Hometown love can win Kazakh schoolchildren 10-day trip across the country

NUR-SULTAN – Kazakh school children aged 11 to 15 now have the opportunity to win a 10-day trip across Kazakhstan by expressing what they love about their home region.

Photo credit: sk-trust.kz.

The Samruk Kazyna Social Development Trust recently launched a national competition asking participants to write an essay or poem or produce a film describing what they love about their home town and what they would like to change about their home region.

The contest will choose 600 winners who will be divided among three trips. The contest is open to all children, but a percentage of winners will be chosen from remote regions and socially vulnerable groups.

Among the winners will be 500 children of employees of Samruk Kazyna Sovereign Wealth Fund industrial enterprises and plants from remote settlements, children brought up in large, low-income or single parent families and children with good academic performance. Fifty children from across Kazakhstan will be chosen on a competitive basis as well as 50 children from among the representatives of the Kazakh diaspora from other countries, whom the fund will choose in cooperation with the Otandastar Fund.

The winners will travel by train for 10 days across Kazakhstan to visit five cities. The contest is part of the Tugan Elge Sayahat children’s excursion train project and will include three trips.

Photo credit: sk-trust.kz.

The winners will visit destinations on the Nur-Sultan – Baikonur – Taraz – Almaty – Balkhash – Nur-Sultan route.

The trips will also include visits with hobby groups and intellectual clubs, English language courses and sports games.

“The project is aimed at the comprehensive development of children, increasing interest in the outside world, studying historical and architectural monuments of the country and strengthening patriotism,” reported the fund’s website.

“Participants whose work is different in content, unique and has artistic taste and originality of presentation will have the opportunity to go on the excursion tour across Kazakhstan,” reported the website.

Entrants may submit one essay, film or poem by May 17 via e-mail to poezd2019@list.ru. Winners will be announced by May 25 while the first trip begins June 1, according to Samruk Kazyna Trust’s Corporate Communications Department Director Miras Irgebayev.

“The number of children participating in the excursion tour is growing every year. In 2016, 120 children went on a tour across Kazakhstan; in 2017, 400 and in 2017, 600 children,” said Irgebayev.




Atyrau authorities, investor to build waste processing plant

NUR-SULTAN – Atyrau authorities and a private investor will be constructing a waste sorting complex and plastic processing workshop. The high-tech installation is scheduled to launch in May.

Photo credit: kazpravda.kz.

“The complex was purchased at the expense of a private investor. The equipment will be delivered from Belarussian Sifaniya-Ekotekhnika company, which supplies waste processing equipment to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries and the European Union (EU). Such equipment is already operating in Aktau, Kostanai and Zhanaozen. The last fact played a major role in choosing the equipment. The Mangystau and Atyrau regions have similar climatic conditions and the same salty clay soil,” said plant head Almas Izteleuov.

Since Jan. 1, Kazakhstan has banned dumping plastic, glass, waste paper and cardboard into landfills. As a result, the Ministry of Energy and regional akimats (city administrations) have developed a set of measures for the timely disposal and recycling of solid household waste with wide involvement of small and medium-sized businesses.

The complex will be located on 1,000 square meters adjacent to a landfill. The equipment is being supplied on schedule based on an agreement with the manufacturer, according to authorities, which will install the apparatus and put it into operation. A trial launch is scheduled for early summer.

Some of the plastic waste recycling equipment has been received and the hangar mounted.

Approximately 250-300 tonnes of solid waste are taken each day from Atyrau to the garbage landfill. The new equipment is designed to sort up to 100,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste per year and the plant will create 70 new jobs.



Kazakhstan’s presidential hospital performs robot-aided surgery

NUR-SULTAN – Surgeons at the capital’s Presidential Hospital are expanding their capabilities in robot-assisted surgery. Using equipment which reduces blood loss and operation time, they have begun doing new procedures to remove kidney tumours and uteruses. The training centre opened in November.

Photo credit: tengrinews.kz.

