Bishkek, formerly known as Pishpek and Frunze, is the capital of land-locked Kyrgyzstan. The country is the second poorest among all the former Soviet Union countries and the level of poverty continues to increase. In 2009, 31% of the people were poor and this figure rose to 37% in 2011.
Since 1999, SOS Children has been providing loving homes for vulnerable children in Bishkek, and supporting fragile local families.
Kyrgyzstan was once part of the Soviet Union and its population at the time of independence was mostly ethnic Russians. However, as of 2013, only 7% are ethnic Russians with a national population of 5.6 million.
Bishkek has become a place to migrate to for those escaping ethnic conflicts or in search of work. Unfortunately, many migrants end up in settlements with very little means of supporting their families. Approximately 34.4% of the country’s population are younger than 15 and only a third of the people live in urban areas.
Bride kidnapping and prostitution
Some of the problems besetting the city are bride kidnapping and prostitution. The official count of prostitutes in Bishkek is 3,500, although experts living in the city say it is twice that count.
In Bishkek, HIV/AIDS has been growing at a steady pace because of the prostitution and illegal drug trade. The Kyrgyzstan government began an HIV/AIDS awareness program in 1995 but it has not quelled the growth. The 2000 estimates on HIV infection rates are between 18 to 50%.
Most distressing about the problem of prostitution is that 20% of the prostitutes are children according to the Institute for War and Peace Processing (IWPP). Girls as young as 12 are forced into the sex trade, often by their parents.
The children are also vulnerable because the country is a major conduit for illegal drug smuggling to Russia and Europe from Afghanistan. Also, there is the constant hovering threat of civil war and terrorists moving to Kyrgyzstan. The problems of the country are mainly economic and social and have created this dull and pervasive sense of hopelessness among the locals to the point of creating chasms between ethnic groups. This is apparent by the growing number of street children who should be in school instead of looking for work.
How do we help in Bishkek?
SOS Children has been in Bishkek since 1999. This was the first SOS Children’s Village in Kyrgyzstan and it has the full support of the government. The Village is located in a serene pine forest where houses were built in a circular manner with flower and vegetable beds.
In our Children's Village, several SOS families care for over 90 children. These children attend school or day care. As they grow older, they become part of the SOS youth programme where they are given additional work skills or guidance for higher education.
SOS Children has several ongoing projects in Bishkek including the family support programme which is designed to help local families to stay together, study, train, and become financially secure.
The Children's Village also has a centre that provides guidance and counselling on child-rearing, nutrition, and employment. With the involvement of the local government, SOS Children is able to attend to the health care of the children and those affected by HIV/AIDS.
When a child is given a new home and loving family environment, they have hope for a better future. You can support a child as they grow up in the SOS Village in Bishkek by becoming a child sponsor today.