Tajikistan, a landlocked country in Central Asia, is home to roughly eight million people. Despite having very little arable land and being prone to natural disasters, Tajikistan’s economy is agriculture-based, which has contributed to the country’s high rates of poverty. Here are 10 facts about hunger in Tajikistan.

10 Facts About Hunger in Tajikistan

  1. Hunger in Tajikistan is widespread. Approximately 33.2 percent of the population is undernourished.
  2. Poverty rates are high in Tajikistan. 47 percent of the population lives on less than 1.33 dollars a day and 17 percent survive on less than 0.85 dollars a day.
  3. Due to poverty and high food prices, food accounts for a large portion of household expenses. The majority of the population spends between 70 and 80 percent of their household income on food.
  4. Tajikistan has the highest malnutrition rate among the former Soviet republics.
  5. Tuberculosis (TB) is widespread in Tajikistan. Areas with high rates of poverty have especially high rates of TB with multidrug-resistant strains.
  6. Even though agriculture employs 75 percent of the population, rural families suffer the most. Only 24 percent of the rural population is food secure. This is due to recurrent natural disasters, deforestation, soil erosion and droughts.
  7. Organizations such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) provide training and resources to farmers in Tajikistan in order to help them improve agricultural efficiency and better understand their land-use rights. This gives them more control over which crops to plant and helps ensure that their land won’t be taken away from them.
  8. Children are disproportionately affected. Approximately 10 percent of children under five suffer from acute malnutrition and 26 percent from chronic malnutrition.
  9. In order to combat child hunger in Tajikistan, the World Food Programme’s School Meal Programme supplies free food to children who attend school. The program provides food to over 60 percent of schools in the country, which has increased school attendance.
  10. Due to Tajikistan’s susceptibility to crises caused by climate change, the country’s government, with support from the World Food Programme, has been working to implement hunger solutions to help support communities and improve food security in times of disaster. These solutions include improving infrastructure and reducing the county’s food-deficit.

While poverty and hunger rates in Tajikistan are still high, programs aimed at improving the country’s resilience towards natural disasters and agricultural productivity show promise in reducing hunger in Tajikistan.

Alexi Worley

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Tajikistan

Poverty in Tajikistan remains a problem. Tajikistan is frequently cited as the poorest former Soviet republic, with one of the world’s lowest GDPs per capita (ranked 192). While it is a place that Americans do not hear about often, USAID has been busy in the country of just over eight million inhabitants for more than 20 years, almost as long as Tajikistan has been a sovereign nation.

 

Poverty in Tajikistan: Key Facts

 

1. Proportional to GDP, Tajikistan has one of the largest remittance economies in the world.

Due to a scarcity of secure employment opportunities, which contributes greatly to poverty in Tajikistan, more than one million Tajik citizens leave the country searching for work. The money that these Tajiks send home equals more than half of the entire country’s GDP. The vast majority of these migrants—90 percent—travel to Russia.

2. Poor infrastructure stagnates the Tajik economy.

Tajikistan is landlocked and sits in the northwestern Himalayas, one of the most mountainous regions on the planet, making transportation a challenge. Trade with other nations, which is important to the country’s economy, relies on a dilapidated railway system. The diminutive electricity market means energy infrastructure is also lacking. Power shortages and outages are rampant, especially during the winter.

The future for Tajikistan’s infrastructure may, however, be looking up due to foreign investment, which may alleviate some of the poverty in Tajikistan. Recently, Chinese investors funded new road construction in Dushanbe, the capital. Russia and Iran have also invested in hydroelectric plants, including a dam on the Vakhsh River that may become the world’s largest.

3. Tuberculosis is a growing public health problem.

Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is disproportionately high in many central Asian countries, including Tajikistan. The country’s healthcare system is ill equipped to respond to this issue, lacking adequate information systems and human resources. Most funds for fighting TB come from international assistance.

MDR-TB is a complicated public health challenge, however, the World Health Organization (WHO) has partnered with the government and aid groups to improve and monitor Tajikistan’s ability to treat TB and stave off MDR-TB.

4. Most of the population does not have access to clean water.

Nearly 60 percent of Tajik citizens rely on unsanitary water supplies. Many depend on irrigation ditches for drinking water, meaning waterborne diseases are common. Diarrhea is the sixth leading cause of death in children under five.

While these statistics may seem bleak, water quality is a relatively straightforward issue to tackle. USAID has made notable strides in providing better access to clean water, one of its main focuses in Tajikistan. According to its website, USAID has “established 56 community-level water users’ associations,” helping the Tajik weather and water forecasting agency better manage the country’s vast supply of fresh water.

5. The civil war destroyed one out of five schools in the country.

Funding for education decreased drastically after Tajikistan became independent from the Soviet Union in 1992. The following five years of fighting destroyed or damaged a significant portion of the country’s schools. Naturally, such collateral destruction has contributed to the precarious state of the education system.

Since the fighting, the country has either struggled to or failed to revive school systems. According to the latest reports from UNICEF, schools are overcrowded, underfunded and understaffed, with many teachers working triple shifts. Furthermore, dropout rates are high, especially for girls.

The state of Tajikistan’s education system leaves much to be desired. However, organizations like USAID and UNICEF have partnered with the Tajik government. They are determined to nurture this fragile system to a point where it can sustain itself, mainly by focusing on preventing dropouts and improving equity and access.