“The main advantage of the robot is higher accuracy and better magnification, which leads to less blood loss and faster recovery. The robot is completely under the control of the surgeon. It is an effective tool that in the hands of an experienced doctor leads to a better result and saves lives,” said David Samadhi, an American urologist who advises surgeons on robot-assisted technology.

An ultrasound device, the world’s first working with a Senhance surgical robotic system, was applied during urological surgery to remove a kidney tumour.

Photo credit: tengrinews.kz.

“This is really a very difficult operation and it was successful. It was easier, of course, to remove the kidney, but we did an operation to preserve the organ. The so-called partial nephrectomy of the left kidney, that is, its partial removal, was carried out. The kidneys and the functions of the organs are preserved and she will continue to live as an ordinary, healthy person,” said surgeon Yerlan Yensebayev referring to a recent patient.

Hospital gynaecologists have already begun laparoscopic robot-assisted surgery by using the Senhance installation to remove an ovarian cyst and completely remove a uterus and uterine tube. Gulbaram Basharova performed a total hysterectomy using the robot.


“A total hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus and adjacent organs. The patient had a pathology of the cervix and fibroids. Today, for the first time in our hospital, we used the radio tool to perform such an operation. It allows surgeons to perform internal manipulations much more accurately and efficiently,” he said.

Fifty-five complex operations have been performed at the hospital using robot-assisted technology. The robotic operating room is a modern, effective method of surgical treatment in urology, gynaecology and general surgery (when internal organs are operated through small openings on the patient’s body). Additional benefits for surgeons using robots are multiple image magnification, completely eliminating shaking hands and protecting against errors. The advantages for the patient are no large incisions, minimal blood loss and fast recovery.



Kazakhstan’s assembly to continue interethnic, religious harmony building in wake of recent political changes

NUR-SULTAN – In response to the recent change in the Kazakh presidency, the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan (APK) organised a national extended meeting April 2 to redefine and discuss its agenda. The participants agreed to maintain its current course and involve more people in key national modernisation initiatives.

Photo credit: assembly.kz.

“Today, we are entering a new stage of development. It is important for us to ensure the continuity of the strategic course of Elbasy (Leader of the Nation, the constitutional title accorded to former President Nursultan Nazarbayev),” said APK Deputy Chair and Secretariat head Zhanseit Tuimebayev.

Nazarbayev established APK on March 1, 1995 to unite the diverse nation after the collapse of the USSR. It has become a mechanism working on strengthening ethnic and religious peaceful coexistence and promoting family values and youth development. Nazarbayev remains the chairman of the assembly.

The assembly will generally continue its activities and promote the established “Kazakh model of social harmony and national unity, rightly bearing the name of Nursultan Nazarbayev,” he noted.

APK Deputy Chair and Secretariat head Zhanseit Tuimebayev. Photo credit: assembly.kz.

The meeting participants plan to engage all APK structures throughout the country to contribute and participate in national events prioritising the Year of Youth, Ruhani Zhangyru (Modernisation of Kazakhstan’s Identity) programme and Nazarbayev’s 2018 article, “Seven Facets of the Great Steppe.”

The assembly’s structure includes chairs, mediators, ethno cultural associations, journalism clubs, public accord councils, mothers’ councils, scientific expert groups, maslikhats (city assemblies) deputy groups, business associations and the Zhangyru Zholy movement.

“In all regions, we have councils of public accord and councils of mediation. A huge role is played by the mothers’ councils. Of course, all this is possible with the direct support in each region of scientific expert groups that we operate. We would like to share our work with all our regions, as well as outline a plan for 2019,” said Kostanai Region’s APK Secretariat head Bibigul Akkuzhina.

Photo credit: assembly.kz.

The APK structure should encourage all Kazakh citizens to support social initiatives and modernise the country. The assembly should also strengthen tools of ideological control that should eliminate attempts to give inter-ethnic overtones to particular resonance events, said Tuimebayev.

