Keeping the family together

Thanks to assistance from nurses, a mother in Kazakhstan’s southern city of Kyzylorda is able to raise her five kids herself, without sending them to state-run care.

Three little girls are hugging and climbing on their mother, who is sitting on a bed in a room of the local Kamkorlyk (Care) crisis centre in Kyzylorda. Her three-month-old baby boy is sleeping next to her. The woman’s name is Saule; she is 27. She divorced her first husband, by whom she has four children.

Her daughter Aida was born with a neurological disease. Saule’s relationship with her first husband deteriorated as Aida grew up and they realized there was something wrong with her. The husband’s mother insisted that her son divorce Saule because of their daughter’s health problems, even though by the time of the divorce, Saule had given birth to another child. Nevertheless, her husband started treating Saule badly, and she had to take all her kids and leave.

Saule moved to Kyzylorda, where she tried to make a living. But with four kids – one with a neurological disease and the youngest breastfeeding – it was impossible to find a job.

“My living conditions were deteriorating. My kids were ill, and they didn’t receive proper nutrition. I was desperate,” says Saule.

She rented a room in a private house, and sometimes she didn’t have a penny to buy food for her kids. In Kyzylorda she a met a man; they married and had a baby boy. The husband is a labour migrant from a neighboring country, and he doesn’t earn enough money to support Saule and all her kids, although he has pledged to look after them.

“I was surprised when the visiting nurse, who examined and treated my kids, offered her assistance. The money I receive as a social allowance for my kids was not enough to pay the rent,” says Saule.

“I observed some signs of malnutrition among the kids when I first visited them,” says Yelena, a visiting nurse. “Saule was in a deep depression; she was pregnant with her fifth baby, her daughter Aida has a neurological disease, and her second husband didn’t support them properly. The room where they all lived was shabby. Saule didn’t know where to seek assistance.”

LIttle girl seen from above as she works on a coloring book
© UNICEF Kazakhstan/2016Another of Saule’s daughters.

“We discussed Saule’s situation at the clinic,” Yelena continues. “For a start, we decided to provide free children’s food for her kids, and nappies. We suggested that she move to a shelter, Kamkorlyk, where she could live a normal life with her kids for some time. At first she didn’t agree, as she was afraid she would be separated from her kids. We convinced her to move to the shelter, although it took us some time to prepare all her documents for the move.”

Yelena says that Saule is a very good and caring mother. She doesn’t want to send her kids to state-run care, but  wants to look after them herself. She just needs some support.

“Yelena and her other colleagues, who are also visiting nurses, helped my elder daughter enroll in a local school. Now they are helping me gather all necessary documents for proper diagnosis and medical treatment of my daughter Aida. I feel much better here, and the kids are happy. My stay is limited here, that’s why I will try to train as a cook and find a job,” says Saule.

UNICEF is supporting universal progressive nursing services in Kyzylorda, which has been much affected by the aftermath of the decline of the Aral Sea. Several clinics in Kyzylorda are taking part in the modelling of a progressive nursing system, which aims to help identify vulnerable individuals and families in order to provide timely social assistance and refer them to specialized services when needed.


Sultan Khudaibergenov is a Communication Officer with UNICEF Kazakhstan.

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