Flags of Member States Flying at UN Headquarters: Uzbekistan
In the past, hunger in Uzbekistan showed staggering numbers. However, these rates have decreased exponentially since the early 2000s. Within the past 20 years, hunger rates peaked in 2002, where 19.8% of the population either could not afford or access a sufficient amount of nourishment necessary for survival.

The Connection Between Poverty and Hunger

Poverty drives hunger in Uzbekistan. For example, many people could not afford bread in 2005 due to the inflated price, but the rates have dropped by 14.5% since then. Moreover, many people did not even make sufficient wages to purchase a bag of flour each week to provide for their families.

Reducing Undernourishment

Globally, 805 million people experienced undernourishment in 2014. Of that number, 1.7 million lived in Uzbekistan. While these numbers may seem disheartening, there has been a turn for the better. From 2016 to 2017, there was a 0% increase in hunger rates in Uzbekistan. While there was not a reduction in hunger during that time, a 0% increase is still a victory showing that Uzbekistan is on the path to creating a country without hunger.

With these numbers in mind, it is important to highlight just how much progress there has been. Within the country, hunger in Uzbekistan decreased to 6.3% by 2017, which was the lowest it had been since 2000.

Many volunteers and organizations, such as Action Against Hunger, have provided aid to people in Uzbekistan including those that violence displaced in 2010. Action Against Hunger’s actions have directly affected the rates of undernourishment in the country. Here are some of the ways Action Against Hunger influenced the hunger rate in Uzbekistan.

3 Ways Action Against Hunger has Decreased Hunger in Uzbekistan

  1. Food Security: Action Against Hunger has workers and volunteers on the ground in countries all over the world. In the case of Uzbekistan, Action Against Hunger has been working to train local workers on farming and food sustainability. Additionally, it has been providing a work-for-cash program to help families pay for food each week.
  2. Water and Hygiene: With hunger comes the need for water. In providing and helping to secure the infrastructure in these communities, Action Against Hunger is providing the resources necessary to build and maintain sustainable water sources for those living in the country.
  3. Research: Research has allowed for Action Against Hunger to understand the leading factors influencing undernourishment in Uzbekistan’s communities. With this information, it has been able to find solutions to provide aid during even the most desolate of situations. Once Action Against Hunger completes its research, it goes into the advocacy stage. This is where the organization asks for others all over the world to support its work.

Hunger and malnutrition can come from many places but mostly stems from insecurity within the economy, poverty and job instability. With help, Uzbekistan should be able to eradicate these problems and increase food security. The fight to end hunger in Uzbekistan continues, but the numbers show that change surely is possible.

– Natalie Belford
Photo: UN Multimedia

Healthcare in UzbekistanUzbekistan is a former Soviet country and many consider it to be the population center of Asia with a young population. Since its independence in 1991, the country has diversified its agriculture, while keeping a significant agricultural base to its economy. The quality of healthcare in Uzbekistan endured a drop after its independence from the USSR but now is on the upward trend, even though it remains low in global rankings. Here are seven facts about healthcare in Uzbekistan.

