Short of vehicles and staff, emergency services also find city traffic a problem. Ambulances in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek are supposed to arrive within 20 minutes of a call-out, but that rarely happens.
One resident, Nurgul Mamabetova, told IWPR how she waited an hour for an ambulance to turn up while her ten-year-old son was suffering from acute appendicitis.
The head of the city ambulance service, Iskender Shayahmetov, says there are only 35 paramedic teams when 41 are required. Bishkek should in theory have 150 ambulances – one per 10,000 people – but currently only has 26. The service receives 600 calls a day, and responds to between 350 and 450 of them.
Part of the problem is that Bishkek has grown so fast in recent years, so that the ambulance service cannot keep pace with the expanding population. On a practical level, it can be hard for teams to find the address they need to go to, since newer neighbourhoods may not be signposted properly.
Finally, big traffic jams makes it hard for ambulances to pass other vehicles in a hurry. One ambulance driver, Murat Chelekbaev, says other drivers are reluctant to pull over and make way for the emergency services.
“Elderly drivers will give way, but the young ones are a problem,” he told IWPR. “That makes it hard for us to get there.”
Aytunuk Nurdinova is an IWPR contributor in Kyrgyzstan.
This audio programme went out in Russian and Kyrgyz on national radio stations in Kyrgyzstan. It was produced under two IWPR projects, Investigative Journalism to Promote Democratic Reform, funded by the European Union; and Strengthening Capacities, Bridging Divides in Central Asia, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the EU or the Norwegian government.