Impoverishing impacts of reproductive health needs in Kyrgyzstan

Zoe Matthews, University of Southampton
Jane C. Falkingham, University of Southampton

The Kyrgyz Republic is one of the smallest and least developed of the newly created independent states of the Former Soviet Union. With a GDP per capita of $1,935 PPP in 2004, Kyrgyzstan is the second poorest country in Central Asia, ranked 110th out of 177 countries on the UNDP Human Development Index (UNDP, 2006). At the start of the new century, almost nine in ten people (88 percent) were thought to be living on less than $4 PPP a day. The fragile financial position of families is often exacerbated by health-related loss of earnings and repeated health care costs. This paper aims to investigate the role of reproductive health – especially care in pregnancy and childbirth, in creating poverty. Given that poverty has been a major cause of fertility decline in Kyrgyzstan, it seems unlikely that unwanted births or higher fertility have an impoverishing effect. However - although the impact of economic hardship has been felt by everybody – the ability of poor families to limit their fertility in the face of adversity may have been constrained as compared with rich families. Many respondents to a recent DHS survey across the wealth divide in both urban and rural areas found paying for contraception a problem. This is particularly true in rural areas and among the urban poor and may be a part explanation for the higher fertility among rural dwellers, apart from their aspiration for more children. Whether children are form of old age security in Kyrgyzstan is a related question. Although the fertility transition has already occurred, it is possible that the newly constrained service environment both for kindergartens and older people has dramatically changed intergenerational wealth flows.

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Presented in Session 76: Reproductive Health Care in Developing Countries