7 Facts About Healthcare in Uzbekistan

  1. Under Soviet control, all healthcare in Uzbekistan was free. However, the government focused on access and less on outcome, leading to weaknesses when dealing with sickness and disease, especially in rural communities. Meanwhile, about 27% of hospitals in rural areas had no sewage and 17% had no access to running water, while doctors received 70% of the salary of a farmer, a common Uzbek job. Now, reforms focused on rural areas have improved conditions in all hospitals, and doctors now make 26 times the amount of a rural farmer.
  2. In Uzbekistan, most people rely on public healthcare providers, organized in three layers: national, regional and city. Private healthcare is minimal due to unsafe practices in treatment and surgery. As a result, the government is the principal employer of health workers, as well as the primary purchaser and provider of health-related goods and services.
  3. Spending on healthcare in Uzbekistan has increased from the country’s independence in 1991, as the country aimed to westernize and reform. Uzbekistan’s current health expenditure is 6.4%. The government health spending increased from $36 to $85 per person; out of pocket spending almost doubled from $37 to $69 per person, and developmental assistance doubled from $3 to $7 per person in the 30 years from its independence. The increased funding led to higher availability in healthcare, especially in rural areas, and better quality of care.
  4. In the past 30 years, Uzbekistan has implemented healthcare reforms in rural areas. Some improvements include increasing sanitation levels in hospitals and healthcare availability, allowing for all patients to get better care. Overall, the under-5 mortality rate has decreased by 50%, and healthcare access and quality (HAQ) grew from 50.3 to 62.9 from 1990 to now.
  5. The physician’s density is low, at 2.37/1000 people, mostly due to the emigration of skilled professionals, even though the median pay for physicians has sharply increased to about $13,000 a year. On the other hand, the hospital bed density is higher than in some highly developed countries, such as the United States, at four for every 1,000 people.
  6. Uzbekistan ranks low in maternal and infant mortality. At 29 deaths out of 100,000, it ranks 114 in maternal mortality. At 16.3 deaths out of 1,000, it ranks 93 in infant mortality. Although its healthcare system has gotten better with reforms in sanitation and access to healthcare, Uzbekistan still needs to create more improvements, as the mortality rate is still high.
  7. Uzbekistan is also low-ranking in adult health. The country holds the rank of 125 in life expectancy, with an average lifespan of 74.8 years. As for the quality of health, Uzbekistan ranks 115 in HIV/AIDS, with a prevalence of 0.2% and ranks 123 in obesity, with a prevalence of 16.6%.

Project Hope

Uzbekistan has not accomplished everything on its own. Many charities have worked with Uzbekistan, such as Project Hope. In 1999, Project Hope established its first office in Uzbekistan, with a focus on reducing child and maternal mortality rates, through the Child Survival Program and Healthy Family Program. It created initiatives, as well as opportunities for sexual education for the new mothers. Since then, under the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Project Hope has focused on creating opportunities for AIDS-focused healthcare and education.

Uzbekistan has made progress in healthcare from the time of its independence, but it still has a long way to go. As Uzbekistan’s government continues to implement reforms heavily focusing on rural areas, it will most likely continue on its upward trajectory and create a health system that is beneficial to all of its citizens. As healthcare grows, poverty will decrease. Currently, Uzbekistan’s most poor are in rural areas, the areas with the least access to healthcare, as well as the lowest levels of sanitation. If Uzbekistan continues making reforms, rural areas will receive more healthcare, decreasing the disadvantage of living there, and therefore increasing the quality of life for Uzbekistan’s poor.

Seona Maskara
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in UzbekistanSituated between Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan sits the culturally rich and beautiful country of Uzbekistan. With thriving cities and lush mountainsides, Uzbekistan’s environment makes for blossoming communities. However, the country and communities within it have drastically changed within the last two decades. The Uzbekistan government has successfully lowered poverty rates, decreased unemployment rates and increased education, although these instances rarely make headlines. Here are five facts to know about poverty in Uzbekistan.

5  Facts about Poverty in Uzbekistan

  1. A large drop in poverty rates: The poverty rate has decreased by a staggering 14.7% in less than a decade. The national poverty rate in 2015 was 12.8%, in comparison to 27.5% in 2001.
  2. The issue of unemployment: In 2019, 5.9% of Uzbekistan’s population was unemployed, and 19.7% of those unemployed made less than $2 a day. A lack of job opportunities and a distinct living standard between those in urban and rural areas are only some challenges the country is facing. Due to unemployment, many choose to migrate to Kazakhstan or Russia in hopes of more opportunities to send money back home to loved ones.

  3. Maternal mortality: In 2000, the maternal mortality rate was 33.1 for every 100,000 births. By 2013, that number had fallen to 20. The fertility rate and the number of unplanned pregnancies had also decreased. Further, rectifying vitamin A, iodine and iron deficiencies as well as affordability and effectiveness have become critical in the development of national health care programs.

  4. Growing access to education: In 2017, only 29% of children between the ages of 3 and 7 had been enrolled in educational facilities. The Uzbekistan government, through a project in collaboration with The World Bank, predicts that 40% of children within that age range will be enrolled in education programs by 2024. The project aims to combat the high student to teacher ratio and create remote learning programs for those in rural areas. Access to education is one of the most important ways to fight poverty. Education helps reduce inequality, strengthen the economy and lower the risk of vulnerability.

