development in TajikistanTajikistan is a country located on the frontiers between Europe and Asia. This largely unheard of, mountainous country has a population of more than 8.6 million with an average GDP per capita of around $3,200, placing it near the bottom of the global ranking. However, over the past few years, the GDP of Tajikistan has grown between 6 and 7 percent. This article will address five facts about development in Tajikistan, including the challenging areas and opportunities that the country faces.

Five Facts About Development in Tajikistan

  1. Geography: Tajikistan’s geography is impugning its development since more than 90 percent of the country is mountainous. If fact, much of the land lies above 3,000 meters in altitude. Subsequently, the population is largely rural and widely dispersed, complicating infrastructural developments. However, as a result of this landscape, the majority of Tajikistan’s electricity production comes from hydroelectric power. The system is still largely inefficient though, especially in winter months. Users reporting shortages up to 70 percent of the time in winter months. Recent efforts have sought to address the gaps in provisions. In March 2019, the World Bank agreed to finance the rehabilitation of the Nurek Hydropower Plant, which generates 70 percent of the country’s energy demand. The rehabilitation should increase the plant’s winter generation by 33 million kWh, allowing it to meet winter energy demands and become a net exporter of energy in summer periods.
  2.  Government Policy: According to the U.S. State Department, Tajikistan is a country of ‘high risk’ but ‘high reward’ investment. Despite its consistent low ranking on the Freedom House Index, which measures civil and political rights, continual economic reforms have increased its Economic Freedom and promoted more investment. These reforms helped Tajikistan officially join the WTO at the end of 2013 after the changes made in property and investor rights. The 2019 ‘Doing Business’ World Bank report stated that Tajikistan had increased its rank overall by taking steps to participate more in the regional economy. Through the Simplified Customs Corridor agreement, Tajikistan has improved customs clearance with Uzbekistan. Based on the international classification, the poverty rate is projected to fall to 12.5 percent by 2020.
  3. Labor Migration: Due to the lack of employment opportunities, Tajikistan has a negative net migration rate, meaning that there are more people leaving the country than entering it. Most of the migrants are working-age men going to work in Russia. In 2015, worker’s remittances accounted for around 29 percent of Tajikistan’s GDP. But, this dependency means that Tajikistan’s fiscal health dropped from 95.8 percent to 60.3 percent in the period from 2016 to 2017 as a result of Russia’s economic downturn. To increase the opportunities for the workforce, the International Labour Organization has launched a pilot project aimed at strengthening National Skills Development systems as part of the ‘G20 Training Strategy’. Although it only has 1,460 participants so far, the updated frameworks could help increase Tajikistan’s current low productivity.
  4. Gender Disparities: In Tajikistan, women face a number of barriers to succeed economically, gain access to education, find employment or receive healthcare. They receive fewer years of schooling than their male counterparts and earn approximately 60 percent of what men do. However, with a migrating male workforce, female participation in the economy could be beneficial for economic development in Tajikistan. With help from funding from U.N. Women, the Tajikistan National Business Association for Women runs a number of training programs to improve employment opportunities for women. From 2015 to 2018, 3,200 women received training in business and 2,200 women received training in vocational areas. The organization also runs a bi-annual women-only entrepreneurship competition, which received more than 700 applications in both 2016 and 2018.
  5. Border Problems: Tajikistan shares a 750-mile long border with Afghanistan, one of the world’s largest opium producers. Consequently, illegal drug trafficking in Tajikistan is estimated to be worth around 30 percent of the GDP. However, the Project for Livelihood Improvement in Tajik-Afghan Cross-border Areas (LITACA) is one of a number of projects seeking to enhance cross-border cooperation between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, especially for women entrepreneurs. The Government of Japan finances this initiative, and the UNDP Tajikistan implements it in order to add stability and security to the region and ease border tensions. This program introduced around 25 socio-economic projects between 2014 and 2017, boosting economic growth to 45,000 people on both sides of the border. The project improved direct access to “schools, hospitals, irrigation, drinking water, energy supply, roads and bridges” for more than 388,000 people.

Tajikistan faces a number of barriers to its economic development. However, these five facts about development in Tajikistan show that important work is being done. There are many opportunities for growth. Economic reforms and continued investment could change the lives of the hundreds of thousands affected by poverty.

