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

Clean WaterThe first West and Central Africa Innovative Financing for Water Sanitation & Hygiene conference recently convened in Dakar, Senegal to discuss efforts to increase access to clean water in rural areas.

For three days, 24 governments in the sub-Saharan region had the opportunity to meet with major investment banks, international organizations, businesses and experts.

Their collective goal is to find new methods to raise an estimated $20 to $30 billion annually for the water, sanitation and hygiene sector. Success will bring universal access of those services to West and Central Africa, home to nearly half the global population currently living without access to improved drinking water.

The Joint Monitoring Report Update of 2015 estimates 663 million people globally still lack access to improved drinking water sources. 2.4 billion people have no access to improved sanitation facilities, and of that number, 946 million defecate in the open.

According to UNICEF, no country in West and Central Africa has universal access to improved drinking water and access to sanitation even rarer. In countries with the best coverage of the sub-Saharan area, as many as one in four people still lack adequate sanitation.

Within the last 25 years, the population of the sub-Saharan area has nearly doubled. Growing populations are outpacing government efforts to provide essential services. Access to improved sanitation and clean water has not kept pace with these changes. In fact, improved sanitation only increased by 6 percent and water only 20 percent within the same time period.

The number of people in the region who defecate in the open is higher now than it was in 1990.

Without speedy action, UNICEF warns the situation could drastically worsen within the next 20 years.

The UN estimates global economic losses due to inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene amount to $260 billion dollars per year. As the sub-region with the worst access, West and Central Africa carries a significant portion of this burden.


Funding for the water, sanitation and hygiene sector is uneven and insufficient, noted UNICEF. No African country has allocated more than 0.5 percent of its gross domestic product to the sector.

Meanwhile, of the $3.8 billion overseas development aid (ODA) allocated for the water, sanitation and hygiene sector in 2012, approximately three-quarters went to water and the remaining quarter to sanitation.

Most ODA funding goes to countries that are already doing well, and while rural access to clean water is far behind urban access, both external and domestic funding go primarily to urban systems.

“While we know what needs to be done, we have to figure out a way to do it faster and better,” UNICEF Regional Director for West & Central Africa Manuel Fontaine said. “There are a lot of options on the table; what is not an option is to continue to allow children to pay for our lack of action.”

Kara Buckley

Sources: WASH Finance, UN, UNICEF
Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Flickr

The statistics concerning the global water crisis are staggering, especially in developing countries.

  1. 1 in 9 people or roughly 783 million individuals globally are unable to obtain safe drinking water.
  2. In developing countries, one-third of all schools, as well as one-third of all health care facilities, lack safe water and adequate sanitation.
  3. According to the World Health Organization, 3,900 children globally die each day as a result of waterborne diseases.
  4. 1.8 million people die every year of diarrhoeal diseases obtained from drinking unclean water.
  5. The illnesses caused by drinking unclean water as well as the many hours a day devoted to collecting this water, take away from and severely decrease the quality of life for entire communities.
  6. According to the United Nations, by itself, Sub-Saharan Africa loses 40 billion hours per year collecting water.

These are just a few of the shocking statistics that highlight the seriousness of the global water crisis. However, by donating and investing in initiatives that are environmentally safe and cost-effective it is possible to turn back the tide of the growing global water crisis.

Students, especially girls, who no longer have to focus time and effort on collecting water, can devote more time to attending school. With the addition of safe and sanitary latrine areas, girls can also stay in school throughout their teenage years following puberty.

With access to water, food security can become a reality in developing countries. Fewer crops will be lost and schools can begin to feed their students through the use of their own gardens, which will slash costs.

Access to clean water also means clean hands which lead to healthier bodies. People can focus on ending the cycle of poverty instead of succumbing to water-related sicknesses.

Clear cut access to clean water can also help alleviate conflicts over 276 transboundary river basins. An improved understanding of proper sanitation can increase access to clean water and significantly reduce pollution through unsanitary practices such as waste dumping into these river basins.

According to The Water Project, access to clean water alone can go a long way towards breaking the cycle of poverty for millions of people. All that is needed is to act upon this knowledge.

Drusilla Gibbs

Sources: World Water Council, Water, The Water Project
Photo: Occupy For Animals

Interview With Anthropologist on Malnutrition in Kenya
In Kenya, over 1.5 million people are facing food shortages and high levels of malnutrition. Most of these people live in rural areas, particularly in northern Kenya. The fact that these people are so far away from the more industrialized areas of Nairobi and Mombasa means that they are both more difficult to reach and easier for a country to ignore. Some people live away from areas that are accessible by any sort of road and many people are only reachable by dirt roads, which are often treacherous.

When some people are reached the food is often things such as beans and corn, which do not offer all of the nutrients that people need.