  5.  Water access: In March of 2020, Uzbekistan accepted a $239 million credit from The World Bank to invest in a water service project. This project aims to reduce water loss and energy usage through improved sewage infrastructure within five communities. When the project is completed, over 500,000 people throughout Uzbekistan will have access to clean water. Access to water will help those in rural areas become more sustainable. Staying clean, hydrating and growing crops will become more available.

With a continuous decrease in poverty rates and an increase in educational and sanitation infrastructure, Uzbekistan has made large strides to improve the lives of its citizens. Poverty in Uzbekistan has dramatically shifted over the last two decades. Unemployment rates have dropped, neonatal mortality rates have decreased by more than half and resources such as education and clean water are becoming more accessible to all communities. With progress like this, Uzbekistan is on its way to great improvement.

Hannah Kaufman
Photo: The World Bank

Childhood Education in Rural UzbekistanAfter gaining independence from the Soviet Union in the 1990s, Uzbekistan gradually lifted itself off the ground, despite malnutrition problems, a lack of government transparency and high unemployment rates. Since then, advancements have been made to improve opportunities for education in rural Uzbekistan.

Education in Rural Uzbekistan

Children living in rural areas are at a geographic disadvantage compared to those who live in cities. Issues affecting children living in impoverished, rural areas include a lack of access to basic education and healthcare services.

Approximately 46 percent of children living in urban areas are enrolled in school, but in rural areas, this number drops to 23 percent. The population of children aged 0-3 living in rural Kashkadarya, for example, grew by 12 percent from 2013 to 2016, yet rates of enrollment have not kept up with a growing rural population.

Making a Difference

Ameliorating the effects of child labor and the lack of access to primary education coupled with the establishment of protections over children’s rights have set the foundation upon which Uzbekistan has begun to build its nation. Programs such as the Rural Basic Education Project have been allocating funding to improve learning conditions in the rural areas of Tashkent, Surkhandarya and Kashkadarya. The goal is to increase opportunities for higher education for children living in rural Uzbekistan.

Child Labor Issues

A major, longstanding issue Uzbekistan faces is the state-controlled labor system that supports massive amounts of cotton exports. This hinders education in rural Uzbekistan from making lasting and important impacts on children.

Government-mandated labor quotas that previously included children forced out of school are becoming lenient and age-restricted. As a result, there has been a substantial decrease in the number of children working in fields. This has led to an increase in funding and the number of schools, increasing education access for rural children. In rural areas, more children are continuing their education, rather than being forced into state-mandated labor. As a result, more adults, specifically women, have greater job opportunities than they otherwise would.

Increased educational opportunities lead to greater attention to human rights laws and how they impact children living in poverty. The availability of a more open education system has also improved gender equality.

For the first time, 56,000 children are enrolled in partial-day preschool programs because of the Improving Pre-Primary and General Secondary Education Project administered by the Ministry of Public Education of Uzbekistan and regulated by the World Bank. Developing the education system, specifically in rural areas, has led to greater economic success and improved livelihoods.

The Future for Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan still faces pressing issues, including forced labor and violations of human rights. However, by investing in its children, the country has become characterized by progress and improved quality of life. The children living in poverty are the future of Uzbekistan. Through a focus on providing education for children in rural Uzbekistan, the nation is helping them grow and flourish.

Jessica Ball
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Uzbekistan’s Economic TransformationAlthough the poverty rate in Uzbekistan is only 14 percent, the standard of living and GDP per capita are low. The government of Uzbekistan has partnered with the World Bank to undertake a massive economic transformation. It hopes to develop its economy, spur investment and improve livelihoods. The government is improving infrastructure efficiency and social services to achieve high-middle-income status for its residents by 2030. This is a part of the development strategy called Uzbekistan Vision 2030. The World Bank, International Finance Corporation, Asian Development Bank and the European Union have worked cooperatively to facilitate Uzbekistan’s economic transformation.

