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Thursday, 23 November, 2000, 18:43 GMT
Rats bite off Kyrgyz baby's nose
Rats
The region's rat population has boomed
By Central Asia correspondent Catherine Davis

Rats in Kyrgyzstan have started attacking sleeping children and in one horrifying recent incident bit off a one-month old baby's nose.

Health officials say there have been attacks by rats before but not involving children.


They say pest control has become a serious problem in the last decade, since the collapse of the former Soviet Union.

The attack on the baby happened in Kara-Balta around 60km from the capital, Bishkek.

The village doctor said a three-year-old boy was also attacked and then the rats turned on the mother. A friend raised the alarm and the injured were taken to hospital.

Doctors say both children need reconstructive surgery.

Pest control

The attack took place in a region where officials admit rats are a growing problem.

A health representative said the rat population had increased dramatically over the last decade.

Kyrgyzstan - rural people
Kyrgyzstan is one of the poorest Central Asian states
He explained that in the days of the former Soviet Union the state simply ordered local authorities to deal with vermin.

Now it was more difficult because private organisations were involved too. But he said the main problem was lack of funds.

He estimated that $400,000 was needed to buy the poison to control the rat population in his region alone.

Winter

Kyrgyzstan is one of the poorest Central Asian states. Over 80% of the population are said to live in poverty.

Many social services have declined because of inadequate funding and traditional safety nets have all but disappeared.

The country's president has pledged to tackle poverty, but that's likely to be of little comfort to many Kyrgyz, especially in rural areas, as they face a hard winter ahead.

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07 Sep 99 | Americas
Nicaragua plagued by rats
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