Tajikistan is a landlocked country within Central Asia and the poorest Central Asian country to emerge from the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2019, Tajikistan had a national poverty rate of more than 26% and an extreme poverty rate of 11%. To reduce poverty at home, young Tajik men in particular travel abroad to countries such as Russia to work and send their earnings home to their families. In 30%-40% of households in Tajikistan, at least one member works abroad and sends funds home. As a result, the country’s economy has become heavily dependent on the money its migrant workers bring in. Remittances to Tajikistan in 2017 were equivalent to nearly 35% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Now, with the spread of COVID-19, the economy is struggling to recover from restricted travel abroad.

Remittances in the Short Term

Remittances to Tajikistan are a major source of revenue for the country. Yet, they have both positive and negative economic implications. Remittances are often beneficial in the short term as a lifeline to the poor. They essentially provide the means by which the poor can purchase basic goods and services to lift themselves out of poverty. Moreover, more than 80% of remittances to Tajikistan go toward essentials like food, clothing and shelter. Still, the lack of economic opportunity at home leaves little room for the Tajik people, particularly those in rural areas, to thrive independently.

Remittances in the Long Term

Economic dependence on remittances to Tajikistan opens up the country to risk in the long term. Tajikistan’s economy so heavily intertwines with Russia’s that it leaves itself at the mercy and political goodwill of Russia. Additionally, the dependency also exposes Tajikistan’s economy to external shocks from Russia’s economy. While Russia may recover from these shocks, Tajikistan itself may not. Furthermore, Tajikistan’s dependence on remittances reduces the incentive for the Tajik government to create programs that help develop the country’s own domestic economy.

Remittances in the Pandemic

During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian imposed lockdown caused the Tajik economy to suffer. Now, Tajikistan is slowly trying to recover from those economic damages. Russia’s lockdown meant that Tajik laborers in Russia suffered a decrease in work opportunities and thus, a fall in income. In addition, it also restricted Tajik migrants from traveling to Russia to work and earn the money they need to support their families. In the spring of 2020, President Emomali sought financial aid from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) because remittances to Tajikistan from Russia declined by 50%.

The faltering economy hit the poor in Tajikistan especially hard. The World Bank has reported that around 40% of Tajikistan’s population reduced the consumption of food during the peak of the pandemic and that the fall in the value of remittances could push the poverty rate even higher. However, the international community and the Tajik government are working to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the state of migrant workers.

Solutions

USAID and the World Bank are a few organizations working to help get Tajikistan’s economy back on track. USAID began providing assistance to Tajikistan in 1992, and its work continues today. To help build Tajikistan’s domestic economy and decrease its dependence on remittances, USAID is supporting the expansion of the private sector in a variety of ways. For example, USAID supplied technical assistance to 7,906 individuals and generated 2,409 jobs in the dairy and horticulture practices.

In April 2020, the World Bank also approved a grant of $11.3 million for the Tajikistan Emergency COVID-19 Project to provide aid. This will go toward providing emergency cash assistance to poor households and strengthening the country’s healthcare capacity.

The Tajik government is also working to ameliorate the economic fallout from COVID-19. For example, the government offered a number of targeted social assistance programs, deferred tax collections and relaxed monetary policy. Deferring tax payments provided households and firms with the additional support they needed to finance temporary disruptions in cash flow. Additionally, the government’s targeted social assistance programs increased public sector wages and pensions by 10%-15%. Still, the government is doing little to diversify the Tajik economy to avoid economic disaster in the future. It needs to implement domestic economic policies that encourage private sector development. Additionally, policies that help maintain a stable environment for that private sector activity are necessary. These solutions would help businesses thrive in Tajikistan and decrease their dependence on remittances.

Looking Forward

The COVID-19 pandemic changed Tajikistan’s economy and the lives of the Tajik poor. However, the country should still be able to rebound. The Asian Development Bank predicts that Tajikistan’s GDP growth rate may reach 5% by the end of 2021 from a pre-pandemic growth rate of 7.5%. Thus, Tajikistan may still reach the target it set in its National Development Strategy up to 2030. The strategy sets a target of increasing domestic incomes by up to 3.5 times by 2030 and reducing poverty in half. Should the Tajik government grant the private sector more opportunities to invest, create jobs, and thus, contribute to the economy, it may very well attain this goal.

– Savannah Algu
Photo: Unsplash

Tajikistan’s Response to COVID-19In February 2020, many countries arranged a summit to discuss how they would assist countries with weaker health care systems due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tajikistan’s response to COVID-19 was one of the topics at the summit.