Massive World Bank Loan

The World Bank has worked with Uzbekistan since 1992 and funded more than 20 projects, totaling $3.6 billion. The bank recently approved a $500 million loan to stimulate private sector growth and job creation. Uzbekistan’s transformation into a successful market economy will ultimately result in a higher quality of life for its citizens. Currently, Uzbekistan’s GDP per capita stands at $6,900, almost one order of magnitude lower than the United States’ GDP per capita of $54,541. Uzbekistan believes that poverty levels will shrink as a direct result of developing its private sector economy and boosting GDP per capita.

Cyril Muller, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia, said that the loan will “boost growth, promote transparency and accountability and improve services for citizens.” In 2018 and 2019, Uzbekistan reduced trade and investment barriers, decreased strict business regulations, loosened its currency and opened markets to spur investment and boost imports and exports. These recent changes to its economic policy show Uzbekistan’s commitment to loosening its controls on prices, production and foreign investment.

Livestock Sector Receives Support

The European Union and the World Bank jointly funded a five-year project in 2019 aimed at developing Uzbekistan’s livestock sector. More than $150 million will go towards addressing supply chain problems such as low productivity, substandard animal health services, financial constraints on research institutions and poor access to markets for smallholder farmers. The Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Jamshid Khodjayev, said that this project aims to increase the efficiency of the livestock sector by increasing the number of small farmers participating in commercial value chains, improving productivity and ensuring the sustainability of incomes.

The project will also support credit lines for farmers and other workers in the livestock industry. The agriculture industry employs about a quarter of the population. Livestock is an important agricultural product in Uzbekistan. About 90 percent of “livestock production relies on small farm holdings” and about 4.7 million smallholders depend on livestock for a living.

Energy Sector Boosts Agribusiness

“More than 126,000 MWh of electricity and 50 million cubic meters in natural gas” are available for use every year thanks to $50 million of project financing to improve energy sector performance and competitiveness. Since 2012, more than 560 farms and agribusinesses received credit lines made available through six financial institutions. Investment portfolio assets include agricultural machinery, greenhouses, livestock, orchards, vineyards and vegetable farming.

The poverty rate in Uzbekistan declined from 27.5 percent in 2001 to 14 percent in 2016 as a result of strong economic growth. GDP growth was a robust 8 percent for 2015 and 2016. The business environment has improved significantly due to a more open economic policy. Uzbekistan’s economy will continue to see improvement from internal changes to business-related statutes, like reducing the number of days to register businesses and property. Support from multilateral banks like the World Bank will further promote Uzbekistan’s economic transformation.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

House Resolution 599
On September 26, 2019, Mississippi Rep. Trent Kelly introduced House Resolution 599: Expressing support of independence and further development of the strategic partnership between the United States and Uzbekistan (H. Res. 599). This resolution affirms the U.S.’s continued partnership with Uzbekistan as it transitions to a more economically and politically democratic country. With a population of 27.9 million, Uzbekistan is home to more than 50 percent of the Central Asian people. Because of this, it is poised to be a leader in regional affairs. The dominant ethnic group in the country is Uzbek (78.3 percent), and the dominant religion is Islam (76.2 percent), specifically Sunni Islam. Uzbekistan was a Soviet satellite state until the early 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed. In 1992, the newly-established Republic of Uzbekistan adopted a new constitution, which called for a national, bicameral legislature, a powerful executive and a judiciary.

The Situation in Uzbekistan

Since it gained independence, Uzbekistan’s government has taken measures to bolster the economy and increase economic development. As a result, its gross domestic product has been growing. However, at least 25 percent of the Uzbek population lives in poverty and much of Uzbekistan’s working-age population has gone abroad to find work. Uzbekistan also lacks quality health care. People can largely attribute the problems with its health care system to the uneven allocation of services during the Soviet era as well as environmental contamination.

Moreover, despite positive democratic developments, the government of Uzbekistan still perpetrates serious human rights abuses according to a State Department report. The Uzbek government commits arbitrary arrests and detentions of its citizens, denies them due process, restricts freedom of speech and freedom of the press and frequently tortures prisoners. The regime has violated religious freedoms and has forced adults and children to harvest cotton.