Holly Barsham
Photo: Unsplash

Eight Facts About Education in TajikistanTajikistan, a country of 9 million people in Central Asia, recently created a new educational approach that will help address its ongoing struggles. The number of females enrolled in primary and secondary schools is significantly lower than males, and keeping children in school during economic or political crises is difficult for many families who rely on them for immediate financial returns. Despite gender and financial inequalities that still exist in educational institutions, however, many projects and investments are underway that will undoubtedly help reduce these discrepancies.

8 Facts About Education in Tajikistan

  1. Children are required to attend school between the ages of 7 to 15. Nonetheless, the number of out-of-school children in 2017 was 11,435, with girls accounting for more than 70 percent of this figure.
  2. Armed conflict during the 1990s meant that females in the region were 7.3 percent less likely to complete their education than females in non-affected areas. In the long-term, they also returned to school at a lower rate than males.
  3. The Global Partnership for Education, a funding platform that helps increase the attendance in schools in developing countries, works in conjunction with the Tajikistan government to increase access and quality of early childhood education. In fact, more than 18,000 children have benefitted from improved schooling conditions in 400-500 education centers.
  4. As of 2017, 5,400 primary teachers were trained and two million new learning materials were distributed to schools.
  5. Along with the addition of new materials, an enhanced curriculum that teaches practical applications and an interactive atmosphere are being used by 160,000 primary students.
  6. Location, gender and finances are the main obstacles to completing higher education. The proportion of students who complete higher education from the most well-off households is eight times higher than from the poorest families.
  7. Girls make up less than 30 percent of the overall number of students enrolled in universities. In fact, one in three women stops their education before completing secondary school.
  8. According to 19 percent of parents and out-of-school youth, the main reason for high dropout levels in females is marriage and avoiding “a bad reputation.”

As of 2017, the poverty rate in Tajikistan is 29 percent down from 37 percent in 2012 and education is one of the main factors that helped to reduce these levels. As described in these eight facts about education in Tajikistan, many new educational reforms are underway in Tajikistan that seek to alleviate the gender gap and create a system that benefits the community directly. Access to education will allow individuals to help lift themselves from poverty and contribute to the economy, which in turn will positively affect the global economy by reducing trade barriers and creating a more competitive global market. Investments in education have long-term payoffs that can make a tangible difference in the lives of people who live below the poverty line and create a more accessible and powerful global trade market.

– Tera Hofmann
Photo: Pixabay

tuberculosis in TajikistanIn conjunction with the United States Agency for International Development and global nonprofits, Tajikistan has made remarkable steps in countering its tuberculosis epidemic – by way of spreading awareness and the help of external nations. Reducing the burden of tuberculosis in Tajikistan is truly a global effort with many working factors and components, all of which have combined to have a substantial effect on spreading awareness and countering the disease.

Like many of its Central Asian neighbors, the landlocked mountain nation of Tajikistan struggles in its fight against poverty. As of 2016, just over 30 percent of Tajiks lived below the international poverty line, just scraping by with mass imports of food and resources from Russia, Kazakhstan, China and Iran. There are many contributing factors of this widespread poverty, including rampant corruption, substantial drug trafficking and thousands of displaced persons. Despite this sweeping poverty, however, efforts have been made to improve one substantial area of Tajik life: health and wellness.

Tuberculosis in Tajikistan

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tuberculosis is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide, with nearly 1.6 million people dying from the preventable disease in 2017. In the same year, there were 6,279 reported cases of tuberculosis in Tajikistan, though this value does not represent all cases of tuberculosis due to the sheer spread of disease. However, the total incidence of tuberculosis in Tajikistan has also been steadily declining since 2000.

