Life Expectancy in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan, a country rich with gas and export struggles, corruption and poverty. The country is located in Central Asia and shares its borders with Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Iran and Afghanistan and has been independent since 1991. Meanwhile, the life expectancy in Turkmenistan has been on a steady rise within the last decade. Here are the top 10 facts about life expectancy in Turkmenistan.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Turkmenistan

  1. The life expectancy in Turkmenistan is around 68 years. According to the BBC, the average lifespan for women is 71 and 64 years for men. The country’s life expectancy ranks four years lower than neighboring Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, while it ranks five years lower than the world average life expectancy.
  2. Turkmenistan suffers from a high mortality rate which affects overall life expectancy. The World Health Organization states in its “Highlights on Health in Turkmenistan” report written in 2005, that “As could be expected, excess mortality is due to communicable, respiratory and digestive diseases.” The two highest causes of death are infectious and parasitic diseases.
  3. Water resources are rather scarce because desert covers a lot of Turkmenistan. In fact, it is one of the most water-deficient countries in the world. The government tried to create projects, such as the creation of parks, to make cities appear greener. The plan backfired because these plants required a large amount of water. Seventy-one percent of the population has access to drinking water, while 29 percent of the population still lacks clean water.
  4. Turkmenistan has 22 physicians per 1,000 people within a given population. The former president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, tried to make changes to the health care system and citizen’s lifestyles and has been encouraging spending on public health and healthier lifestyles. A lack of doctors takes its toll on rural communities, while limited access to sanitary water increases the chances of becoming sick. While urban areas have modernized hospitals, care can be expensive. Meanwhile, rural communities suffer from old equipment and shortages in medicine which could affect life expectancy statistics as well.
  5. Turkmenistan is a healthy nation. The government focuses on nutrition through private agriculture and food production. It tries to create healthy lunches in schools by banning unhealthy foods and drinks. Some noncommunicable diseases affecting the population comes from malnutrition, such as raised blood pressure, blood glucose and blood cholesterol. These can be life-threatening diseases.
  6. Housing in Turkmenistan differs from other countries in their structures. People often live in yurts due to weather conditions or economic reasons. The yurts surround cities and traditional families heavily populate them. Houses do exist but the monthly rates tend to be higher than the people’s wages. Yurts are a more affordable form of shelter considering the increase of food and gas prices.
  7. The infant mortality rate in Turkmenistan is 33 deaths per 1,000 births, which ranks the country number 55 in the world. The maternal mortality rate is 42 deaths per 100,000 births, which places Turkmenistan at 104 in the world.
  8. The literacy rate in Turkmenistan is 99.7 percent for people ages 15 and older. Most students spend up to 11 years in school. The government is trying to reform the educational system to be more effective for students. Its main goal is to get everyone into the local workforce and have it perform internationally as well. Children receive a basic education that fits the needs of the government or specific jobs that they can work internationally. It does not necessarily include a well-rounded course curriculum.
  9. Turkmenistan has a high poverty and corruption rate. The given wages are not nearly enough to cover common products. The further away from the center of Ashgabat that people live, the fewer resources they have available to them. Those who live in urban cities have more access to natural resources. Those living in rural communities have less, especially when it comes to natural gas.
  10. The crime rate in Turkmenistan’s cities is low compared to the surrounding countries. Towards the border, the crime rate grows due to terrorism and the drug trade. The cities set a curfew for 11 p.m. to lower crime at night.

Though these 10 facts about life expectancy in Turkmenistan put things into a grim perspective, the government is doing what it can to change the future. If the government successfully reforms Turkmenistan’s education system, allowing for a workforce that can compete internationally, people could raise their living standards, and potentially, the country’s life expectancy as well.

– Christina Atler
Photo: Flickr

Eight Facts About Education in Turkmenistan
As a post-Soviet nation, Turkmenistan has taken strides over the last few decades in building autonomy and developing its social service sectors like public education. Here are eight facts about education in Turkmenistan today.