Tajikistan, a small country in Central Asia, is regarded by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the most impoverished countries. Primarily private out-of-pocket deals run the country’s health care system. According to the WHO, this process undermines the system’s ability to grow in equity, efficiency and quality.

Combating COVID-19

Tajikistan was one of the first countries to receive COVID-19 support. In April 2020,  the World Bank provided emergency relief to Tajikistan, along with aid from various other countries. The World Bank said that it is a continuous goal to strengthen Tajikistan’s response to COVID-19 by improving its health care system.

On June 7, 2020, Tajikistan received emergency medical teams (EMTs) and mobile laboratories from Poland, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom. After this support, the country began to see an increase in COVID-19 contact tracing, testing and optimization of patient care. The EMTs gave Tajikistani health care workers advice on how to handle severe COVID-19 cases.

Tajikistan enacted a national COVID-19 laboratory upscale plan, and with help from international aid, the Tajikistan government established a Public Emergency Operations Center. On July 22, 2020, Russian lab experts arrived in the Central Asian country to help strengthen its data management system. Now, Tajikistan is seeing an increase in testing and staff capacity.

In addition, USAID donated $7.17 million to the Tajikistan government. Tajikistan used the funding to support migrants that traveled into the country. The country is also buying new, life-saving equipment and medical supplies. In April 2020, the USAID and other American organizations sent 58,620 kilograms of food to more than 100 health and social welfare institutions. These donations totaled approximately $171,000.

Further, the World Bank allocated $11.3 million to a grant for the Tajikistan Emergency COVID-19 Project. The project works to improve healthcare for Tajikistan’s citizens, sending funds to impoverished households and informing the public on COVID-19 safety measures.

Hope for Tajikistan

The Intensive Care Unit in Varzob, Tajikistan, was one of 10 hospitals chosen for refurbishment with funding from the World Bank. The hospital received upgraded medical equipment and supplies to strengthen Tajikistan’s response to COVID-19The Tajikistan hospital can now serve all district citizens instead of only private out-of-pocket citizens.

Several hospitals throughout Tajikistan received batches of medical equipment. Donations included 68 ICU ventilators, 68 ICU beds with patient monitors and 400,000 pieces of personal protective equipment.

According to the World Bank, 41% of Tajikistani households reported that they had to reduce food consumption, while 20% of families could not afford health care. With international funds, the Tajikistan government sent out one-time cash payments of 500 somonis to approximately 65,000 low-income families with children less than three years old.

In February 2021, Tajikistan received a grant for COVID-19 vaccines and to increase the oxygen supply in 15 of the country’s hospitals. Most of the funding went to Tajikistani patients suffering from COVID-19 to receive top-of-the-line care. Subsequently, the remaining grant money provided one-time cash assistance to an additional 70,000 poor households.

Future of Tajikistan

On June 16, 2021, the Asian Development Bank approved a grant of $25 million to strengthening Tajikistan’s response to COVID-19. This grant helped the country procure COVID-19 vaccines and improve its vaccination system. On the same date, Tajikistan created a goal to vaccinate about 62% of its population. This grant is one of many that allowed the country to strengthen its supply of medical equipment and care for the maximum number of high-risk COVID-19 patients.

As of July 9, 2021, Tajikistan has vaccinated 1.2% of the population, administering 223,648 doses. With help from international aid, the country is giving out approximately 9,273 doses each day. It will take more than 200 days to vaccinate 10% of the population, but Tajikistan is steadily recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

– Rachel Schilke
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid in Central Asia
Central Asia comprises Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. The combined population of these countries is about 72 million. Promising foreign aid efforts in Central Asia are working to combat a variety of issues in these countries.

Food Distribution

One critical area for foreign aid in Central Asia has been food security. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been leading a program to provide food to impoverished children in Tajikistan. This program has given vegetable oil and flour to more than 22,000 households in Tajikistan.

This has been part of a more significant effort by the WFP School Feeding Programme to ensure student food security in Tajikistan. The School Feeding Programme has helped more than 600,000 students across the country.

Russia is a critical contributor to these aid programs. Since 2012, Russia has given more than $28 million to the School Feeding Programme to facilitate food distribution and the modernization of food infrastructure for schools.

The World Food Programme and Russia are not the only sources of food aid in Central Asia. The United Arab Emirate’s 100 Million Meals campaign has distributed more than 600,000 meals to Central Asia as of June 2021.

The organization gave out food baskets with enough food to feed an entire family for a month. It assists families in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The campaign coordinated with other charity organizations within these three countries, and the campaign target has already increased from 100 million meals to more than 200 million meals.