If the proper resources are available, tuberculosis can be easily treated. According to the WHO’s report of tuberculosis in Tajikistan, out of a cohort of 5,324 members, 89 percent were successfully treated for their tuberculosis. The success of treatment drops significantly, however, when concerning those who are HIV-positive and those with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

U.S. Involvement in Tajikistan

While a significant portion of this decline in incidence and rise in success of treatment can be attributed to the Tajik people, much of the funding and interventions have been spearheaded by the United States. USAID, a U.S. government agency focused on the development of foreign nations, has been the primary arm of U.S. funding and involvement in reducing the burden of tuberculosis in Tajikistan through increased resources and general awareness. Specifically, the USAID TB Control Program helped support the local Tajik governments with financial resources and infrastructure, creating a five-year National TB Program that includes training for health workers, informing at-risk populations and providing more widespread and affordable diagnosis and treatment options. This National TB Program is supported by $13.2 million in aid.

In addition to providing funding, USAID is also focused on streamlining the processes related to reducing the burden of tuberculosis in Tajikistan. In this landlocked, former-Soviet nation, USAID helped reduce the treatment time for tuberculosis from 24 months to nine months. While this is still a significant amount of time, this improved treatment theoretically allows for those who have been properly diagnosed with tuberculosis to return to work, happy, healthy and hopefully ready to contribute to Tajikistan’s dwindling economy.

Next Steps

While Tajikistan has taken the first, crucial and often most difficult steps in tuberculosis prevention and treatment, the country still has a long road ahead. Continuing to educate populations and streamline treatment and diagnoses must spread to other populations, including migrants (of which, Tajikistan has a significant population), prisoners and children, in order for Tajikistan to have a far brighter future.

– Colin Petersdorf
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Credit Access in TajikistanTajikistan, located in Central Asia, has a population of over 8 million people. Tajikistan has borders to Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China. Although Tajikistan’s financial sector has made significant progress since 2000, many new advancements such as credit access are still in need of improvement. In 2017, almost 30 percent of Tajiks were living below the poverty line. Finding a solution to increase credit access in Tajikistan has become an important task for the government of Tajikistan.

Tajikistan’s Reliance on Remittances

Due to Tajikistan’s limited employment opportunities, about 90 percent of Tajiks travel out of the country for work. They often travel to the Russian Federation in search of employment. Many migrant workers send remittances back to their friends and family in Tajikistan. More than 60 percent of Tajik households reported that half of their income comes from remittances with 30 percent of Tajik households reporting that 100 percent of their income comes from remittances.

A 2010 Labor Organization study reported on how Tajik households save their income and remittances. The study found that only 23 percent of people were able to save their remittances with only 9 percent able to save at a partial amount of 21 to 40 percent of the money. When the money can be saved, it is not often for long. In fact, only 11 percent of the people were able to save their remittances for more than six months.

Income savings did slightly better. At least 63 percent reported being able to save part of their income. For example, 51 percent saved about 20 percent of their income. However, only 3 percent could save between 41-60 percent of their income. Since remittances are the main source of income in many Tajik households, money is spent on immediate needs, which results in low percentages in income saving.

Credit Access in Tajikistan

According to a 2010 International Labor Organization study, 95 percent of Tajik households do not keep their savings in financial institutions. Due to Tajikistan’s remote and unique mountainous terrain, 95 percent of Tajik households are not aware of the savings products available to them or know where financial institutions are located. Credit access in Tajikistan isn’t seen as a necessity in many Tajik households because it is very common and traditional for Tajiks to keep their savings at home. There also seems to be “a general distrust” of financial institutions.

In April 2010, the World Bank Group, with the help of the Government of Switzerland, launched the IFC Azerbaijan-Central Asia Financial Markets Infrastructure Advisory Services Project. This three-phase project is aimed at improving the financial infrastructure of Tajikistan and expanding credit for people and small businesses. This would allow for the creation of more jobs.

The project also provided financial literacy training to more than 100,000 Tajiks, which allowed Tajiks to become knowledgable about where their savings go. As a result of the IFC Azerbaijan-Central Asia Financial Markets Infrastructure Advisory Services Project, Tajikistan’s financial sector was able to establish the first private Credit Information Bureau with the help of IFC and the National Bank of Tajikistan.

These crucial advancements have led Tajikistan’s financial sector in the right direction toward improving credit access in Tajikistan as well as addressing the needs of the people of Tajikistan. With impoved credit access comes financial security, an increase in small businesses and a better economic standing.