To find out more, I talked to anthropologist Professor Jon Holtzman about his research regarding nutrition in Northern Kenya.

Q: What nutritional research have you done in Kenya?

A: I studied the Samburu in Nothern Kenya. They are pastoralists. They traditionally rely on their herds.

Q: What did you find in the gender differences in nutrition?

A: Both men and women were less well off as they aged, but men tended to be more adversely affected by aging. They tended to get more malnourished as they aged.

Q: Why do you think these differences occur?

A: There’re generally food shortages among the Samburu and although men have more political power, women control the distribution of food in the house. The food is sometimes scarce.

Q: How has the rising population changed the nutrition of the Samburu?

A: They no longer have enough cows to rely on the products of their herds, particularly milk. In 1950 there were probably about 50,000 Samburu and they had about 350,000 cows, so each person could get enough milk. Now there are about 200,000 Samburu and about 200,000 cows, so it isn’t possible to get enough milk. They just sell livestock to buy things like maize meal, which aren’t very nutritious and are low in key nutrients, such as protein.

Q: How is this affecting the health of the Samburu?

A: Generally they are very thin and their growth rate is reduced. They are very vulnerable to diseases associated with poor nutrition, such as tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.

Q: What sort of assistance would be best to help this population?

A: It isn’t an easy problem to solve. More support for health care and programs that bring new and sustainable economic activities to remote areas could be the best hope.

Groups like UNICEF and USAID are doing work to try to help people with low access to nutritious foods and potable water. But without the necessary funding, there is only so much that can be done.

Clare Holtzman

Sources: UNICEF
Photo: Flickr

Established in 2000, one of the Millennium Development Goals was to increase the availability of clean drinking water. More specifically, the United Nations aimed to reduce the number of people without access to safe drinking water in half. In 2010, this goal was met. In fact, it was the first Millennium Development Goal to be met.

Despite these advancements, over 750 million people lack access to clean drinking water even today. That’s almost two and a half times the population of the United States without safe water. That’s about 1 in 9 people in total.

This is what Italian designer Gabriele Diamanti wanted to change with the Eliodomestico, a solar powered ceramic water purifier. The Eliodomestico boils water to separate the unwanted elements from the clean drinking water.

Diamanti wanted to make something simple and inexpensive, using materials found in the area so that a local craftsman could put it together. In the end, Diamanti built the Eliodomestico to work like “an upside-down coffee percolator”.

The Elliodomestico is made of terracotta, anodized zinc and recycled plastic. It consists of two ceramic containers, one atop the other. Salt water is poured into the top container, which then gets heated by the sun and converted to steam. The increase in pressure forces the steam to travel through a tube to the lower container where it re-condenses. The clean drinking water gathers at the bottom of the lower container.

The Eliodomestico collects about 5 liters of clean drinking water per day, and it only costs $50 with no operating costs. In addition, the bottom container can be easily removed and transported on the head of the user, a common practice in developing countries.

Because the Eliodomestico doesn’t use electricity or filters, it is easier to maintain and more efficient than other solar water purifiers. Most solar powered water filters use a solar panel, which increases the cost and the style-factor, but not the efficiency. The Eliodomestico is efficient, cheap and easy to use and maintain, making it a simple solution to a wide spread problem.

Hannah Resnick

Sources: Gabriele Diamanti, Giz Mag, Global Citizen, Inhabit, UN Millennium Project,
Photo: Gabriele Diamanti

FRANK-water-saves-livesjpgKatie Alcott, young social entrepreneur and founder of FRANK Water, started the charity and social enterprise by producing and selling her own brand of bottled spring water and using the profits to afford clean drinking water worldwide.

After being diagnosed with dysentery, Alcott launched FRANK Water, creating it as both a registered charity (No. 1121273) under the name “FRANK Water Projects” and as a social enterprise that donates all its net proceeds to FRANK’s Projects.

FRANK Water has impacted more than 200,000 people in more than 128 communities. The goal is to provide clean, accessible drinking water to the 748 million worldwide who need it the most.

FRANK is working in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, various states in India. In 2014, nearly 95 communities totaling to 176,063 people received safe water and sanitation. By 2015, 80 new communities will welcome FRANK, which will serve 17,800 people.

Much of FRANK’s work is teamed with local community-based organizations. Currently, FRANK’s India partners are SAMERTH, CURE India, People Science Instirute, Bala Vikasa, VJNNS and Gram Vikas.

In Chhattisgarh, India, FRANK Water is working with tribal Baiga communities so that they can access clean drinking water in the Kabirdham District. Since Chhattisgarh’s formation as a state in 2000, its local people have been severely exploited for their minerals and forests. They are without basic services, so FRANK Water works with them to develop advocacy methods, plans and roads for change. For two years, FRANK and its local partner SAMERTH have worked with 12,000 people across 36 communities.