Electrical and Water Supply

Another critical area for foreign aid in Central Asia is the development of electrical infrastructure and water management. The U.S. recently started an effort via USAID to develop a sustainable and reliable electricity market in the region. An October 2020 agreement between USAID, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan planned to create an electrical market with “expected economic benefits from regional trade and… reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

USAID also recently started the Water and Vulnerable Environment project, which will help all five Central Asian countries. The project aims to “promote regional cooperation to improve natural resources (water) management that sustains both growths, promote[s] healthy ecosystems, and prevent[s] conflict.” This is the second water management project USAID has supported in the region in recent years, as it recently completed the Smart Waters project.

The Smart Waters project successfully ensured that dozens of citizens received degrees in water management or received additional training in the field. The project also trained almost 3,000 people in “water resources management, water diplomacy, water-saving technologies, and international water law through 100 capacity building events.”

Medical Assistance

USAID partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2021 to help Uzbekistan address the management of drug-resistant tuberculosis. The project’s goal is to better manage the disease by providing assistance to Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Health. The program conducted 35 training sessions throughout Uzbekistan, which resulted in more than 600 specialists receiving certification to prevent, identify and treat drug-resistant tuberculosis.

In recent years, foreign aid in Central Asia has resulted in food distribution, medical assistance, efforts to develop an electrical grid and assistance in water management. The U.S., Russia and the United Arab Emirates have contributed to these efforts alongside various international and local organizations.

– Coulter Layden
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate Reduction
The World Bank published an analysis in 2019 of the 15 countries with the greatest poverty rate reduction from 1999-2015. Of those 15 countries, Tanzania, Tajikistan, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and The Kyrgyz Republic were the most successful in reducing poverty. While some of these five countries are continuing to reduce their poverty levels, others have recently faced hardships, stagnating their ability to eradicate poverty.

5 Leaders in Poverty Reduction

  1. Tanzania: Tanzania saw a poverty rate reduction of 3.2% from 2000-2011. Moreover, its poverty rate is continuing to reduce as from 2007-2018, the poverty rate fell from 34.4% to 26.4%, and the extreme poverty rate fell from 11.7% to 8%. However, the wealth gap increased during that same time period, with the Gini coefficient rising from 38.5 to 39.5. This uptick in the wealth gap may be due to the fact that education and sanitation have become more accessible in cities but not rural areas. However, despite this increase, Tanzania is persisting in reducing its levels of poverty.
  2. Tajikistan: Tajikistan reduced its poverty levels by 3.1% from 1999-2015. Poverty rates fluctuate in Tajikistan depending on job availability and remittance. However, the poverty rate mostly remains on the decline in Tajikistan, albeit it is slower than in the past. From 2012-2017, the poverty rate fell by 7.5%, but now it is decreasing about 1% per year on average. The poverty rate has been decreasing slower because the remittances that Tajikistan has received have lessened over the past few years. Additionally, COVID-19 has negatively affected the economy, causing more food insecurity. Fortunately, expectations have determined that the country will recover quickly from this downfall.
  3. Chad: Chad experienced a reduced poverty rate of 3.1% from 2003-2011. The projected number of impoverished people in Chad increased from 4.7 million to 6.3 million from 2011-2019. Additionally, Chad ranks last on the World Bank’s Human Capital Index. The good news is that many nonprofit organizations are working to help decrease the poverty rate in Chad. The World Food Bank has established many support systems and has helped 1.4 million people so far. The International Development Association (IDA) improved learning conditions for over 300,000 elementary school children from 2013-2018. The IDA also provided health support for over 50,000 people from 2014-2018. These are only two examples of organizations that work to improve the quality of life of the people and reduce the poverty rate in Chad.
  4. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): The DRC reduced its poverty rate by 2.7% from 2005-2011. It remains low on the Human Captial Index with 72% of people living in extreme poverty. Yet, like in Chad, there are many nonprofits working to help reduce the poverty rate in the DRC. For example, the IDA helped 1.8 million people receive health services and provided work support programs for 1 million displaced people through 2018. The United Nations Capital Development Fund has been working in the DRC since 2004 and helps create a more financially inclusive environment. Even though the country has a long way to go, the hard work of these organizations shows a promising future for the DRC.
  5. The Kyrgyz Republic: The Kyrgyz Republic reduced its poverty levels by 2.6% from 2000-2015. The Kyrgyz Republic’s economy has experienced fluctuations since 2010 and remains vulnerable. Many citizens live close to the poverty line. However, the poverty rate in rural areas continues to steadily decline. Like Tajikistan, COVID-19 negatively impacted The Kyrgyz Republic’s economy. On July 30, 2020, the World Bank decided to finance three projects that will help “mitigate the unprecedented health, economic and social challenges caused by the…pandemic.” One of these initiatives includes direct financial help for up to 200,000 poor families. Overall, the Kyrgyz Republic has prevailed in reducing the poverty rate and increasing access to healthcare and education in the past 20 years.