8 Facts About Education in Turkmenistan

  1. Turkmenistan has an impressively high literacy rate. Within the last few years, UNICEF has tallied Turkmenistan’s literacy rate at about 99.8 percent for both males and females ages 15-24.
  2. Public school is only compulsory through 10th grade in Turkmenistan. At this point, students take tests to determine whether they should go to a trade school or enter the workforce immediately. Well-scoring students may continue on for further schooling that is paid for by the state.
  3. Turkmenistan faces a severe shortage of qualified teachers, especially at the higher education level. This is a result of inadequate educational resources and unrealistic expectations like double shifts and Saturday classes. Of course, as poor conditions drive teachers away from the field, the issue only compounds. The lack of educated teachers is probably the largest threat to Turkmenistan’s education system right now. The government is cognizant of this issue and the last two Presidents have made significant efforts to absolve it with relatively little success. In 2007, President Berdimuhamedow reformed teacher working conditions by raising salaries by 40 percent, reducing class sizes and decreasing number of hours worked. The state also introduced competitions for Teacher of the Year and Educator of the Year to promote quality teaching. Unfortunately, the increase in incentives has found little success. Berdimuhamedow claimed in 2009 that the country would continue to rely on sending graduates to foreign universities until “the country gets fully staffed with specialists with high qualifications.”
  4. The process for admission into higher education institutions is extremely difficult. With a severe shortage of teachers, universities have room for less than 10 percent of high school graduates. Not only do students need remarkably high scores on entrance exams, but bribery on acceptance decisions is commonplace, which crowds out spots for deserving, lower-income students.
  5. Turkmenistan now requires that Turkmen be the standard language of instruction in all of its schools although at least four primary languages are spoken across the country. This has led to increased challenges for schools in regions where the traditional language is Russian or a local dialect. Many adults are also pursuing further education to become fluent in the national language, which takes up valuable teacher time.
  6. Women experience social pressure to start families instead of pursuing higher education. Many girls have become discouraged from finishing higher education due to the cultural expectation that they marry by their 20th or 21st birthday. The percentage of female students in higher education has actually gone down in the last decade, despite rises in female enrollment nearly everywhere else in the world. In 2009, the proportion of higher education students that were female was only 35 percent, a two percent decrease from the prior year.
  7. There are no private universities in Turkmenistan; all higher education is state-run and strictly monitored. Researchers Victoria Clement, from the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, and Zumrad Kataeva, from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, posit that this may be an attempt to control the information nationals acquire as a form of protecting the current political regime.
  8. There is an unequal regional distribution of higher education with all but three institutions located in the country’s capital city. This contributes to cyclical lower income levels for those living in the more rural regions, who have fewer opportunities to attend a higher education institute due to a long commute.

These eight facts about education in Turkmenistan reveal that while access to quality education in Turkmenistan is significantly better than in other areas of the world, it is not free of flaws. Opening up higher education to more people through increasing admissions, encouraging women to stay in school longer and providing more opportunities to those living in rural parts of Turkmenistan are goals to move toward in the future. Moreover, the addition of private schools would inspire more free thinking within the country that could result in citizens pushing for a more democratic society.

– Olivia Heale
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Turkmenistan
Central Asia displays memories of ancient ruins and powerful empires. Turkmenistan is no exception due to its most recent invasion by the Russian Empire (1881-1998) which is what shapes most of its modern history. Today, the world knows the country for its natural resources, dictatorial leader and marble cities. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Turkmenistan.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Turkmenistan