Jocelyn Aguilar
Photo: Flickr

maternal mortality rates tajThe Republic of Tajikistan is a country located in Central Asia. In 1991, when Tajikistan became independent it was the most poverty-stricken country of the Central Asia republics. A civil war hurt Tajikistan’s economic and social growth, which led to a decline in overall health in the region. One of these health issues is that Tajikistan has had a very high maternal mortality rate. However, in the last decade progress has been made and maternal mortality rates for women in Tajikistan are dropping.

Tajikistan currently has a rate of 32 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births. This number has significantly decreased since 1990 when the rate was 107. There are multiple factors that are responsible for the decline in maternal mortality rates. One of the dangers had been the fact that many women have their babies at home. In fact, at least 15 percent of women still give birth without a doctor or midwife present.

Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities

A project by the name of Feed the Future Tajikistan Health and Nutrition Activity (THNA) is spreading information about the dangers of giving birth at home. They also teach women in the country about the benefits of delivering in a hospital or other health care setting. Funded by USAID, THNA is working alongside hospitals and healthcare centers in different locations throughout the country to talk about the three main factors that lead to increased chances of maternal mortality, also known as the three delays:

  1. Seeking maternity care
  2. Reaching a healthcare facility
  3. Receiving high-quality care once at a healthcare facility

In 2016, THNA partnered with the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population to further understand the problem. The duo conducted 14 in-depth assessments of hospitals in the region. They found out that many healthcare facilities did not have proper medical supplies, lacked adequate equipment and were understaffed. The duo worked together and provided the healthcare centers with new equipment and supplies.

The partnership also taught more than 1,400 people in the community to be health educators. The health educators, in turn, taught women about prenatal care and when they should go to a hospital. These changes are a major reason why maternal mortality rates in Tajikistan are declining.

Midwifery Services

Families in Tajikistan who cannot afford healthcare facilities often turn to alternatives such as midwifery. It is challenging to find a good midwifery service in the country. However, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is working with the Ministry of Health to increase the quality of midwives in the region. They supply midwives with education, capacity building and medical equipment. Furthermore, the UNFPA trains midwives on effective perinatal care.

UNFPA also provides technical help in improving training curriculums at schools throughout the country. Nargis Rakhimova, the UNFPA National Program Analyst on Reproductive Health in Tajikistan said, “This initiative is considered a breakthrough as it raises educational programmes to the level of internationally agreed standards.” Improved midwifery services are another factor why maternal mortality rates for women in Tajikistan are dropping.

Even though it is easy to recruit young women into midwife training programmes, it is not easy to keep them in the profession. Midwives do not make a lot of money and there is no official certification for midwifery, which may lower the standards of services in the region. Rakhimova said, “Though the midwifery situation in Tajikistan is improving, midwifery needs to be developed as a separate profession complementary to medicine.” Improving compensation for midwives will help continue to lower maternal mortality rates in Tajikistan.

Continuing to Improve

The poverty Tajikistan faced when it gained its independence led to a number of health crises in the region. Maternal mortality rates are one of these issues. Even though the country still faces problems with maternal mortality, the conditions are improving. The combination of advancements in healthcare facilities and midwifery services are a big reason for the improvements. These are the two main contributors as to why maternal mortality rates for women in Tajikistan are dropping.

Nicolas Bartlett
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Tajikistan
Tajikistan, located in the heart of Central Asia, is home to some of the world’s highest mountains. Despite the country’s natural beauty, its alpine landscape has affected the living conditions of many people in Tajikistan. Below are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Tajikistan.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Tajikistan