U.S.-Uzbek Relations

Since Uzbekistan declared independence from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the U.S. and Uzbek governments have cooperated in a wide range of areas, including regional security, economic development and trade and issues concerning politics and civil society. Specifically, the U.S. has collaborated with Uzbekistan in dealing with the illegal trafficking of both narcotics and people and in countering terrorism and extremism. According to the U.S. State Department, Uzbekistan is a key partner in providing electricity and economic aid to Afghanistan and in assisting in the development of Afghanistan’s infrastructure.

The resolution comes on the heels of Uzbek President Skavkat Mirziyoyev’s first visit to the U.S. in May 2018. During the visit, U.S. and Uzbek companies signed bilateral business deals worth $4.8 billion and contracts valued at $2.5 billion. According to the resolution, the newly-formed Congressional Uzbekistan Caucus “has led to unprecedented levels of dialogue” between the U.S. and Uzbek governments.

House Resolution 599

Rep. Kelly introduced H. Res. 599 on September 26, 2019. The resolution then went to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. On October 8, 2019, the resolution went to the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy and the Environment, where members of the committee will consider whether they should bring it to the whole House.

The U.S. benefits from economic development and democratization in Uzbekistan since both will bring stability to Central Asia. H. Res. 599 would increase U.S.-Uzbek trade and open up new business opportunities for U.S. firms. Furthermore, cooperating with Uzbekistan protects U.S. national security interests. As H. Res. 599 notes, Uzbekistan’s government was “crucial to the expulsion of al-Qaida from Afghanistan” after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The resolution states that the U.S. will “share burdens” with Uzbekistan on regional issues such as stability in Afghanistan.

House Resolution 599 calls for a strengthening of ties between the U.S. and Uzbekistan. The resolution encourages the Uzbek government to improve the economic conditions and political freedoms of its people.

– Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Development in Uzbekistan

Doubly landlocked by its neighbors, Uzbekistan is rich in a variety of resources, such as cotton, gold, uranium and zinc. However, since becoming an independent country, the people of Uzbekistan have suffered from high rates of poverty, coupled with a lack of access to a reliable source of clean drinking water and subpar health care. In order to fight poverty in Uzbekistan and improve the quality of life, the government has embraced the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and worked to establish a variety of reforms within its framework. As of 2018, the Asian Development Bank lists the poverty rate for Uzbekistan at 11.4 percent.

Supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals

In October 2018, the government of Uzbekistan adopted a resolution titled “On Measures to Implement the National Goals and Targets in the Field of Sustainable Development for the Period Until 2030.” This resolution reaffirmed Uzbekistan’s dedication to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The resolution also set 16 national sustainable development goals for Uzbekistan that focused on environmental, economic and social issues in the country.

The country’s environmental goals include considerably reducing waste production and significantly increasing renewable energy generation by 2030. Economical goals include reducing youth unemployment, increasing Uzbekistan’s per capita GDP and significantly reducing the poverty rates by 2030.

Electricity, Clean Water and Sanitation

As of 2016, 100 percent of the population of Uzbekistan has access to electricity. However, only 3.2 percent of Uzbekistan’s total energy comes from renewable sources. As part of Uzbekistan’s national sustainable development goals, it hopes to significantly increase renewable energy production by 2030. In addition, it plans to reduce waste production by promoting prevention, reduction and recycling.

Uzbekistan has made major strides in improving its sanitation services and water supply throughout the years. However, despite these efforts, less than half of the population has access to a piped water supply. Only 17 percent of city households receive water for the entire day. The situation is much worse in smaller towns and rural communities.

The situation is particularly poor in the Syrdarya region where low-income families must either rely on small storage tanks that are refilled every month at a high price or spend hours of their day walking to a public tap outlet to fill containers with water. The World Bank has launched the Syrdarya Water Supply Project to help provide clean drinking water to the region of nearly 280,000 inhabitants.

Gender Equality

The Uzbekistan government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have worked to empower women and support gender equality in the country. They have established laws that support women in the legal system and in government, such as laws against sexual harassment and gender discrimination. The UNDP has also supported initiatives that economically empower Uzbek women. Financial decision-makers are working closely with the Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan in order to ensure that these initiatives receive proper funding. The UNDP has also aided women-run businesses to grow and achieve success domestically and internationally.