  1. Authoritarian Media
    The close eye of Presiden Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow administers daily life in Turkmenistan. The government oversees all media outlets to determine what can and cannot be published. Only 17.9 percent of the population uses the internet due to the high expense. People have access to little online information as authorities ban websites against the government. Since 2006, the government imprisoned two journalists (Sapardurdy Khadjiyev and Annakurban Amanklychev) for not complying with government media regulations.
  2. An Ongoing Economic Recession
    Turkmenistan was the poorest nation during the USSR. Today, the country’s GDP per capita is $6,587 and 10 percent of 5.8 million Turkmen live in extreme poverty. However, this is a massive stride for the nation. In 1990, more than a third of the country lived in extreme poverty (less than $1.90 per day) making 10 percent the lowest poverty rate the nation has ever seen.
  3. Developing Education
    Nearly 100 percent of Turkmenistan people are literate. The country has a 12-year educational system, however, the average student drops out of school after 10 or 11 years. The government has partnered with UNICEF to continue the development of its education through the Child Friendly Schools (CFS) model. This framework aims to help children not only in terms of education but also in terms of their well being.
  4. Gender Equality on the Rise
    Only 40 percent of women in Turkmenistan will attend tertiary school. Women often marry by the ages of 20 or 21 and will thus have few opportunities to obtain a higher education or career. Luckily, the United Nations has aided in the recent 2017 presidential decree of Turkmenistan’s first national action plan on gender equality. This plan includes improved legislation, equal access to health services and data collection to monitor progress.
  5. Poor Health
    The state does not widely fund health care. Turkmen are likely to spend more money on health care than the government. In 2017, the average citizen spent $2,052 on health care in comparison to the government which only spent $741. The lack of accessible public health care leads to an average life expectancy of just 67.8 years, with the highest cause of death being lower respiratory infections.
  6. Urban vs. Rural Life
    There are 5.8 million people living in Turkmenistan and 49.2 percent of that population living in urban areas. The sale of cotton, silk, Karakul sheep and homemade carpets and rugs are essential to rural development. Ashgabat remains the capital city and is the center point for business and government officials. Cars and railways connect the cities and towns within the country.
  7. Jail Brutality
    Prisoners within Turkmenistan and political prisoners especially are often abused. The exact number of political prisoners held by the government is not public knowledge, however, Prove They are Alive, an international organization fighting to reduce disappearances within Turkmenistan, states that 121 people remain forcibly disappeared. Ovadandepe is the most infamous jail and was the point of death for former government official Begmurad Otuzov. Mr. Otuzov’s body was returned to his family weighing just 99 pounds after having been missing for 15 years.
  8. Natural Resources and the Economy
    Turkmenistan’s economy is largely dependent upon hydrocarbon resources. The country leads as the world’s fourth-largest natural gas distributor and had 265 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves in 2016. Its largest customers include China, Russia and Iran. Petrofac is one of the largest energy producers in the country and employs 1,700 people across the nation.
  9. Environmental Resolutions
    Turkmenistan has no renewable energy sources and 13.9 percent of the population does not have access to clean water. However, UNICEF developed a strategy in 2017 to help the country promote sustainable practices. The project aims to raise awareness around environmental sustainability through education in schools.
  10. A Housing Crisis
    In 2015, the government evicted 50,000 people from their homes in the capital. The government forcibly removed people from their houses so they could build new buildings for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. Forced evictions are a common and recurring issue within Turkmenistan. Amnesty International is combating this housing crisis by publicizing homes that continue to be demolished.
  11. Low Unemployment Rate
    Last on the list of the top 10 facts about living conditions in Turkmenistan is employment. The country maintains a low GDP and a minimum wage of just 535 Turkmenistani ($152.55) per month. However, it also maintains a rather low unemployment rate. Only 3.8 percent of the country was unemployed in 2018, even lower than the United States’ unemployment rate of 4 percent.

Turkmenistan, like any country, has its challenges. As displayed in these top 10 facts about living conditions in Turkmenistan, the government’s high levels of surveillance and poor infrastructure can make life challenging at times. On the other hand, several NGOs such as the U.N. and Amnesty International are fighting to create a more equal society. Overall, the country has seen progress and today it maintains an improved education system as well as higher employment rates.

– Anna Melnik
Photo: Flickr

 


Turkmenistan is smaller than the United States in just about every regard–except one. It possesses the world’s fourth-largest reserves of natural gas, surpassing the U.S. and ranking just below Iran, Russia and Qatar. As its leadership turns to China for investment in its energy sector, the U.S. is poised to lose much of its economic clout in the region. If the U.S. were to invest in Turkmenistan’s infrastructure, U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Turkmenistan (beyond lifting its people out of poverty) would include a less corrupt, diversified economy friendlier to U.S. business and interests and one less state reliant on fossil fuels.

Corruption in Turkmenistan

With the current state of affairs, Turkmenistan is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Freedom House, a U.S. government-funded human rights advocacy group, gave the landlocked country of six million people a score of 6.96/7 on the Democracy Score, with 1 being the most democratic and 7 being the least. Turkmenistan president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov announced the creation of an anti-corruption agency in June 2017, but his appointee was a former official in the customs service, which is known to be a hotbed of political bribery. The president himself is also suspect; in 2008, a Russian energy company “gifted” him a private yacht worth €60 million ($88 million). Berdymukhamedov also received various luxury vehicles from German automobile companies, including a Mercedes Maybach.

While one might not see the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Turkmenistan because of the corruption, investment in fighting corruption and diversifying the market could reap good results. There has been nominal recognition by Turkmenistan’s government that market reform and diversification away from natural gas is beneficial. With relatively few stakes in Turkmenistan, the U.S. could be doing more.