  1. Transportation. Lack of options for transportation has had a tremendous effect on Tajikistan’s regional connectivity. Therefore, in 2018 the Asian Development Bank’s board of directors issued a $90 million grant to improve the 40-kilometer section of Dushanbe and Kurgonteppa that connects two major cities in Tajikistan. Road transport improvement is important for Tajikistan’s economic development because it could help bring more opportunities for trade and may lead to private sector growth.
  2. Water Access. In Tajikistan’s rural areas, access to improved or basic water resources has increased from 45 percent to 71 percent since the year 2000. Although Tajikistan has made progress in providing access to improved drinking sources, it is still unequally distributed among rural and urban areas. In rural households, only 31 percent have access to “safely managed water” compared to 57 percent of urban households. In 2017, Tajikistan, with the help of USAID technical assistance, passed an amendment into law that would give local municipalities more authority to address the need for accessible and clean drinking water.
  3. Education. Tajikistan’s economic development can be seen through the level of education among its people. The level of education among the youth is lower compared to the level of education in older generations. This results from the current and inefficient teacher training program. However, the Government of Tajikistan, with the support of USAID, has targeted 75 percent of primary teachers with in-service training.
  4. Child Labor. According to the UNICEF MICS 2005, about 200,000 children aged 5-14 were involved in child labor. Although most children attend school, about 10 percent do not. Those who participate in child labor have often dropped out of school and it is more prevalent in rural areas due to financial constraints.
  5. Health. The country faces challenges in the areas of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis as well as maternal and child health. Preventative care is not easily accessible because health care facilities are often far away and farther for those who live in rural areas. USAID has worked with the Ministry of Health to improve essential health care services across the country.
  6. Income. About 70 percent of Tajikistan’s population lives in rural areas where agricultural labor is the only employment available. Agriculture makes up for 25 percent of the economy’s gross domestic product and employs 53 percent of the population. Although according to the Commonwealth of Independent States, almost 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and live on less than two dollars a day.
  7. Employment. According to a World Bank report, the economy of Tajikistan is not creating enough jobs for the rapidly growing workforce. It was reported that only 43 percent of Tajikistan’s “total working age population is in the labor force.” Women and the youth population are also highly under-represented in the labor force. The formal private sector in Tajikistan is not yet fully developed.
  8. Housing. Due to the country’s mountainous landscape, the people of Tajikistan are often faced with inadequate housing. It is very common for families of different generations to live under one household because of the lack of housing in both rural and urban areas. Homes tend to be overcrowded with leaking roofs and many lack heating systems.
  9. Food. In Tajikistan, food insecurity is increasingly high, especially among women and young children. Children under 5 often suffer from stunting due to malnutrition which results from malnourished mothers. USAID programs have been implemented to teach families about proper nutrition and also help farmers grow more nutritious crops. This will not only benefit farmers financially but also improve the health of the people of Tajikistan.
  10. Gender Equality. In Tajikistan women still face discrimination and inequality. Gender-based domestic violence is still prevalent in many households. Women also have very little or no involvement in community decisions. It is quite the same for the political aspect as only 19 percent of legislators are women. Although there are obvious gender disparities in social, economic and political in Tajikistan, organizations such as U.N. Women have worked with women in Tajikistan since 1991 to promote gender equality along with promoting women empowerment.

The top 10 facts about living conditions in Tajikistan show that the government is making progress in terms of bettering the quality of life for the people of Tajikistan with the help of many organizations and programs.

– Jocelyn Aguilar
Photo: Flickr

Women in Tajikistan
For a small country in Central Asia, Tajikistan makes U.S. news relatively frequently, often because the lives of women there differ from the U.S. norm. Those living in the area have suffered from political turmoil and poverty. While the news often focuses on the modern oppression of women, the mistreatment of women in Tajikistan stems from a larger injustice, centuries of poverty in the country that has affected women more than men.

Religious Oppression for Women in Tajikistan

Recently, the news has highlighted that Tajikistan’s Ministry of Culture published a “Book of Recommendations” for women’s attire. In the book, models display what the country deems appropriate attire for many occasions, setting standards for work and many social events.

What particularly incited opposition from many was the book’s overt advisement against Muslim and Islamic clothing, like the hijab, as well as Western clothing, which was deemed too scandalous. Furthermore, in 2017, the Tajikistan government instituted a policy of texting women reminders about wearing traditional clothing. This followed the government’s efforts in 2016 to close shops selling women’s religious clothing.

Additionally, the Tajikistan government created a law requiring traditional attire and culture at important events, such as weddings and funerals, officially banning “nontraditional dress and alien garments.” In August, the month it became law, 8,000 women wearing hijabs were stopped by government officials and told to remove their religious garments.

Maternal Mortality Rates for Women in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is one of the world’s poorest countries. Thirty-two percent of Tajiks live in poverty, but in rural areas, that number rises to 75 percent. Consequentially, women face staggering maternal mortality rates with 65 women out of every thousand dying from pregnancy or childbirth. In fact, mortality rates for both mother and infant are higher than any other country in Central Asia, a region already significantly behind Western standards.