Looking Forward

While some countries have regressed in poverty rate reduction, others continue to decrease poverty rates. However, good news exists even for countries with increased poverty rates. Nonprofits work to provide relief, aid and policy changes that help those in poverty.

Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

Tajikistan During the COVID-19 Pandemic
In the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan, which lies at the heart of Afghanistan, Pakistan and China, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have hit the population particularly severely. Since many of the country’s citizens rely on remittances that family members send to them from abroad, Tajikistan has been facing economic difficulties for years. Moreover, with the loss of employment that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, thousands of families are struggling to make ends meet. Here is some information about Tajikistan during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Food Insecurity in Tajikistan

Although the Tajik government has implemented emergency cash payments for public distribution and promised to raise the national wages, the donations of private individuals and the subsidization of food are the solutions that will make the largest difference according to Tajik citizens. As evidenced by the surveys that the World Bank conducted in 2020, the effects of COVID-19 have caused families to cut the size of their meals significantly and for parents to go hungry so that their children may have food to eat for lunch at school the next day. Nearly half of respondents to the World Bank survey reported reducing their food intake to compensate for the increased pressure on finances.

The Tajikistan Emergency COVID-19 (TEC-19) Project

Yet amidst all of this misfortune and sorrow, the humanitarians working with the World Bank have helped draft a relief bill called the Tajikistan Emergency COVID-19 (TEC-19) Project with the government of Tajikistan to provide some support and assistance to the Tajik citizens. The program, which is specifically intended for low-income families, aims to provide immediate and direct solutions to public health challenges by supplying funding for more ICU beds and granting emergency cash transfers to families with toddlers and infants.

Despite these efforts, only 50,000 families who the Targeted Social Assistance Program listed as critically poor were eligible to receive these funds. The resources that charitable organizations can give are finite, and the government of Tajikistan does not have the capacity to offer the level of resources that the country requires for recovery. Among the 9.3 million people within Tajikistan, about 2.5 million individuals still fall below the poverty threshold. In 2019, Tajikistan began experiencing promising economic growth, with contributions from Tajiks abroad allowing the percentage of those in poverty to decrease by several points for the first time in years. However, in this most recent economic crisis, projections have determined that poverty rates will rise again.

Solutions to Help Tajikistan During the COVID-19 Pandemic

So, what can individuals and organizations do to aid Tajikistan during the COVID-19 pandemic? In an article from RadioFreeEurope/Radio Liberty by Farangis Najibullah, a Tajik woman named Maryam suggested that institutions implement free lunch programs for school children, at least until the COVID-19 pandemic becomes more readily treatable in Tajikistan. Providing mid-day meals to young students free of charge would alleviate financial pressures immensely for families during a time of extremely high food insecurity and allow parents to save their money for other necessities.

Additionally, the World Bank predicts that the Tajik economy will experience future growth within the next couple of years, suggesting that there is room for private investors to fund projects and get laborers back to work. Despite the current global conditions, Tajikistan’s surrounding neighbors, China and Russia, may soon rein in an era of recovery that will offer trade opportunities for adjacent economies. Private donors have the power to spark a period of upward mobility in Tajikistan and drastically revitalize the market.

Tajikistan’s potential financial growth, which the World Bank estimates could go up to over 3% in 2022, is beneficial for both the Tajik workers and the investors in the larger sphere of trade, as an increase in international trade would bring Tajikistan out of its economic slump and bring about a reliable source of labor for future endeavors. If these efforts succeed, the government of Tajikistan would be able to make great progress in providing more in-depth public programs, financing social enrichment efforts for families and youth and addressing its international debts, paving the way to a more stable footing for the nation in 2022.

– Luna Khalil
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in TajikistanThe Republic of Tajikistan is a Central Asian country landlocked by Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China. Known for its mountainous terrains, Tajikistan was a union in the USSR until its collapse in 1991. The country currently has a population of approximately 9.6 million, with slightly more than 50% being female. Unfortunately, women’s rights in Tajikistan is an issue that manifests itself in various different forms.