“Such provocations should be immediately stopped, both by law enforcement agencies and by ideological measures,” he added.

The meeting participants also discussed the Law on the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan. Currently, the assembly is working to develop an event plan through 2025 that will enforce the recent changes and additions to the law.

APK will organise its 27th session, Formula of Peace and Harmony: Social Unity and Modernisation, on April 29.

“This session should be a landmark event in the political agenda, ensuring further strengthening of social harmony and national unity in our country. In this regard, there is a need to hold it at a high ideological and organisational level,” said Tuimebayev.



Early presidential election in Kazakhstan set for June 9; President Tokayev pledges fair and transparent vote

NUR-SULTAN – Kazakhstan will hold an early presidential election June 9, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced April 9.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Photo credit: Akorda.kz.

Tokayev called for the early election after assuming the office per Kazakhstan’s Constitution March 20 following the surprise resignation of Kazakhstan’s first and only President Nursultan Nazarbayev March 19.

Tokayev said he called for the early election because it was “absolutely necessary” to ensure “continuity, predictability and stability” at the time of political transition and “to remove any uncertainty.”

In a televised address broadcast on all national television channels on April 9, Tokayev said: “Kazakhstan took a worthy place in the international community… We are living through an historical transition… Following my trips around the country… my conclusion is we are moving in the right direction.”

“That is why I firmly believe the early election of the head state is absolutely necessary. In order to ensure social and political harmony, firmly move forward, keep on solving the tasks of social and economic development, there is a need to remove any uncertainty,” he said.

“Besides, the situation in the world is changing quickly and not in the best possible way for us. We must reconfirm the continuity, predictability and stability of our domestic and foreign policy. We need to continue to work on the effective and successful realisation of the social programmes and the strategy of Elbasy,” Tokayev said, referring to former President Nazarbayev who carries the title of the First President of Kazakhstan and Elbasy (Leader of the Nation in Kazakh). “This can only be done through the direct expression of the will of the people through an election.”

“Kazakhstan is a democratic state. And the President will be elected according to the will of the people. As the current head of state, I guarantee that the election will be held in a fair and transparent way. This is my principled position,” Tokayev stressed.

Tokayev also said he consulted with Nazarbayev on the decision

He had also discussed this decision with Speaker of the Senate of the Parliament Dariga Nazarbayeva and Vice Speaker of the Mazhilis of the Parliament Vladimir Bozhko, Prime Minister Askar Mamin, Chairman of the Constitutional Council Kairat Mami, as well as heads of the political parties: NurOtan, AkZhol, the Communist People’s Party and Auyl Party.

Tokayev, who had served as Speaker of the Senate, became President of Kazakhstan on March 20 following Nazarbayev’s resignation after almost 30 years at the helm.

On the same day, the Akorda presidential office announced that Tokayev had signed a decree requesting the Central Election Commission organise the election and asking akims (governors and mayors) to ensure the timely compilation and veracity of voter lists and to provide comprehensive assistance to the central, territorial and district election commissions in relation to the holding the election.

According to the Constitution of Kazakhstan, the President of the Republic is elected by adult citizens of the Republic on the basis of universal, equal and direct election by a secret ballot for a term of five years.

A citizen of the country by birth who is at least forty years old, fluent in the state language, has lived in Kazakhstan for the last fifteen years and has a higher education, may be elected President of Kazakhstan.

Registration of candidates for the President is carried out by the Central Election Commission and begins two months before Election Day and ends forty days before election. According to the legislation of Kazakhstan, candidates for the President can be nominated only by political parties and nation-wide public associations and must be supported by at least one per cent of the total number of registered voters, equally representing at least two thirds of regions, cities of national significance and the capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

According to the data from the Central Election Commission from 2016, more than 9,700,000 voters were registered so candidates currently are required to provide no less than 97,000 signatures.



Senate speaker raised concern over environmental problems in Kazakhstan

NUR-SULTAN –The Kazakh Senate speaker recently voiced concerns over environmental problems in Kazakhstan and urged legislators to address the issue.