This lag correlates with the upheaval faced by Tajiks since the responsibility for healthcare had changed hands so many times in the past. Tajikistan was part of the Soviet Union from 1929 to 1991. Then, shortly after gaining independence in 1991, Tajikistan suffered from a brutal civil war that not only claimed tens of thousands of Tajik lives but also crippled the healthcare system, contributing to such high maternal mortality rates.

Caring for the Home and Family

Political upheaval abruptly caused women to become household managers without any aid, leaving them to struggle with poverty. The civil war crippled industrial and agricultural production, the latter of which the country’s economy depended on almost entirely. Since then, nearly 1.5 million Tajik men have left the country to seek employment elsewhere, often leaving wives in charge of the home and children. But, unfortunately, households headed by women are significantly poorer than those headed by men.

Representation and Education for Women in Tajikistan

Female representation in government has remained below international standards because of the poverty caused by political upheaval. Only 12 of the 62 legislators in Tajikistan are women. Those who do make it into politics are often stuck in the lower ranks with little to no opportunity to rise to levels where they can create change.

Private Muslim schools educated the majority of the country’s population from early 1800 until the 1920s when The Soviet Union secularized education. However, with independence came a decreased government budget for education as the private funds disappeared. Moreover, women either have to marry young or are too busy working and, therefore, do not have an opportunity to receive an education.

Improvements Being Made For Women in Tajikistan

Due to The Soviet Union’s systemized education, literacy rates grew, and that shift in norms has continued to benefit men and women in Tajikistan. Additionally, in the two decades following independence, poverty rates have dropped, suggesting a growing stability. In fact, in 1999, 81 percent of the country lived in poverty, and in ten years that number has almost halved to 47 percent. Additionally, extreme poverty decreased from 73 percent in 1999 to 14 percent in 2013.

The U.N. has been working in Tajikistan to improve conditions for women since 1999 by empowering women and promoting gender equality. Furthermore, local and international stakeholders have been given a way to provide activities for women, such as the Rapid Emergency Assessment and Coordination Team (REACT), which helps train women to respond in disaster situations.

Hope for a Better Future

Therefore, beyond the uproar over women’s clothing being regulated by the government lies a deeper historical injustice due to poverty. Women have had little control over Tajikistan’s laws that have targeted them and a lack of access to education that prevents this fact from changing.

Despite concerning media coverage, possible improvements for the lives of women in Tajikistan exist. As stability grows, the potential exists to improve the budget for healthcare and education and, therefore, reduce poverty. Backed with proper healthcare and educational opportunities, women will have the ability to gain access and opportunities to dictate the laws of their country, such as those about their clothing, by becoming more active in the political sphere.

– Charlotte Preston
Photo: Flickr

 

Drug Trafficking in TajikistanAlthough Tajikistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, it has experienced rapid rates of poverty reduction in recent years. In 2000, more than 83 percent of the population was in poverty, while in 2016, the poverty rate reduced to 31 percent. Though rewarding, the rapid reduction of monetary poverty has been unable to address non-monetary poverty issues, such as the quality or accessibility of public services and the persistent problem of drug trafficking in Tajikistan.

The Tajikistani population is faced with a lack of educational institutions, deteriorated healthcare, severely limited access to clean drinking water, high rates of childhood malnutrition, high maternal mortality, a growing HIV/AIDS epidemic, high rates of tuberculosis and inadequate access to electricity, heat and roads. In addition to these daily struggles, the country continues to combat drug trafficking, an issue that is intertwined with Tajikistan’s economy, governance, culture and health.

Explaining Drug Trafficking in Tajikistan

Approximately 75 to 80 metric tons (MT) of heroin and 35 to 40 MT of opium are smuggled into Tajikistan annually, either for transfer north to Russia and Europe or for domestic consumption. Tajikistan’s geographic location, history of political unrest and high level of poverty contribute to the country’s major function as a “drug transit state.”