Two Major Steps to Benefits

  • Invest in anti-corruption and reform initiatives: The barriers to market entry in Turkmenistan are some of the highest and most opaque in the world. The U.S. State Department reports that many businesses must have the favor of government officials in order to become successful, so personal relationships and high taxes on foreign firms dominate the market. While the U.S. cannot reform Turkmenistan’s domestic policy, it can work with willing government officials and NGOs to combat the excesses of economic protectionism. Lowering barriers could help current U.S. firms in the region like Coca-Cola thrive.
  • Invest in diversifying Turkmenistan’s economy: Turkmenistan is highly dependent on fossil fuels (particularly hydrocarbons and natural gas) for a sizeable portion of its GDP. China is its largest buyer, importing 30 billion cubic meters in 2016. It holds considerable influence over Turkmenistan’s economy and government with its purchasing power in Turkmenistan’s energy industries and infrastructure. If the U.S. invests in its agriculture and textile sectors, Turkmenistan can shift away from energy dependence toward a multi-tiered economy that would be a potential hotspot for foreign investment, including U.S. companies.

While these steps may not enact immediate change, their potential to remains a better alternative than the current status quo. The possibility of a prosperous, cleaner and relatively less autocratic Turkmenistan is far preferable to a polluting regime heavily reliant on foreign subsidies, interests and global energy prices.

– Alex Qi
Photo: Flickr

Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan is one of the five independent states that formed after the dissolution of The Soviet Union in 1991. Despite no longer being under Soviet rule, the educational standards that had been established under its former rule have generally remained consistent in all five nations, including having a formal tertiary education and almost universal literacy rates. Gender equality has recently been a hot topic with a special emphasis needed in girls’ education in Turkmenistan.

The good news is that the enrollment rate for primary school is currently around 97 percent, and completion of this level shows to be equally high for both genders. As part of The United Nations, Turkmenistan is continuously looking for ways to achieve international standards of quality education as well as the integration of the marginalized and minorities.

Standards Need To Be Improved

Among school districts across Turkmenistan, a standardized curriculum is required with a few years dedicated to humanities studies. This includes subjects like history, physics, foreign languages, world cultures and the Turkmen or Russian language. Unfortunately, Turkmenistan education lacks quality, especially among teachers.

Finding and retaining qualified teachers remains an issue due to unreasonable teaching hours, insufficient instruction materials, scarce materials and equipment and low salaries. Moreover, “an estimated 13 percent of schools have such serious structural defects in their physical plants that they are too dangerous to use for classes.” The low quality of crucial mentors as a result of such poor educational infrastructure ultimately affects the education of developing children in a negative way.

Another issue has been that 77 percent of the schools in Turkmenistan teach in Turkmen. The remaining 16 percent still use Russian as the primary language and are seeing higher success rates. This poses a problem in hiring new, qualified teachers as well as in educating students.

Inequality in Girls’ Education in Turkmenistan

Equality pertaining to girls’ education in Turkmenistan is lacking. Statistically, fewer than 40 percent of girls in Turkmenistan are studying at the tertiary education level. In contrast, girls in surrounding nations formerly under Soviet rule – like Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – are actually more likely than boys to attend school.

Women and girls in Turkmenistan suffer great discrimination, especially within the realm of political involvement and gender-based violence. Sadly, women of ethnic minorities experience dual discrimination. For this population, higher education at university institutions is never an option. They are rejected outright for the national belief that their identity is not true Turkmen.

The handfuls of women who do exercise their ability to attend university are not without restrictions. Simply, no female student is allowed to enter the university unless they are dressed in the national Turkmen dress, including a scarf to cover the head. Men, on the other hand, have no such restrictions to follow.

Working Towards Equality in Girls’ Education in Turkmenistan

Currently, higher education generally requires five years, which can present a challenge to women since they are expected to marry by the age of 20 – 21. The existing timeline hardly allows for school completion and decreases the chance of women attending and/or completing their education. However, reforms are being considered that will allow women a greater opportunity to complete their time at higher institutions.

Despite the equality gap, the government is working toward reform for girls’ education in Turkmenistan. In 1997, the country approved The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which defends women’s rights in all realms and works to eliminate discrimination, stereotypes and sex trafficking. The country adopted a law in 2015 guaranteeing “equal rights and equal opportunity for women and men” as a way to reach its goals of international gender equality standards.