Kazakh Senate Speaker Dariga Nazarbayeva.

Senate Speaker Dariga Nazarbayeva raised concerns over Caspian Sea area and Mangistau Region environmental problems during a March 28 Senate plenary session. Nazarbayeva discussed recent environmental threats, measures that have been taken and work that still needs to be done.

“As you know, at the end of last year, due to water pollution on the Ural River, there was a mass death of fish. To investigate the causes of this emergency, a special interdepartmental commission was created and examinations were conducted. As a result, a criminal proceeding was instigated. However, the work carried out by government agencies to determine the specific causes of the mass fish die-off and damage to the environment should be made widely available to the public. We must pay attention to this,” said Nazarbayeva.

Nazarbayeva also recommended having the air quality in the Mangistau Region tested due to a recent fire that has occurred in the Kalamkas oil field.

“On March 13, gas ignition has occurred in one of the wells in the Kalamkas oil field in Mangistau Region, we all know about it. Despite the official statement of the state authorities on environmental issues about the absence of a negative impact of this incident on the environment and the population, we need to assess this emergency. It is necessary to check the quality of water, air and soil each day. We also need to urgently take special measures. This issue is under the personal control of the President,” Nazarbayeva said.

She concluded by urging action to mitigate the effects of these environmental problems.

“Therefore, I draw the attention of the Government to the need to take urgent measures to overcome these environmental problems. If necessary, work should be done to introduce appropriate amendments to legislation in this area,” Nazarbayeva concluded.

The Ural River environmental disaster occurred in Atyrau December 2018, according to Atyrau akimat (administration) data. Fish that died over that period are still being found in Ural River, and since it might be poisonous, the concern is preventing the selling of it. A Kalamkas oil field fire occurred March 25 as a result of gas and water mix discharge. However, Vice-Minister of Energy Sabit Nurlybai said the fire did not seriously damage the region’s environment.



Podcasts find growing audience, become new social opinion platform for creative Kazakhs

NUR-SULTAN – Why do creative individuals launch podcasts in a period of YouTube domination? What topics do they explore? Is podcasting becoming more popular in Kazakhstan?

Larissa Pak.

The Astana Times interviewed TEDx Ambassador Larissa Pak and engineer Omar-Sayan Karabayev to learn more about their podcasts and activities.

Pak’s “Every Day by Day” covers topical and controversial issues related to the environment, gender equality and society with public figures, writers, reporters and activists. All her guests can be defined as people with social position and their own vision of various situations.

“We are looking for the new ideas and every day meanings of our life in the conversation flow,” she said.

She released the first episode with Guzel Yakhina, best-selling author of “Zuleikha opens her eyes” and “My Children,” in July.

“My podcast is like an inner voice that gives interesting topics or food for thought. We talk about events and things that excite or inspire us every day. At the same time, the podcast is our voice for the world which attracts the public with the same values,” she said.

Pak recalled the way she was introduced to the genre. During a road trip, she was impressed by Serial, a podcast telling the story of an American journalist investigating a criminal case. A 17-year-old boy of Pakistani descent was arrested for killing his ex-girlfriend.

“While driving, we were immersed in the story. We imagined the whole world while listening to this podcast. Before, I never liked audio books. Now, podcasts have become something special to me. I like to listen to podcasts in the car or during a walk or when I cook. When I am alone, it feels as if the author speaks to me and it creates a feeling of trust,” she noted.

She purchased the necessary equipment and learned how to edit sound files using the Garage Band app. Pak has released 24 episodes, approximately one every 10 days.

“This is quite a lot, considering that podcasting is a hobby for me,” she said.

Approximately 525,000 podcasts with 18 million episodes are currently available worldwide. Nearly 73 million Americans, or 26 percent of the population, listen to podcasts at least once a month and 48 million people each week. The audience is steadily growing 10-20 percent every year.