The government has worked with the UNDP to ensure that women receive the same help and benefits as men, including the protection against and treatment of HIV infections. With the support of the UNDP, 5,995 women are currently receiving continuous ARV treatment for HIV. Women also make up 38 percent of participants in HIV prevention programs in the country.

Health Care Reforms

The maternal mortality rate in Uzbekistan has significantly decreased from 33.1 per 1,000 live births in 2000 to 20 per 1,000 live births by 2013. In addition, the government of Uzbekistan is currently working with international partners in developing new and effective health care programs. By 2030, they aim to decrease the child mortality rate by 50 percent, the maternal mortality rate by 30 percent and reduce the number of deaths from noncommunicable diseases by 30 percent.

People often suffer from subpar health care, particularly in rural regions. The government began implementing major health care reforms in 2017, particularly focusing on training health care professionals and fighting tuberculosis. They have also worked to improve the quality of health care in rural hospitals and clinics by requiring all graduates of publicly-funded medical schools to work in rural areas for three years. Uzbekistan already offers free health care; however, the cost of medical supplies is often high. In order to make health care more affordable, the government has instituted reforms to lower the costs of medical devices and fight against corruption.

Economic Liberalization

The Uzbek government implemented vital reforms to liberalize its economy. In 2017, the government commissioned 161 major industrial facilities. As a result of these reforms, the economy grew by 5.5 percent in 2017 and exports grew by 15 percent. The som, the national currency of Uzbekistan, was unpegged from the U.S. dollar and allowed to float freely. This increased currency trading and provided more revenue for the government. A dozen new free economic zones were created alongside 45 industrial zones to spur the economy. The government also created national development programs to promote innovation and investment in the economy.

In cooperation with international organizations including the UNDP, the government of Uzbekistan has worked to distribute income more equitably and create new jobs, particularly in rural areas. It has put a particular effort into helping the most vulnerable communities. The government has proven its dedication to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals by promoting sustainable development throughout the country, supporting women’s empowerment, economic reform, health care reform, clean energy and more. As a result of this dedication, the government of Uzbekistan has successfully reduced poverty and improved the quality of life for its citizens.

Nicholas Bykov
Photo: Pixabay

The U.S. Foreign Aid Freeze
On August 3, 2019, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ordered two federal agencies to temporarily freeze billions of foreign aid funding. This decision ordered the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide accounts for all unobligated resources of foreign aid. Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for the Budget Office, said the order aims to ensure accountability. According to the Associated Press (AP), the letter lists 10 areas that the U.S. foreign aid freeze targets, including development assistance, global health programs and United Nations peacekeeping. In total, the freeze puts $2 billion to $4 billion of congressionally-approved funding on hold.

Subsequent Response

The U.S. foreign aid freeze has met with bipartisan criticism. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel said that the Trump administration has amounted to contempt and emphasized that congressionally-approved foreign aid is law and backed by the Constitution. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s criticism was harsher, labeling the freeze insane. In a letter to the OMB, lawmakers from both parties agreed that cutting foreign aid and development spending would not be in the interest of national security.

Critics of the OMB’s decision point to the fact that foreign aid spending makes up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the federal budget. Before the freeze, the U.S. spent $30 billion annually on programs to reduce global poverty. Liz Schrayer, the chief executive of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, claims the OMB is cutting one of the smallest portions of the federal budget, but one that could have catastrophic impacts on U.S. economic and national security interests.

Impacted Countries

The U.S. foreign aid freeze will directly affect Malawi, one of the world’s least developed countries. The nation consistently ranks very low in various health indicators, such as life expectancy, infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate. In addition, an estimated one million people or 9.2 percent of adults in Malawi live with HIV/AIDS with an estimated 13,000 deaths annually. In Malawi, USAID works to improve the quality of life by supporting development, education and health programs, especially those that prevent and treat malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. Due to the Trump administration’s order, Malawi may not have aid for the remainder of this financial year. According to documents that Foreign Policy obtained, the freeze could also affect foreign aid to countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Funding for UNICEF projects to protect children account for a large portion of the U.S. foreign aid freeze. One of these programs involves early childhood education and development in Uzbekistan. According to UNICEF, only 30 percent of Uzbek children attend preschool while 70 percent are unable to achieve their full potential due to a lack of early education. UNICEF is rolling its program out across six regions in Uzbekistan and it has designed it to increase access to quality education for children. Regional instructors have trained 2,159 preschool teachers in child-centered learning and model schools, which have increased enrollment by 2,841 children. The U.S. foreign aid freeze will have a direct impact on similar programs across the globe.