Progress is being made to encourage a higher standard of gender equality. State and local government are working together to fund 15 key areas to improve gender equality, including a much-needed data collection database in order to monitor progress. The country is far from its goal, but these continued efforts should secure a better future for girls’ education in Turkmenistan.

– Mary Grace Miller
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in TurkmenistanTurkmenistan is a landlocked country in central Asia with a long history of poverty. It is important to first identify the issues affecting poverty in the country, and then look at what is being done to address them. Here are ten facts about poverty in Turkmenistan:

10 Facts About Poverty in Turkmenistan

  1. According to the Asian Development Bank, only 15 percent of the population used the internet in 2015. This statistic shows a lack of access to not only the internet and technology, but also to disposable income and affordable energy.
  2. Also in 2015, the Turkmenistan currency was devalued by 19 percent, which was the first drop in almost seven years.  Bloomberg noted that Turkmenistan and neighboring nations would need to devalue the currency in order to keep their exports competitive.
  3. Although the definitions for appropriate living standards defer in Turkmenistan, the World Bank reports that 58 percent of the population receives cash incomes below the official national minimum wage. According to the government, however, having 50 percent of the national median income indicates unacceptable living conditions; only 1 percent of the population falls below this line.
  4. According to the World Bank, in 2016 the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $36.18 billion; in comparison, the United States’ GDP is around $18 trillion.
  5. Carbon dioxide emissions are also a good indicator of a country’s development and urbanization. With a 2014 population of 5,466,241, Turkmenistan produced 12.517 metric tons of CO2 per capita. This high level of CO2 production — compared to a relatively small population — indicates unsustainable and slow development, as well as low access to clean energy sources.
  6. There are only 26 registered refugees in Turkmenistan, but it is likely that this number is actually much higher. The United Nations Human Rights Commission once estimated 40,000 refugees in the nation but indicates that most of them have become naturalized citizens.
  7. In 2011, Transparency International named Turkmenistan as the third most corrupt country in the world; this corruption is preventing genuine change that could reduce poverty in the nation.
  8. According to the United Nations Development Program, Turkmenistan has an adult literacy rate of 99.6 percent, which is extremely high for a nation with such high poverty levels; this indicates strong education systems in the country.
  9. In 2012, Turkmenistan adopted the National Climate Change Strategy, which aimed to develop more efficient resource use, a greener economy and lower carbon dioxide emissions.
  10. According to the Turkmenistan government, 75 percent of the national budget was dedicated to the implementation of the National Programme (2007- 2020) on Improving Social and Living Conditions of People in 2012. This funding demonstrates at least an intention to improve the lives of Turkmenistan residents.

Based on these facts about poverty in Turkmenistan, the country has a lot of work to do. Plans need to be improved for reducing poverty, improving the standard of living and becoming more transparent as a nation. Government corruption also needs to be addressed before real change can be made.

Finally, Turkmenistan needs all the assistance it can get from organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank, as this will speed up the process of improving the lives of those in the country.

– Liyanga de Silva

Photo: Flickr

Plans to Improve Sustainable Agriculture in Turkmenistan Sustainable agriculture in Turkmenistan has been difficult to implement due to a lack of resources and an effective way of maintaining agricultural plans. Improvements to the country’s agricultural systems are currently being discussed by activists and governments across the globe.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) cites lack of management and effective irrigation systems as barriers to the implementation of sustainable agriculture practices. To address these barriers, aid organizations will not only need an effective irrigation plan in a country where, according to USAID, 80 percent of land is classified as desert, but will need to outline a sound managerial plan for maintaining it.

According to Support for Further Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in Turkmenistan (SARD III), the European Union has drawn plans for a four-year project. This complex initiative to improve sustainable agriculture in Turkmenistan required presentations in addition to a lengthy outline. In addition to government plans, aid organizations have chosen to address the issue through education and new technology.

Last fall, a partnership between The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Global Environment Facility and the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Economy of Turkmenistan resolved to construct a water pipeline to assist with the issue of sustainable agriculture. According to UNDP, a seminar was given in Ashgabat to outline the plan for the pipeline, explain its success in the past and discuss the importance of daily water conservation practices.

Education about effective agricultural methods has been adopted by other agencies as well. In a statement on the USAID Turkmenistan website, the organization claims to “…prioritize greenhouse horticulture, helping high-value fruit and vegetable growers, processors and marketing specialists connect with local and international markets.” Although the actions and projects by aid organizations as well as plans for improvement are important, aid organizations also emphasize education and explain ways people can make a difference in their everyday lives.