“Podcasts will boom in our region. You have to look for new ideas, tell stories and you will find your audience. There are currently no more than 10 podcasts in Central Asia. I suppose that there will be more podcasts in a couple of years.  Let’s make it better. I reckon that while in the U.S., small talks usually begin with ‘What podcast are you listening to now?’ My friends based in the U.S. complain that there are only 40 minutes in one episode, as it is often not enough for them, since they have long roads,” she said.

Karabayev and Azamat Makhsudov launched Random Conversations Generator (RCG) in 2017. Later, Aiman Makhsudova joined the team as a third host.

RCG delves into areas including science, society, culture, music, cinema, relationships, art and psychology.

“The idea of creating a podcast had been cradling in Azamat’s head for a while by February 2017 and when he offered me to be a co-host, I gladly accepted. We both saw this as an opportunity to do something other than our everyday jobs; a great way to learn new things and it seemed like a great hobby, which could become something bigger than just a hobby in the future. We will see,” said Karabayev.

L-R: Azamat Makhsudov and Omar-Sayan Karabayev.

The podcasts mainly feature discussions among the co-hosts, while some episodes include guests.

“If we think that the topic for an episode requires an expert opinion or first-person experience, we try to find a guest who could shine some light on that topic. Usually, the most popular episodes are the ones that our listeners can relate to. As such, I would say that the episodes about the issues of young people in their 20s as well as interviews with popular Kazakh singers and scientists including Mdee, Science and Life, Data Science and Mercury Cachalot are the most popular ones,” he noted.

The genre was attractive because unlike video, podcasts are more city-life friendly.

“People can listen to podcasts while they drive, ride bikes, do their house chores and other daily activities. The audio gear doesn’t require as much investment as video equipment,” said Karabayev.

“As for our audience, most of the listeners are young people in their 20s who go to school or work in Kazakhstan and abroad. I have received quite a few comments from Kazakh people who live abroad who said that listening to our friendly conversations makes them feel closer to home. Other listeners simply like to have virtual company and learn new things while they go about their daily routine,” he said.



Volunteer programme, eagle hunting centres added to Kazakh Year of Youth initiatives

NUR-SULTAN – The Kazakh government recently added eagle hunting centres, volunteer coordination and self-defence courses to its Year of Youth initiatives.

Aysholpan Nurgayypkyzy of Mongolia. Photo credit: inform.kz.

The programmes were added to the Year of Youth roadmap during a March 26 government meeting, which also included the addition of general vocational training and assistance for young journalists seeking to promote Kazakhstan’s image.

Former President Nursultan Nazarbayev designated 2019 the Year of Youth and the newly added initiatives join other programmes to develop the country’s next generation.

The Eagle hunting (berkutchi) centres will teach the ancient art and hold competitions to make eagle hunting an important element of ethno-tourism in Kazakhstan, said Minister of Information and Social Development Dauren Abayev.

The new initiatives also include a national student volunteer programme that will coordinate the work of national university and vocational school student volunteers helping those with disabilities, the elderly, orphans and the homeless.

The government will allocate 24.6 billion tenge (US$64.8 million) from the national budget for the initiatives, said Deputy Prime Minister Gulshara Abdykalikova.

These initiatives join a five-part draft roadmap that includes 89 initiatives.

The first of the five-part roadmap involves providing housing for working youth. The government will build at least 1,000 rental apartments annually in Nur-Sultan, Almaty and Shymkent. They will target young scientists, start-up entrepreneurs and professionals who work in manufacturing, agriculture and in public organisations. Young families with children will have priority in receiving accommodation.

The second part is related to youth employment. The government will support the Zhas Kasіpker programme to teach entrepreneurship to 60,000 young people. At the same time, the government plans to issue 15,000 microloans to rural young people and fund more than 30,000 new business ideas.

The third part is directed toward education and volunteering. This part includes the Zhas Maman project to train youth in the 100 most demanded industrial and service professions. This will involve 20 universities and 180 vocational schools and is expected to reach 200,000 young people in three years.