Maternal and Child Statistics in Tajikistan

The average fertility rate in Tajikistan is 3.6 births per woman, which is higher than the global 2.5 births. In 2017, maternal mortality stood at around 17 per 100,000 births. Fortunately, this is a significant decrease in deaths compared to 1993 where there were 151 deaths per 100,000 births. The female child mortality in 2018 was approximately 30.6 deaths per 1000 births, which is lower than the male child mortality rate at 38.9 per 1000 births.

Political and Workplace Representation of Women

In Tajikistan, traditional gender roles are upheld, and female political representation is quite uncommon. In 2015, only 19% of parliament seats were held by women. Despite this statistic, female political representation in local government is higher at around 40%. This was not always the case. Before the collapse of the USSR, Tajikistan women saw equal economic and political opportunities as their male counterparts. Through its cessation from the Soviet Union along with civil unrest between 1992 and 1997, strict gender roles have begun to be reinforced in Tajik society. 

Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women

In 2011, Tajikistan had rape rates of 0.6 cases per 100,000 people, and HIV rates in women have been stagnant between the years 1999 and 2018. Moreover, in 2011, it was estimated that there were 48.5 cases of assault per 100,000 people, which reflects one of the most significant women’s rights issues in Tajikistan: Domestic violence.

Women in Tajikistan are frequently subjected to severe domestic violence. According to Amnesty International, “Between a third and a half of women in Tajikistan have experienced physical, psychological or sexual abuse by husbands or other family members.” Through various studies conducted between the years 2017 and 2018, it has been revealed that 26.4% of Tajikistan women experience “lifetime physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence.”  Although the Law on the Prevention of Violence in the Family was put into place in 2013, domestic violence is yet to be criminalized. Thus, cases of abuse often go underreported. The normalization of abuse permeates throughout Tajikistan, and the United Nations has reported that at least “one in five women” in Tajikistan are victims of domestic violence.

Current Economy for Women in Tajikistan

Due to the lack of job opportunities and high poverty rates, many Tajik men seek to find job opportunities in neighboring countries, especially in Russia. In 2010, 16% of Russian migrants were Tajik, and over one million Tajik citizens go to Russia for work reasons. In a 2019 research article by Edward Lemon for the Migration Policy Institute, it was claimed that “the actual number of Tajiks in Russia may be much higher, with as many as 40% working illegally and therefore not appearing within the official statistics.” Moreover, the article reveals that “30% to 40%of Tajik households have at least one member working abroad.”

As men are often the ones traveling for work, women in Tajikistan are left to singlehandedly take care of their household. The China Global Television Network America conducted an interview with Tajik wives in the Dushanbe area of Tajikistan which borders Uzbekistan. Parvina, a mother of four, had been caring for her children by herself ever since her husband left for Russia 2 years ago. Although Parvina receives money from her husband, many other wives do not get any financial support at all. However, because of the lack of males in the country, Tajik women are now able to take on traditionally male roles both in the household or workplace in order to support their families. 

Efforts to Empower Women and Improve Women’s Rights in Tajikistan

While women in Tajikistan often suffer from domestic violence and are not given equal social and political opportunities, things are slowly changing. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has an office in Tajikistan which aids women’s resource centers in the area. According to the OSCE website, these resource centers are “the largest civil society network in Tajikistan promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls to claim their rights and access state services and institutions.” These resource centers offer “free psychological counseling and rehabilitation for women in Tajikistan” who were victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. Oxfam International is also an organization that strives to empower Tajik women. Its “Transforming Care Work” aids rural communities in Tajikistan by creating leadership groups for women. This allows women to become financially independent, which can in turn alleviate the high poverty rates the country experiences.

Despite their lack of rights, high domestic abuse rates and lack of economic opportunity, women in Tajikistan are slowly becoming empowered. If the Tajik government began putting more emphasis on the prevention of domestic violence and support for women in politics and the workforce, Tajikistan will continue to improve and become a significantly safer place for women.

– Kelly McGarry

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Children with Disabilities
A staggering amount of children live with disabilities. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the global average of children with disabilities is at 15%. However, in Tajikistan, only 0.8% of the child population lives with disabilities according to UNICEF. Although this may be a small number, UNICEF believes that this official statistic of children with disabilities in Tajikistan may be much lower than than the actual number of children.