Although activists are doing what they can to address their concerns about sustainable agriculture in Turkmenistan, citizens also consider agriculture a priority and referenced agriculture in a 2015 UNICEF report about goals for the future. Aid organizations and volunteers aim to make sustainability projects a priority and to make sustainability plans a reality.

– Gabriella Evans

Photo: Flickr

humanitarian aid to TurkmenistanThe authoritarian rule in Turkmenistan, led by Gurbanguly Berdimuhamediv, has led to a more isolated state for the citizens of Turkmenistan. There is oppression on freedom of speech, the press, association and religion. This level of totalitarian rule is comparable to North Korea, Sudan and Syria. It has left the country largely closed to foreigners and has restricted travel outside the state.

This isolation in a time of need creates a problem for the Turkmens. When inflation occurs, as it did in 2015, food scarcity causes the population of Turkmenistan to suffer from increased malnutrition and infant mortality. Turkmenistan’s infant mortality rate was reported in 2015 as being at 44 per every 1,000 births.

Mortality rates and health concerns are intended to be monitored, but the World Health Organization is denied full access to data in Turkmenistan, causing limited accurate data and an inability to study the situation in order to find solutions. Issues such as these present a problem in delivering humanitarian aid to Turkmenistan. However, recent laws passed by the Turkmenistan government show some advancements in charitable acts and humanitarian rights.

In 2017 the Parliament (Mejlis) of Turkmenistan adopted the Law on Charitable Activity in order to support activities by financing charitable projects and programs developed by philanthropists. This law made it easier for public associations to register and report the use of foreign aid. This law still limits and restricts civic freedoms in the forms of speech, association and press, but allows for the beginnings of humanitarian aid to Turkmenistan.

While foreign aid to Turkmenistan may be limited, USAID has been working in Turkmenistan since 1992. Through a partnership with Chevron, USAID provides technical assistance to the agriculture sector in the development of livestock and horticulture, teaches practical skills to young people in the oil, gas and tourism fields for use in economic and entrepreneurship development and builds outreach centers for at-risk youth.

The restrictions in Turkmenistan supply an interesting case for humanitarian aid to reach within its borders. However, through persistence and governmental laws shifting to reform the current isolation state aid can benefit those suffering from food shortage, drug trafficking and disease.

– Bronti DeRoche

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in TurkmenistanThe Central Asian country of Turkmenistan, once a vital stop on the renowned silk roads, has made significant progress over the years in regards to alleviating hunger. The dictatorship has achieved this by having an abundance of natural resources, a high education rate, and political alliances with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Considering that Turkmenistan is the fifth-largest gas reserve in the world, the country has been endowed with plenty of natural resources, making rapid economic growth inevitable. In 2016 alone, the GDP rose by 6.2 percent. The influx of capital from exports allows for the country to be more liberal in their spending to assuage problems such as hunger, malnutrition and lack of education.

The improving economic condition coincides with the improvement in Turkmenistan’s hunger problem, as the undernourishment rate is merely 2.5 percent. An increase in agricultural production due to economic growth was the vital factor in bringing the malnutrition percentage down. Furthermore, Turkmenistan now falls into the moderate category with a score of only 12.3 on the Global Hunger Index – 4.8 points less than in 2008. This places Turkmenistan not far behind countries such as the United States and Canada.

Hunger in Turkmenistan is further combated through an active enforcement of education. With almost a 100 percent literacy rate, residents of Turkmenistan have a wider array of career choices, leading to more opportunities to increase their income. Access to additional income per capita allows for families to purchase more food, which leads to lower malnutrition rates.

The United Nations have duly noted the progress that Turkmenistan has made in regards to hunger. Not only has it attained the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of hungry individuals, but also it has succeeded in being one of the noteworthy countries to reach the World Food Summit’s goal of reducing the absolute number of undernourished people by one-half.

Although Turkmenistan has made notable progress when it comes to hunger, they still are not perfect. Affluent people often have a monopoly over the natural resource industry, and therefore don’t leave quite enough for the ordinary person. Honing in on this problem could make further strides to improve hunger in Turkmenistan.