This part also includes the Open University project, which connects all universities and vocational schools and includes a 3 billion tenge (US$7.9 million) annual funding increase for applied research. The scholarships for student volunteers will increase 30 percent.

The fourth part of the roadmap is meant to develop the social activity of youth and includes the Green City – Green Village nationwide project. The initiative recognises students working with construction companies. This part also includes the development of a military-patriotic education programme.

The fifth part of the Year of Youth roadmap supports the health and social inclusion of young families. This part of the roadmap will work in such areas as preventing suicide and promoting family values.



Kazakhstan to set up cancer molecular genetic laboratories, gears support towards cancer diagnosis, treatment

NUR-SULTAN – Kazakhstan will establish molecular genetic laboratories in its effort to boost support for early cancer diagnosis and treatment, said Minister of Healthcare Yelzhan Birtanov at the recent Mazhilis (lower house of Parliament) meeting.

This year, the nation will allocate an additional 309 million tenge (US$817,287) to conduct molecular genetic testing of lung, breast, colorectal and skin cancer in three laboratories in Almaty, Karaganda and the capital. The test, he noted, is required in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries to determine individual patient therapy.

The meeting also emphasised the need to focus support on early detection and more efficient treatment by increasing access to advanced technologies and training high qualified specialists. As of January, 181,344 patients have been diagnosed with cancer, said Birtanov.

The country’s 2018-2022 comprehensive plan for fighting cancer is the main document overseeing the area. Its four key directions are regular checkups and controlling risk factors, developing a highly efficient early detection system, incorporating an integrated model of cancer care and treatment and developing specialists, research and science.

“Every year, around 40 billion tenge (US$105.8 million) is allocated from the national budget to provide medical services to cancer patients. The comprehensive plan envisions an additional eight billion tenge (US$21.2 million) every year to expand services as part of the guaranteed package of free health medical services. These include screening, molecular genetic testing and radioactive diagnosis. The plan is also to purchase equipment worth 3.2 billion tenge (US$8.46 million),” he noted.

Providing assistance to cancer patients is a state policy priority, said Birtanov. The country has implemented the Salamatty Kazakhstan health care development programme for 2011-2015 and cancer care development programme for 2012-2016.

“As a result, the mortality rate declined from 102.4 to 95.8 per 100,000 people in the population and early diagnosis [stages I-II] improved from 50.1 percent to 53.5 percent. As part of the national programme for health care development, in 2018 the goal was reached to reduce the mortality rate from 92.8 to 80.9 per 100,000 in the population. The proportion of patients living five years or more also increased from 50.2 percent to 51 percent in 2018,” he added.

Kazakhstan is in the group of countries with a moderately high cancer incidence and mortality rate. In the past 20 years, the nation’s incidence rate grew 8 percent, from 181.2 to 195.7 per 100,000, while the mortality rate has declined by 42 percent, from 136.4 to 78.3 per 100,000.

Kazakhstan will also open six positron emission tomography (PET) centres in the capital, Aktobe, Karaganda, Semei, Shymkent and Taldykorgan, said Birtanov. The scan is used to reveal abnormal activity in tissues and organs by injecting a small amount of radioactive substance into the body.

The nation currently has four such centres and the six new ones will help the country reach the international recommendation and standard of one PET per 1.5 million individuals.

“We are introducing teleconsultations with international experts for patients with severe diagnosis as well as telepathology of tissue specimen when the second opinion of a specialist is used. In OECD countries, this is a required component in cancer diagnosis and in Kazakhstan, we will now be conducting it as part of the guaranteed free package of medical services,” he noted.  

Kazakhstan currently has five linear accelerators across the country used as part of external radiotherapy treatment, although coverage reaches only 20 percent of patients, he added. The comprehensive plan envisions installing ten additional devices in Shymkent and the Akmola, Karaganda, Kostanai, Kyzylorda, Mangistau, North Kazakhstan, Pavlodar and Zhambyl regions.

