This image of a Kyrgyz boy sleeping on a piece of cardboard has triggered a furore on social media, and a wider debate about poverty in the Central Asian country. The boy is three years old and lives in the Osh region, in the south of Kyrgyzstan. It was posted to Facebook along with the comment: “It would be good if this innocent child slept in a kindergarten or at home, instead of at the market”. And others were quick to offer similar opinions – blaming the mother of the boy for leaving him to sleep on the street. But many turned their attention to the government as well, criticising the authorities for the pitiful scene. “State jackals. You can’t see how the people live,” wrote one. Many took the opportunity to harangue the country’s president. “[Almazbek] Atambayev is to blame for this,” said one. BBC Trending spoke to the boy’s mother, Zulfia Usenova, to find out the story behind the photo. “My son fell asleep when I was working and I had no choice but to lay him on the ground in a safe place while I was busy with work. I lay a carton underneath him, he was only asleep for ten to fifteen minutes,” she says.
Zulfia says her husband has moved to Russia to find work and support the family, but they are still struggling financially. Her story isn’t unique. The BBC’s Kyrgyz Service told us that many families rely on remittance payments sent from Russia, and the larger nation’s faltering economy means less money is flowing back to Kyrgyzstan. There are about 1.5 million Kyrgyz migrants in Russia, about a fifth of the country’s total population. Zulfia’s story seems to have touched a nerve, and many are now demanding that the president step in and provide for the family. Local media has reported that a string of promises have been made by government officials, but not all appear to have been delivered. “A minister came to my house and he brought boxes of food and blankets and clothes for my children, raincoats and boots and shoes, I very much appreciated this gesture from him. Apart from that, I haven’t received any help. I read in the media that president himself has ordered to provide me with a permanent residence, but I haven’t heard or received anything,” Zulfia says. Despite the help they are now receiving, she thinks the photograph has caused her deep embarrassment.