Tajikistan’s geographic location, with a porous border of 1,400 kilometers next to Afghanistan, has affected the country’s vulnerability for trafficking of illegal drugs to Russia, Kazakhstan and Europe. According to a 2012 estimate, 30 percent of the opiates produced in Afghanistan passed through Tajikistan. The high volume of drug trafficking in Tajikistan has now become equivalent to 30 percent of the country’s GDP.

Drug trafficking in Tajikistan is the product of a variety of interwoven problems. These problems include the continued large-scale production of opium in Tajikistan’s neighboring state of Afghanistan, a growing economic and social crisis in Tajikistan and governmental complicity contributing to the problem. Despite Tajik governmental policies to combat drug trafficking, U.S. counter-narcotics policies in Afghanistan and $200 million of U.S. military assistance since 2001, drug trafficking in Tajikistan not only continues to persist, but has increased.

Common discourse tends to overemphasize the link between the increase in drug trafficking in Tajikistan and the country’s neighbors, who are composed of Islamist groups such as the Taliban. This emphasis places responsibility for drug trafficking with terrorist organizations. However, this explanation undermines the severity of Tajikistan’s economic, social and political crisis.

In 2011, it was estimated that drug trafficking in Tajikistan generated $2.7 billion per year. For a country with an unstable population growth rate of 2.2 percent and a volatile GDP annual growth rate of 6.9 percent, the wealth generated from the drug trade is seen as profitable and legitimate among politicians and state officials.

Since the Tajikistan Civil War, which took place from May of 1992 to June of 1997, drug trafficking in Tajikistan has been a major source of income for the government. State officials, government personnel and military administrators continue to profit not only from the drug trade, but from the outside aid and efforts to combat drug trafficking.

Methods to Fight Drug Trafficking

Prior to 2004, Tajikistan’s government was limited in its methods to put an end to the drug flow. However, U.S. military assistance in the form of vehicles and specialized equipment, the creation of anti-drug squads and the construction of border outposts has served to undermine the flow of narcotics. More barriers positioned along the border has equated to more extraction opportunities for Tajik government officials, facilitated by the severe and persistent institutionalized corruption. The largest drug traffickers in Tajikistan are believed to be among the high-level officials of the Tajik government.

In addition to corrupt law enforcement, drug trafficking in Tajikistan has developed through the efforts of small traffickers, namely Tajik migrant workers who are willing to transport drugs to meet their basic needs. Government corruption and resistance to reform, as well as the country’s limited economic resources, has encouraged the development of illicit drug rings among local administrative officials.

What Can Be Done?

As long as governmental corruption is present in Tajikistan, international organizations and aid efforts have little hope of tackling drug trafficking in the country with any legitimate success. Institutionalized corruption among law enforcement officials, the presidential family and Tajik authorities is seen as a valid and necessary form of wealth production for the state.

International aid and military assistance has, thus far, failed to make any kind of a serious dent in the issue due to the governmental acceptance of drug trafficking and corruption. Drug trafficking in Tajikistan will not significantly decrease without greater emphasis placed on socio-economic development, poverty reduction efforts and the creation and maintenance of basic public services and infrastructure. These basic needs to be met include healthcare, education, transportation, heating, electricity and sanitation.

As a result, drug trafficking in Tajikistan must be fought indirectly. Organizations such as USAID are working with the Tajikistan Ministry of Health to improve basic healthcare services. By creating and building upon Tajikistan’s infrastructure and public services, international aid will be more effective in preventing the widespread corruption and drug trade prevalent within Tajikistan.

– Kara Roberts
Photo: Flickr

Tajikistan

Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations, once stated that “Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.” Tajikistan, located in Central Asia, is widely known for its mountains and hiking locations. The country has recently faced financial pressure which has led to a series of problems, one of which is the lack of girls’ education in Tajikistan.

Economic Conditions Impeding Education

According to UNICEF, “In Tajikistan, compulsory education (primary and lower-secondary) is guaranteed for all children, free of charge, under Article 41 of Tajikistan’s Constitution.” While education is guaranteed for all children, only 88 percent of girls in Tajikistan complete their basic education. Education in the region has been on the decline since the country’s civil war in the 1990s, which was estimated to have destroyed over one-fifth of all schools in the region. The ensuing economic hardships have made it difficult to build new schools or keep teachers and other scholars from leaving the country. The United Nations Education Index ranks Tajikistan 133 out of 187 countries; the lowest rank of all former Soviet republics.