One of the main reasons for the lowered report is that the process to have children screened is quite complicated and nonuniform across Tajikistan. Parents must have their children evaluated through the Pedagogical, Medical, Psychological Consultation and Medical, Pedagogical Commissions in order for their children to receive an official diagnosis of having a disability. Furthermore, children with disabilities frequently experience discrimination due to social stigmas and incorrect perceptions about disabilities in general. The children may not receive adequate education due to the lack of resources and training to facilitate children with disabilities. Their families may even abandon or institutionalize them due to poverty and social stigmas. Thus, local and international organizations such as UNICEF, Association of Parents of Children with Disabilities and Association to Aid Refugees Japan have come together to help support vulnerable children.

UNICEF Tajikistan

UNICEF Tajikistan has been working fervently to advocate for children’s rights in Tajikistan so they can live a life free of discrimination and social limitations. The organization supports the children and their families with the proper tools along with working with the government. In 2018, the government put the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into action. That year, it also worked with UNICEF to establish the National Disability Inclusion Campaign.

The campaign works to transform social perceptions and stigmas so that children with disabilities may enjoy rights equal to their counterparts who do not live with disabilities. UNICEF also works with civil society organizations such as the Association of Parents and Children with Disabilities and the National Association of Persons with Disabilities of Tajikistan. Furthermore, it also advocates for community-based rehabilitation so that persons with disabilities may use their skills to their maximum potential and experience full integration into society.

Association of Parents of Children with Disabilities

In Tajikistan, a network of parents has come together to support children with disabilities in Tajikistan by advocating for their rights and inclusion in society along with access to health care and education. The Association gained permission from its local government to build a center for support groups and provide resources for parents of children with disabilities. One of the special projects that the group took was to go around schools in Dushanbe to carry out the “Lessons of Kindness” in classes. These lessons allowed students to learn how to treat and engage with children with disabilities. They learned to value the lives of every individual with or without disabilities. Children with disabilities also lead these lessons, building more confidence and creativity in themselves.

Association to Aid Refugees Japan (AAR Japan)

With the funds received from the Japanese government, Association to Aid Refugees Japan (AAR Japan) works with the Ministry of Education and Science and the Dushanbe City Department of Education to advocate for inclusive education in Japan. AAR Japan works to transform school buildings and provide materials for children with disabilities. It has installed wheelchair ramps and handrails in order to create a disability-friendly building in several Dushanbe schools. Furthermore, it has provided educational materials, equipment and devices to further assist children with disabilities in the classrooms. Along with providing tangible equipment and materials, AAR Japan also holds seminars, training and activities to educate students, teachers and government officials on how to create an inclusive environment for children with disabilities.

The road to having a fully inclusive society for children with disabilities in Tajikistan may still be far ahead, but UNICEF, the Association of Parents of Children with Disabilities and AAR Japan, among many, are working towards seeing that future realized. With the helping hands of these organizations, children are receiving the education and materials they need to succeed, and families are understanding what it means to reverse social stigmas and provide for the needs of their children.

– Hakyung Kim
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Tajikistan
Poverty in Tajikistan is significant with approximately 2.9 million of its 9.5 million inhabitants living below the national poverty line. Tajikistan’s low GDP capita further underscores the country’s dismal socioeconomic situation. In 2019, it did not exceed $871, making it the lowest in Central Asia.

Limited employment opportunities have forced the local population either to solicit work in Russia, with remittance payments accounting for up to 50% of the GDP and reaching close to $2 billion in 2016, or turn to agriculture. Farming employs as many as 50% of the workforce, but seeing as almost one in four Tajik households does not possess secure access to food, it has failed to mitigate poverty. Although Tajikistan is an agrarian economy, its mountainous terrain, degraded pastures and such problems as exiguous agricultural knowledge and subpar infrastructure militate against the farmers’ yields and perpetuate food shortages.

However, this has not escaped worldwide attention, and many international nonprofits are currently present in Tajikistan. Their actions are helping people climb out of poverty. These organizations include the following.

Aga Khan Foundation (AKF)

The Aga Khan Foundation is an international nonprofit that has regional projects covering agricultural assistance, educational opportunities and investment in the Tajik energy sector. One of its pilot initiatives was the First Microfinance Bank Tajikistan. Since its creation in 2003, it has generated 3,500 jobs across the country and financed more than 20,000 clients.

Equally worth mentioning is its Mountain Societies Development Support Program, working with 300,000 farmers to maximize crop yields by managing resources better and to adapt to floods and landslides, which otherwise displace 100,000 villagers each year.

Recipients could obtain seeds from one of the AKF’s 67 agricultural input revolving funds. To support these positive developments, this NGO has financed 1,600 rural infrastructure projects, expanding farmers’ access to markets away from their remote communities and helping 108,000 rural Tajiks gain confidence in their ability to feed themselves both sufficiently and regularly.