Tanvi Wattal

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan is a landlocked state in Central Asia with a population of 5,439,000 people. Turkmenistan was a constituent republic within the Soviet Union until 1991 when it gained independence. The following year, Turkmenistan joined the United Nations. Like most nations, Turkmenistan hosts a refugee population. Here are 10 critical facts about refugees in Turkmenistan:

  1. According to the World Bank, 26 refugees officially registered in Turkmenistan in 2015. This puts the number of refugees in Turkmenistan substantially lower than neighboring countries such as Afghanistan (257,554), Iran (979,437), Kazakhstan (708) and Uzbekistan (107) when it comes to official accounts of stateless persons.
  2. For a number of reasons, no one really knows how many refugees in Turkmenistan there are. However, it is likely greater than the official count of 26. The U.N. once estimated that there are at least 40,000 Afghan and Tajik refugees in Turkmenistan.
  3. International organizations criticize Turkmenistan for its many human rights abuses, with the Human Rights Watch characterizing Turkmenistan as “among the world’s most repressive and closed countries, where the president and his associates have total control over all aspects of public life.” Reports of torture, suppressed speech and forcefully disappeared persons makes Turkmenistan an undesired destination for refugees. Still, war and political violence in countries like Afghanistan and Tajikistan render Turkmenistan preferable–albeit less than ideal.
  4. One such human rights abuse–and a barrier to estimating the number of refugees in Turkmenistan–is Turkmenistan’s policies regarding nongovernmental organizations and human rights organizations. Nongovernmental organizations are illegal in Turkmenistan, and organizations such as the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are not allowed entry.
  5. The government of Turkmenistan has strategically driven refugees in Turkmenistan from neighboring countries such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan back across borders. Many Russians have endured deportation as well.
  6. A pretext for deporting refugees in Turkmenistan is marriage; if a non-Turkmen refugee marries an ethnically Turkmen person, they will likely not receive citizenship in Turkmenistan and face deportation.
  7. Though refugees in Turkmenistan often can’t marry someone with Turkmen heritage, the nation still expects them to adopt a traditional Turkmen way of life. Ethnic Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kazakhs and others must speak the Turkmen language and dress in traditional Turkmen clothing. Even the children of refugees must abide by these standards or face punishment like expulsion from school.
  8. Despite being an ethnically diverse nation, ethnic Turkmen people receive favor and hold virtually all public offices in the country. The purging of non-Turkmen government employees, unofficial banning of inter-ethnic marriage and mandating that refugees in Turkmenistan adopt the Turkmen way of life are all part of Turkmenistan’s strategy of “Turkmenization,” a set of official government policies started by former President Saparmyrat Niyazov in 1992 to emphasize Turkmen heritage over that of other ethnic groups. All stateless people and refugees in Turkmenistan must conform to “Turkmenization” if they wish to remain in the country. This is to the point that Uzbeks in Turkmenistan sustain punishment for non-Turkmen religious practices.
  9. In 1995, Turkmenistan allowed the U.N. Refugee Agency to open an office in Ashgabat–an unusual move, considering Turkmenistan’s policies on nongovernmental human rights organizations. Since then, the U.N. has invested millions of dollars in improving conditions in refugee-hosting areas, giving the refugees access to medicine and even helping to register them as Turkmen citizens.
  10. The government has done some good when it comes to helping refugees in Turkmenistan. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, while upholding most of Niyazov’s “Turkmenization” policies, has granted more than 3,000 refugees Turkmen citizenship since 2007. Previously, President Niyazov granted about 10,000 refugees in Turkmen citizenship. However, the criteria for granting citizenship was suspected as ethnically based; refugees fleeing the Tajikistan civil war gained citizenship, but the government often denied citizenship to Afghan and Azerbaijani refugees. Now holding Turkmen citizenship, these former refugees in Turkmenistan can take part in civil society and vote. The U.N. protection officer in Ashgabat, Batyr Sapbiyev, called Berdimuhamedov’s decree an “outstanding humanitarian act.”

While Turkmenistan has long been an ethnically diverse country, it has been considerably hostile towards non-Turkmen people living in the country, including refugees. Proponents of “Turkmenization,” an ideological set of public practices and laws, claim that they are preserving Turkmenistan’s cultural heritage. The cost is the shunning of the Tajik, Uzbek and other cultures existing in close proximity to Turkmenistan. Refugees in Turkmenistan do have some reasons to be optimistic, as more and more are granted citizenship. They are expected, however, to conform to the Turkmen way of living if they expect to stay in Turkmenistan.

David Mclellan

Photo: Google