In eastern Andhra Pradesh, the remote tribal regions of the eastern Ghats are left without basic water services. This lack of water devastates health, agricultural dependencies and other activities, causing the tribal people to develop at much slower rates. FRANK and one of its partners, VJNNS, are working to establish 10 gravity-fed water systems that will give 10 communities safe water through the earth’s natural gravitational pull. This will serve nearly 3,000 people.

FRANK Water also works in Madhya Pradesh, where fluoride is rampant in its natural water sources. Too much fluoride can lead to yellowing teeth and fluorosis, an incurable disease. FRANK is helping to establish projects to reduce the fluoride concentrations in the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh, which is currently at 1.0 to 1.5 mg/l. These projects work with the communities to build lasting solutions such as low-tech rainwater harvesting. In three years, FRANK and PSI’s work will have provided safe drinking water to 3,000 people, while also training local communities on how to monitor water quality.

FRANK Water’s Odisha, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh projects similarly combat the issue of inaccessible clean water in rural and slum areas.

Improving access to water and better sanitation are FRANK’s main objectives. FRANK has worked in India for nearly 10 years, securing water access and sanitation with its local partners. The programs focus on its projects, advocacy and research and development, aiming to improve poor water, sanitation and hygiene conditions.

FRANK is frank. The safe water proponent is transparent and self-reflective. While small, it “packs a punch.”

Lin Sabones

Sources: FRANK Water 1, FRANK Water 2, FRANK Water 3, Vimeo
Photo: Trendhunter

How World Rowing Is Changing Poverty

Clean water is a very important part of people’s lives. However, for many poorer nations and communities around the world, access to clean water is limited. Some people have to travel for several miles just to find drinkable water. Many individual people and organizations have tackled this problem, but there is no singular solution to having clean water.

In 2011, World Rowing, the international organization, for rowing began a project with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to give to disadvantaged people the vital thing that makes the sport of rowing possible: water. The alliance began as a way to educate people about the importance of clean, fresh water, not just for humans but also for the environment.

WWF and World Rowing further developed this movement to find an area where water was endangered the most by various threats to water security. Some such threats include the effects of pollution, industry, agriculture, flooding, damming, hydropower, other ecosystems and human consumption. The resulting location was the lower water basin of the Kafue River in Zambia. This basin is a key area for economic resources, but it is also an important home to wetland wildlife and the main source of clean water for locals.

The issue at hand is how to reconcile the importance of the water basin with the harmful environmental effects. If people were to stop using it for industrial and agricultural purposes, the area would lose a large portion of its economic support, which could throw more people into poverty. However, if industry pollution and pesticides continue to contaminate the water, then there will be no safe drinking water.

The project has two goals that, if reached, can help end water insecurity and poverty. The first is to create a world-class water research center at the Kafue River Center. The center will team up with universities and researchers from around the world. Here they can study the effects of pollution, various ways to clean water, the balance of industry and wildlife and much more. The results found here will be open to the public, so that all water sources can benefit from the research.

The center’s second task is to provide a meeting place for all the people involved with this water project and other similar projects around the world.

While the project will do work to clean up the water in the Kafue Basin and provide cleaner water for the people, the research done at this center will help the world. It is a local project with a potentially global impact that can help solve the issue of water resources and poverty by finding a balance for all of the uses of water. The research here will hopefully solve the problems of water usage and water access, problems that keep people in poverty. It will be a balance that can provide sustainability and allow people to bring themselves out of poverty.

Katherine Hewitt

Sources: World Rowing, World News
Photo: International Water Security Network

Every day, over 9,000 people living in the Mitoomi-Bushangi districts of Uganda walk many miles to retrieve water that is contaminated with harmful bacteria.

The Ryan’s Well Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing clean water supply in underdeveloped communities, is working on their project, Protected Springs/Latrines and Handwashing, which will complete a series of projects that are providing clean water, latrines and education to people living in western Uganda. The project is set to establish 25 protected springs, 16 of them for primary schools, build four latrines at a local primary school accompanied with six hand washing stations, and create water committees that will provide training on how to properly wash hands and practice good sanitation. When complete, 8,100 students and teachers will have access to clean water.

In 2014, Ryan’s Well Foundation completed their Uganda: Water and Sanitation project. This project supplied 37 protected springs, prevented diseases by enhancing protection for women and youth through workshops, and increased awareness in schools about washing and hygiene. The project also provided a 25,000 liter rainwater harvesting tank, four latrines and a girls washroom, and training on maintenance and repair for the springs and tank.

