather conditions in mountainous Kyrgyz regions are unpredictable, so food distribution in Toguz-Toro coincided with 20-degree frosts. However, Toguz-Toro’s residents who are accustomed to harsh winters, queued up for their food rations that would serve as a key food source during the winter months.
With long and extreme winters (-40 Celsius is a normal temperature in some parts of the region) that last for more than six months and poor food supplies, villagers do not produce enough to make it through the winter months on their own, and rely heavily on humanitarian assistance.
Heavy snowfalls and extreme weather are a regular occurrence in rural Kyrgyzstan. Harsh weather conditions exacerbate hardships for many impoverished families who struggle to eke out their own existence in the unforgiving climate.
The urgent need to restore an easier passage to their village helped Kosh-Bulak residents mobilise into volunteer groups under the food-for-assets project. They set up concrete rings to reinforce the passage using construction materials and engineering expertise provided by the UNDP, a partner for the project.
Kosh-Bulak residents identified a key priority project for their community supported by a joint WFP/UNDP disaster mitigation initiative – to restore a community drainage system to prevent underground waters from damaging their houses and fields.
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