Since combatting poverty in Tajikistan cannot occur without education, it undertook steps toward broadening the local children’s learning opportunities. Besides teaching students English through its Learning Support Program and enhancing their leadership skills at summer camps, the AKF manages its own school. The Aga Khan Lycée, based in Khorog, a town populated by no more than 30,000 people, serves 1,000 pupils. With 180 of them enrolled in scholarships, many of those who attend this school and receive a good education, come from poor or disadvantaged families.

Operation Mercy

Operation Mercy has headquarters in Sweden and collaborates with Tajik farmers to improve their yields. More specifically, it targets the nation’s apple growers and trains them in orchard management and soil development, while also providing infrastructural support by procuring equipment and building greenhouses. Thanks to its aid, one farmer from the Pamir mountains, where cultivating anything but root vegetables was previously an unattainable dream, collected more than 700 kilograms of vegetables in a single year.

DVV International

Operating in Tajikistan since 2003, DVV International belongs to the German Adult Education Association and focuses on providing disadvantaged groups, such as former prisoners, people with special needs or impoverished youths with high-quality vocational training. These are among the most vulnerable to poverty in Tajikistan, seeing that many lack the skills to find permanent jobs and some of them may not even partake in agricultural activities. In the country’s capital, Dushanbe, this international nonprofit offers training courses as well as career guidance.

Furthermore, it has partnered with the Tajik Adult Education Association and numerous local NGOs to staff schools and training centers and equip them with the required materials. Its Promotion of Social Change and Inclusive Education scheme saw the group organize 18 peer-to-peer vocational training activities for disabled youths. It also conducted small business development courses and gave business start-up grants to aspiring young entrepreneurs in Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region as part of its YES to Change project, which was realized between 2015 and 2018 with an estimated budget of $727,500.

Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED)

ACTED is a French-based international nonprofit that boasts four offices in different towns across Tajikistan and works primarily on disaster aversion and preparation. Its activists assist farmers by teaching them watershed management techniques and advising them on how to protect their crops from floods.

In the country’s Sughd region, containing more than 3 million hectares of pasture lands, ACTED continues to support measures to prevent pasture degradation, whereas in other herding-reliant provinces, it has organized a Policy Forum for herders and authorities to discuss this issue and decide upon collective action. Albeit not necessarily quantifiable, the organization’s contribution is tangible, as it helps forestall the impoverishment of even more Tajiks from climatic disasters and land mismanagement.

Many Tajiks witness extreme poverty, but the international community and international nonprofits, in particular, are striving to improve the situation. Whether through promoting better farming techniques, broadening vocational training opportunities or helping eschew natural disasters and their dire consequences, NGOs are making a valuable contribution to eradicating poverty in Tajikistan.

– Dan Mikhaylov
Photo: Flickr

Landmines in Tajikistan
Tajikistan, a Central-Asian country bordered by Afghanistan to the south and China to the east, has been fighting poverty and food insecurity for years. As of 2018, 27.4% of the country’s 9.1 million population live in poverty. The landscape is particularly rural, with a majority of the population relying on the agricultural industry for both food and employment. However, the lack of fertilizers and proper machinery makes it difficult for people to care for agricultural land in Tajikistan. In order to help remove farmland overgrowth and landmines in Tajikistan, the U.S. Department of State and Defense intervened.

Landmines in Tajikistan

Currently, Tajikistan possesses a number of landmines on its border with Afghanistan. Russia, which partnered with Tajikistan in defense efforts against Afghanistan about 20 years ago, placed these landmines. Landmines continue to pose a threat to Tajikistan civilians who wish to utilize this land for farming and crops. In addition to the landmines, this land has become overgrown with vegetation and would cost a great sum to restore to its original state. The amount of physical labor would be extensive, and the presence of landmines makes the task prohibitively risky.

To assist with the efforts to clear this land, the U.S. Department of State and Defense used a $1.2 million Foreign Military Financing grant to supply the Tajikistan National Mine Center with a mini-Mine Wolf, a machine that remotely removes a number of explosive devices. In addition to the machine itself, the grant covered the deployment and the training of members of the Tajikistan Ministry of Defense to learn how to properly use the machine. The machine simultaneously cuts down overgrown vegetation and removes landmines from the surface, solving the two major problems with this land at the same time.

Since the machine’s deployment, six acres of land have recovered and irrigation channels have reopened to supply towns near this land with clean water. As poverty and food insecurity exists at higher rates in rural areas, access to clean water and this land for farming will provide food for thousands of families, as well as employment for jobless citizens living along the border.