Radionuclide therapy, a systematic cancer treatment method using radio-pharmaceuticals to target specific tumours and destroy cancer cells, is also unavailable in Kazakhstan. A nuclear medicine centre to conduct such therapies will be opened in Semei and a department is being built in the National Oncology Centre in the capital, said Birtanov.

An additional 1.6 billion tenge (US$4.2 million) will be allotted to fund almost 100,000 computer tomography and magnetic particle tests for patients who display suspicious symptoms.

“The efficiency of cancer treatment depends on the organisation of preventive measures nationwide. In Kazakhstan, spending for preventive measures is 4 percent, while Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries allocated up to 10 percent. The results of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) country assessment revealed a high prevalence of risk factors, such as tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption, that are risk factors for developing cancer,” said Birtanov.

Kazakh hospitals currently offer three types of voluntary cancer screenings – breast cancer screening for women age 40 and older, cervical cancer screening for women beginning at age 30 and colorectal cancer screening for men and women age 50 and older. Participation is still below the WHO recommended threshold of 70 percent.

Since 2018, the screening programme has expanded the age for regular screening from 30 to 70, with target group coverage growing from 70 to 90 percent by 2022.

“Vaccination against hepatitis B allows preventing liver cancer. This can be ensured by the vaccination of target groups up to 98.7 percent. Over time, the efficiency of the screening programme has increased in increasing detection of cancer at early stages; for example, cervical cancer screening by 4.5 percent, breast cancer by 6.3 percent and colorectal cancer by 2.3 percent,” he said.

Raising awareness of symptoms and treatments through education is also underway.



Twenty percent of Kazakh schoolchildren suffer from excess weight

ASTANA – Nearly 20 percent of Kazakh youngsters in grades three-four are overweight and 1.1 percent of them suffer from extreme obesity, a situation which poses a public health danger for the nation, according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

Photo credit: wellbeing.com.

The organisation’s healthcare and nutrition experts reported excess weight among Kazakh schoolchildren has become a widespread problem.

“Epidemiological monitoring of childhood obesity in Kazakhstan has shown that 77.5 percent of all children in grades three-four have a normal weight and 19.1 percent of children are overweight, including obese. Among them, 6.5 percent of boys and 5.5 percent of girls are obese and 1.1 percent suffer from extreme obesity,” said UNICEF Kazakhstan healthcare and nutrition programme coordinator Kanat Sukhanberdiyev, according to Kazinform.

He noted the situation is the result of children’s diets, starting with breastfeeding. Factors include parents’ low income and low education levels and food insecurity.

Aman-Saulyk Public Fund president and medical doctor Bakhyt Tumenova described the dangers to OtyrarKz.

“Child obesity increases the likelihood of obesity, premature death and disabilities in adulthood. Apart from increasing future risks to their health, children suffering from obesity also experience shortness of breath, are at increased risk of fractures, are prone to hypertension, an early manifestation of signs of cardiovascular diseases, insulin resistance and may experience psychological problems,” he said.

She stressed the need to tackle the problem.

“The government, international partners, civil society and non-governmental organisations all have to contribute to obesity prevention to shape healthy eating habits among Kazakhs so the obesity problem does not become a social threat to the country’s younger generation,” he added.  

More than 20 percent of Kazakh citizens are overweight, according to national public health centre data. The majority live in the Mangistau region, as well as Central and North Kazakhstan. Experts note each year obesity in the country spreads to a younger age category, with elementary school obesity increasing tenfold compared to statistics from the late 1970s.

Should current trends continue, World Health Organisation (WHO) worldwide projections indicate 70 million pre-school age children will suffer from obesity. In 1975, less than 1 percent of children and teenagers ages 5-19 suffered from obesity compared to 18 percent in 2016 (18 percent of girls and 19 percent of boys), according to The Lancet, a peer-reviewed medical journal. Annually, obesity results in approximately 2.8 million deaths.