In many ways, Tajikistan seems to lag behind its neighbors in the Central Asian region. With a strong memory of war and political upheaval, coupled with uncompromising geography, the country has struggled to develop.

But international aid organizations have shown great ambition and, partnered with the Tajik government, achieved tangible successes in reducing poverty in Tajikistan and its burdens. Likewise, international investment from the private sector suggests promise and hope for a society that has much to gain.

Charlie Tomb

Photo: Pixabay

Tajikistan Education
Tajikistan is a small country located in central Asia that gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. A civil war followed for the next six years, which caused the collapse of political regimes and educational systems.

While Tajikistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, the poverty rate decreased from 72 percent in 2003 to 47 percent in 2009. Tajikistan has been working to recover from the effects of the civil war and the global economy, but many remain trapped in a future of poverty due to a significant lack of educational opportunities.

In Tajikistan, children begin school at seven years old and are allowed to continue on to secondary school until age 18. However, many children drop out of school by age 12 to help around the house or to acquire a job, which means that the majority of children are only receiving four years of schooling or less. In addition, 66 percent of children in Tajikistan live in poverty, which affects both mental and physical development. Because of their living conditions, these children usually do not attend school due to economic reasons.

Tajikistan spends 3.8 percent of its GDP on education. Of its total expenditure on education, 73 percent goes to personnel costs, yet teachers’ salaries remain low. These costs leave little for school improvement and teacher training.

However, both Tajikistani officials and citizens are working toward a better educational system. In 2005, Tajikistan joined the Global Partnership for Education, or GPE, which focuses on universal access to quality education. The Tajikistani government spent 68 percent of the educational budget on basic education; yet, there is a funding gap when it comes to implementing the government’s action plan due to a lack of the necessary infrastructure.

The Tajikistani government worked with the GPE to develop the National Strategy for Education Development, which fights to ensure adequate sector coordination in support of the government’s education strategy.

In 2008, Tajikistan received its first grant from GPE for $18.4 million, and it received its second grant for $13.5 million in 2010. The money has been used to construct classrooms safely, provide school furniture and supplies, publish and supply multi-subject textbooks and improve authority training.

Tajikistan is working hard to decrease its national poverty rate, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Without education, children are far more likely to work at young ages, provide for families, take care of homes and continue living in poverty.

– Alaina Grote

Sources: ClassBase, Global Partnership for Education, UNICEF

Photo: Flickr

Tajikistan
On January 2, 2010, a devastating earthquake hit the mountainous country of Tajikistan. Seven thousand people were affected by this natural disaster. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that 20 villages in the Vanj district in the eastern Gorno-Badakhshan region were badly damaged. Estimates suggest that more than 140 houses were destroyed and 950 were left partially damaged.

Urgent Need for a Change

Nancy Snauwaert, a humanitarian coordination officer in the office of the U.N. Resident Coordinator in Vanj reported that, “There is an urgent need for the total reconstruction of houses. Technical guidance is crucial as over 1,000 houses have been damaged and are in need of becoming earthquake resistant.”

Currently, buildings are being constructed using concrete reinforced with steel rebar. Unfortunately, 50 percent of the country lives on less than $2 a day and rebar is financially out of the reach for many of the families residing in this earthquake-prone area.

Sustainable Housing Technology

Starting in 2008 Habitat for Humanity Tajikistan and the Tajik Institute of Seismology began to research alternate means of creating an inexpensive and sustainable house-reinforcing technology. The design created won them the FedEx Award for Innovations in Disaster Preparedness in 2013.

The design has been coined as “Sinj-technology.” Mulberry trees are cut down seasonally to harvest silk cocoons. The twigs of the tree have no other purpose and are free to use. Researchers tied mulberry branches into grids. These grids are then attached to a structural wood frame in mud walls. The grid is plastered with a mix of mud, straw and wool. This design effectively makes the walls able to resist lateral forces.

Preliminary Tests have proven that mulberry grids provide tensile strength equivalent to 80 percent of that of steel rebar. The first earthquake to test this new technology occurred in December of 2008 when the Rasht district was shaken by a 5.8 earthquake. Eighty homes in this region had been previously reinforced with Sinj-technology.

2009 Earthquake and its Effects

The next earthquake occurred in January 2009 when a 6.0 earthquake was felt in the Kumsangir district. Over one hundred homes were reinforced with Sinj-technology. A post-disaster survey found that none of the reinforced houses were damaged.

Another large advantage to this technology is that homes do not need to be rebuilt with the mulberry grids. The structures can be added to existing structures, saving homeowners as much as five times the expense of new construction. It is also 30 percent cheaper to use these materials than the standard techniques used in other seismically unstable regions.

Since receiving the FedEx Innovation Award, Habitat for Humanity Tajikistan has reinvested the money into proof of concept in an effort to create a new business strategy for Sinj-technology. Their intention is to pair this technology with local training of masons and construction workers. This would also effectively provide opportunities for affordable financing of home retrofits through microloans.

This comes as promising news for the 70% of people living in Tajikistan’s rural communities. The materials for earthquake disaster mitigation is easily accessible since it is produced by trees. The communities are now learning the trade in order to create a more sustainable future.

Frederick Wood II

Sources: Interaction, Habitat 1, Irin News, Habitat 2
Photo: Habitat for Humanity