Bipartisan Solution

On August 15, 2019, the OMB sent an official rescission request to the State Department to cut foreign aid funding by more than $4 billion, yet canceled the request a few days later. Since taking office in 2017, the Trump administration has made numerous attempts to cut foreign aid funding, and in some cases by as much as 30 percent. Members of both parties in Congress firmly rejected all attempts. Daniel Runde, former director of the Global Development Alliance (GDA) in the Bush administration, says development, diplomacy and defense experts are in full agreement that the Trump administration should work collaboratively with Congress to create a more robust and sustainable approach to foreign aid and development.

– Adam Bentz
Photo: Flickr

Violence in Uzbekistan

The former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan contains approximately 33 million people and is the largest nation in Central Asia. Despite its surveillance apparatus, Uzbekistan struggles with various forms of violence that contribute to its high poverty rate of 12.8 percent. Terrorism and drug trafficking associated with the Afghanistan border spur fear and international concerns. Widespread domestic violence in the poor countryside hinders women’s rights and blocks economic productivity. However, important international partnerships with the U.N., U.S. and non-governmental organizations are working to create more responsible governance and halt violence in Uzbekistan.

Violent Triad

Uzbekistan’s unrest centers on three main areas:

1. Drug Trafficking: Uzbekistan is a thoroughfare for opiates originating in Afghanistan. Authorities routinely capture narcotics en route to Europe and have burned 54 tons of drugs since 1994. Addiction is a major problem that is at least 10 times as prevalent as official statistics display, according to the Overseas Security Advisory Council. Narcotics trafficking often involves organized crime, which spawns corruption and human trafficking as well.

2. Terrorism: Terrorism used to be quite severe in Uzbekistan. Suicide bombings killed 50 people in the cities of Tashkent and Bukhara in 2004. Attacks within the nation have lessened in recent years, but the radical Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan still resides on the Afghan border. A larger problem is the amount of Uzbek terrorists committing attacks on other countries. A 2017 State Department report showed multiple instances of this, the most severe being when an Uzbek man massacred 39 people in an Istanbul nightclub.

3. Domestic Violence: The most prevalent type of violence in Uzbekistan is spousal abuse. An extensive 2001 Human Rights Watch report displayed domestic violence was viewed as a private matter by village council, or mahalla, officials. Even in a case where beatings caused one woman to have four miscarriages, nothing was done. In 2019, Uzbekistan still lacks domestic violence legislation and abuse is culturally acceptable to 41 percent of women. An Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report showed that 61 percent of women distrusted the justice system, particularly because mahallas focus on lowering divorce statistics rather than protecting women.

UNODC Partnership

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has worked in Uzbekistan since 1993 to fight illegal narcotics. Today, Uzbekistan is the headquarters of UNODC’s Central Asia Program, a $70 million initiative that hopes to increase anti-drug regional cooperation over five years. UNODC also stops the related crime of human trafficking across the Afghanistan border and administers antiretroviral treatment to those infected with HIV from drug needles. The U.N. helped 12,000 Uzbeks receive ARVs in 2015.

The Paris Pact Initiative is another program run by UNODC. It combines the efforts of 80 countries and organizations to combat the flow of opiates from Afghanistan. Uzbekistan is one of 11 nations hosting Paris Pact Research and Liaison personnel, who conduct narcotics research in the field. The success of the program’s first three phases garnered it a $6.7 million budget between 2013 and 2017.

U.S.-Uzbekistan Military Partnership

Stronger ties between the American and Uzbek militaries will counteract terrorism while promoting government reforms in the country. President Trump met with President Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan on May 16, 2018 to commit to a bilateral relationship that would ensure security in the region. Both leaders agreed to the first ever “Five-Year Plan of Military Cooperation” and condemned terrorism in Afghanistan. Trump encouraged Mirziyoyev to pursue more human rights reforms for his people as the American military became involved.