Financial Difficulties and Child Labor

Following Tajikistan’s independence, the country saw the revival of ideas surrounding gender roles which led to the view that women and girls are expected to take care of the household. Financial troubles in enrolling children in schools have also led parents to prioritize education for sons over education for daughters. Other financial obstacles stand in the way of girl’s education in Tajikistan; paying for extra school uniforms and enrollment fees have forced parents into choosing which child gets to go to school.

Increases in child labor have also sparked a higher number of children dropping out of school to join the workforce. The International Labor Organization stated that from 2012 to 2013, more than 23 percent of all children in Tajikistan worked in child labor jobs.

Progress for Girls’ Education

While the current situation is alarming in Tajikistan, steps are being taken to help fix the issue of girls’ education. Since the 2012 adoption of the National Strategy of Education Development, progress has been made, although the girls continue to drop out of schools in the country.

Multiple initiatives by the Tajikistan government and worldwide institutions such as UNICEF have created an expansion in girls’ education in Tajikistan. The Girls Education Package, an initiative created by the work of UNICEF, the Ministry of Education of Tajikistan and Oshtii Milli, an NGO, has succeeded in slowly reducing gender disparities in education. These parties have brought together stakeholders in the community and local authorities to create an atmosphere that supports a gender-sensitive learning environment.

While organizations around the world work tirelessly to help out in Tajikistan, much more needs to be done for the expansion of girls’ education in the country. By ensuring that education retention grows among the population, Tajikistan’s future will become brighter every day moving forward.

– Michael Huang
Photo: Flickr

How the US Benefits from Foreign Aid to Tajikistan
Tajikistan is a small, little-known country in Central Asia. In comparison to the behemoth of the U.S., Tajikistan seems irrelevant. However, the country’s location — nestled between Afghanistan, China and Uzbekistan —  makes it a crucial player in maintaining stability in that region. This role can work to benefit the U.S. and the world as a whole.  

How the U.S. Benefits From Foreign Aid to Tajikistan

Most American citizens know about the United States’ involvement in aid to Afghanistan, but little know the role Tajikistan plays in return. The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Tajikistan through initiatives like the Cross-Border Transport Accord (CBTA), which are part of a U.S.-supported project coined the ‘New Silk Road.’ The CBTA promotes trade relationships between Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan in order to create more prosperous economies.

The U.S. has also provided $15 million to the region to support another project called the CASA-1000 electricity grid. This project would allow Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to transfer hydropower electricity to Pakistan and Afghanistan. The U.S. provides this money to promote a healthy Central Asian economy that would, in turn, lead to more political stability in the region.

The New Silk Road

The New Silk Road initiative includes plans to construct roads, railways, electric grids and pipelines between resource-rich countries in the Central Asia region. The project would promote the flow of these resources between countries, creating a more prosperous situation for all involved.

Tajikistan and other countries in the region have a history of withholding resources from one another in order to advance their political interests. Programs that would allow a mutually-beneficial flow of resources between countries could dampen political rivalries and mitigate conflict.

The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Tajikistan because it is an investment in future peace. A sharing program of resources has the potential to significantly decrease conflict in the region. Such an impact would prevent the need for a possible military intervention by the U.S. in the future.

National Improvements

Along with an increased flow of resources to Tajikistan would come more jobs, better education and healthcare systems. An electricity grid would provide electricity to thousands of homes. The CASA-1000 plan began construction in 2016 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

Not only does the U.S. benefit from foreign aid to Tajikistan, the people of Tajikistan along with the people in surrounding countries prosper from the relationship as well. Projects like electricity grids have provided energy to remote regions in countries like Afghanistan that would not have had it otherwise.

The Ripple Effect

Since 2006, the U.S. has provided $155 million in aid to Tajikistan that has gone to infrastructure and training. The U.S. has also been instrumental in the New Silk Road project.

The United States’ foreign aid relationship with Tajikistan is emblematic of the ripple effect foreign aid can have. Providing Tajikistan with financial support bolsters the entire Central Asia region by promoting political stability and alleviating poverty through a boosted economy.

– Amelia Merchant
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