Global Landmine Removal

While the United States has provided assistance in the removal of explosives and harmful landmines in Tajikistan, it has provided aid to other countries as well. In 2019, the United States Department of State and Defense funded conventional weapon destruction in 18 African countries, and during its active years, the department has funded more than $845 million toward weapon destruction in the Middle East. By freeing these lands of explosives and weapons that pose danger, the U.S. has helped support the economies of numerous countries by giving them access to land to farm and battle food insecurity. Food insecurity and poverty go hand in hand, and by enabling countries to cultivate the land they were able to in the past, these countries will be able to battle the hardships of poverty in years to come.

Evan Coleman
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in TajikistanTajikistan is the poorest nation in Central Asia and one of the world’s most impoverished countries. The rugged, mountainous terrain covers approximately 93% of the country’s territory, making food production nearly impossible. As a result, the 9.1 million people that inhabit the country often face food insecurity and high malnutrition rates that affect mostly women and children. Fortunately, the former Soviet constituent has been working alongside various countries and organizations to overcome this struggle and has been successful throughout the last decade. However, hunger throughout the country is still widespread and will need continual support. Here five projects fighting hunger in Tajikistan.

5 Projects Fighting Hunger in Tajikistan

  1. The Prevention and Treatment of Moderate Acute Malnutrition Project: The Prevention and Treatment of Moderate Acute Malnutrition Project is a plan that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) gave funding to and the World Food Programme (WFP) implemented. The project started in January 2018 and will go to 2022. It intends to improve nutrition and healthcare in the region by “[providing] specialized nutritious food to over 24,000 malnourished children aged 6-59 months in more than 300 national primary health centers in targeted districts.”
  2. Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN): In September 2013, the Republic of Tajikistan joined SUN, a movement consisting of 61 countries that work alongside central and local governments to improve nutrition. Since joining, Tajikistan has passed several laws and documents that address improvements in health, nutrition and food security. Not only that, but the government has also installed the Food Security Council of the Republic of Tajikistan (FSCT) to delegate strategic methods on how the country should allocate food to alleviate widespread hunger. Since joining the movement, the country has made various improvements in all aspects of nutrition. For instance, from 2016 to 2019, SUN was able to decrease stunting in children under 5 years of age, a very prevalent issue throughout the country, by 9.3%.
  3. Women’s Dietary Diversity Score (WDDS): The Women’s Dietary Diversity Score, or better known as the WDDS, is a qualitative global nutrition evaluation that studies the types of food that a person consumes over 24 hours. The objective is to monitor the quality of the Tajik peoples’ current diet so the government can determine how to integrate better nutrition. The indicator focuses on women because experts believe that if women can satisfy their high nutritional needs, especially mothers and those expecting, then family members should also achieve their dietary needs. In the pilot WDDS study in 2016, the mean score on a scale from one to nine was six. Future studies will focus more on having comparable food-related information.
  4. Agrarian Reform Programme: From 2012 to 2020, the Agrarian Reform Programme of the Republic of Tajikistan addressed how to enhance the country’s low agricultural productivity. The landlocked state often faces hardship when it comes to food production because 7% of arable land is often prone to soil degradation. With assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the country has received support to revise and advance policies regarding federal policies on food security, distribution and nutrition. Through various agrarian reforms throughout the eight-year period, the amount of arable land increased to nearly 65%.
  5. Feed the Future: Feed the Future is an American global hunger and poverty initiative that emerged in 2010. It aligns people from various sectors and the U.S. government to create an effective way to assist countries that need help enhancing their food production and distribution systems. With the support of USAID, the initiative has been able to help farmers boost their rate of food production while simultaneously teaching the importance of proper nutrition. The majority of the focus has been on Khatlon, a key province for agricultural production in the southwest area of Tajikistan that also has the highest rates of undernutrition and the largest number of those living below the poverty line.

Through various technological and modernization developments, Feed the Future has had a huge success, including secure access to land and water, increased breastfeeding rates and the establishment of a pilot program to prevent and treat moderate acute malnutrition in children. One of the most notable accomplishments was the introduction of seedling technology that helped produce more than 1.5 million seedlings of improved produce, such as cucumbers, tomatoes and sweet peppers.

While hunger is still a very prominent issue throughout Tajikistan, the Tajik government and international organizations’ efforts have brought forth numerous improvements throughout the last 10 years. With continued support, Tajikistan has high hopes for an improved future.

Heather Law
Photo: Flickr