The Department of Defense highlighted the progress of the Five-Year Plan in early July 2019, when Uzbekistan’s Defense Minister, Bakhodir Kurbanov, visited America. Kurbanov witnessed the effectiveness of officer exchange programs and American training curriculum in fighting violence in Uzbekistan. One Uzbek pilot will be training with Americans in Columbus Air Base’s Aviation Leadership Program in 2020.

International-Local NGO Partnerships

International NGOs focus on empowering Uzbek organizations to combat domestic violence. ACTED is one of the most influential NGOs providing support in the country, and its social media campaign dispels domestic violence myths among youth. It funds and trains local women’s NGOs in a society where they are traditionally blocked from operating. The Oydin Nur Center is one successful project supported by ACTED. Since 2000, the center has counseled 5,155 abused women and assisted 9,000 women over a hotline.

The Marta Resource Center for Women is another international NGO educating groups on violence in Uzbekistan. Originally fighting domestic abuse in Latvia, Marta expanded to Uzbekistan in 2009 to address similar problems. It specifically targets the mahallas and teaches them the importance of stopping domestic violence. Marta also recognizes the stifled economic potential of abused women. In an interview, Marta’s founder Iluta Lāce discussed how a partnership with the Italian Chamber of Commerce, Craft and Agriculture helps women discover independence by founding small businesses.

Much work remains in the fight against violence in Uzbekistan. Legislation against abuse is still nonexistent, and conflict resonates throughout the region. There is a long road ahead. However, the above international partnerships display that Uzbekistan does not travel that road alone.

– Sean Galli
Photo: Wikimedia

Agriculture in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is located in central Asia, and its citizens mostly live in rural areas with low housing, mostly congregated in the eastern half of the country. A big reason for this is the desertification of land in the western half of the country, particularly around the Aral Sea. The sea has also been polluted by pesticides and industrial waste, which has significantly impacted crop production in the immediate area.

All things considered, not only has the western half of Uzbekistan come to resemble a wasteland but the entire country continues to suffer water shortages to this day. Fortunately, agriculture in Uzbekistan is beginning to show signs of improvement in the eastern half of the country. Rural farming and agriculture accounts for more than one-third of employment, and is mostly focused on cotton. There is also a multitude of fruits and vegetables grown for at least local consumption and, in some cases, export. There is also a healthy silkworm cultivation sector.

Aid from The World Bank

In 2018, the World Bank launched the Additional Financing — Horticulture Development Project in Uzbekistan. The project focuses on improving horticulture, both in terms of productivity and marketability. Uzbekistan is currently transitioning from a state development focused economy to a private sector-focused economy, and the improvement of the agricultural sector can jumpstart economic growth in the country.

Hideki Mori, the World Bank’s Country Manager for Uzbekistan, said: “agriculture and rural development are at the heart of the transformation underway in Uzbekistan and the shift to horticulture is a big part of the Government’s investment strategy.” Indeed, most of the project is focused specifically on growing the horticulture sector commercially, with the diversification of crops cited as a major focus area. The overall goal is for rural areas to be able to cultivate better more produce than cotton. Fruits and vegetables will be the focus for exports, as they account for up to 50 percent of the value of crop output, as well as 35 percent of the sector’s trade value. Uzbekistan’s agriculture improvement begins with the diversification and increased marketability of its yields.

Rising Benefits

The shift toward diversified horticultural exports is already showing results. At least 45 Dutch trading companies are looking to partner with sellers in Uzbekistan, the first of many opportunities for increased profits. In addition to shifting the focus to diversified yields, there is also a focus on creating labor-intensive agricultural positions, providing regular work for many in rural communities.

With a solid agricultural base, Uzbekistan can both provide for citizens at home in terms of food and work, and with the trend toward export-driven growth, it can leverage that base to grow the new economy. If the country continues this way, there’s a lot of room for substantial growth, including into other sectors. Boosting agriculture in Uzbekistan can open doors for improvement in other sectors of the economy.

– Mason Sansonia
Photo: Pixabay