With over 500 completed and ongoing projects, Ryan’s Well Foundation has successfully provided over 750,000 people in 16 developing nations. Their projects focus on raising funds to build water and sanitation systems and educating youths about the importance of water conservation and sanitation.

The foundation’s core programs include the Youth in Action Program, Getting Involved Program, and the School Challenge Program, with all three of them narrowing down on educating students in elementary and secondary level schools to practice safe and smart water habits. The organization, located in Kemptville, Ontario, Canada, was started by Ryan Hreljac in 2001.

In 1997, seven-year-old Hreljac recognized the need to provide clean water to children in Africa. With the help of his friends and family, Hreljac fundraised enough money to build a well at the Angolo Primary School in northern Uganda. Since its incarnation, Ryan’s Well Foundation has helped build more than 740 wells and 990 latrines, providing clean water to families who would normally be without.

The Ryan’s Well Foundation has open and completed projects in West Africa, East Africa and Haiti. Their primary targets comprise of Uganda, Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania. Right now they have nine active projects in Northern Togo, Ghana, Western Uganda and Burkina Faso. These projects currently revolve around providing access to clean water in primary and secondary schools.

Julia N. Hettiger

Sources: Ryan’s Well, Gaiam, My Hero
Photo: Ryan’s Well Foundation

Water Privatization’s Biggest Offenders-TBP
An estimated 783 million people worldwide lack access to clean drinking water. Despite the importance of expanding access to this basic building block of life, many companies instead view water as a commodity to be bottled and sold at the expense of the world’s poor and the environment.

Bottled water is incredibly wasteful. The bottle itself also leads to widespread environmental damage, with more than 85% of globally consumed bottles being thrown in the trash, as opposed to being recycled. Furthermore, 10% of all plastic reaches the ocean, leading to the deaths of an estimated one million birds and marine animals yearly.

Yet, if the environmental impact of bottled water is disgraceful, its impact on human rights is horrifying.

Fiji Water has nearly exclusive access to a 17 mile aquifer on the north coast of Fiji while many Fijians have lived with water shortages resulting in rations as low as 4 gallons of water per family per week. Coca-Cola’s extraction of water in India to produce Dasani, meanwhile, has resulted in water shortages for over 50 villages.

Water extraction has also led to a variety of health problems. The inadequate and unclean water supply in Fiji, for instance, has lead to typhoid outbreaks and parasitic infection. The pollution caused by Coca-Cola through its Indian bottling plants has included dangerous compounds such as lead.

Of course, the causation of health problems through privatization only brings to attention a broader issue in the bottling and privatization of water—the philosophical denial of the right to water. Nestle came under fire in 2013 after the emergence of a video of CEO Peter Brabeck stating that water is not a human right, but a commodity to be given a market value and sold. Nestle owns over 15 bottled water brands, including Poland Springs and San Pelligrino, and has been criticized for its sale of Nestle Pure Life water to the developing world at the expense of the development of clean-water infrastructure. The sale and purchase of bottled water on its own denies the right to water as an infrastructural need, and instead treats it as a commercial product through which the wealthy continue to benefit at the expense of the world’s poor.

Protecting the right to water, globally, is highly important. It is a right which must exist to protect the health, agriculture and infrastructure of the developing world. Water privatizations, and the actions of the companies that control significant portions of the world’s water supply, deny the important progress to be made on this front.

– Andrew Michaels

Sources: Food Is Power, Mother Jones, World Watch, The Guardian, UN Water, Huffington Post,
Photo: Food and Water Watch

Clean-Water-Car Battery
Providing clean water to poor communities is a critical step in ending poverty. Dirty water is a breeding ground for bacteria and parasites that cause severe illness and death. Also, women and young girls are the main group of people who collect water. If they have to spend more time walking to the places that have clean, safe drinking water, they have less time for taking care of their family or going school, respectively.

There are roughly 1 billion people without access to clean water and thousands more who travel a long distance to find it. That is why organizations and people are building wells and finding innovative solutions to turn dirty water into drinking water.

A new method involves a car battery, some water and the right mix of salt. The NGO PATH and Mountain Safety Research have teamed together to bring this car battery water purifier to people in need. It is called the SE200 Community Chlorine Maker.

What the SE200 does is create chlorine that is then used to treat contaminated water. (Chlorine is often used to kill bacteria and viruses that make water unsafe to drink.) One teaspoon of chlorine can purify 5 gallons of water.

So, how does the SE200 make chlorine? Well, there is a small plastic canister that attaches to the car battery. The canister is marked with lines that guide the user in adding the right amount of water and salt. The user simply has to push the button on the machine, and the magic begins. What unfolds next is a chemical reaction that separates the salt ions to create chlorine in about 5 minutes. The kit even comes with test strips to make sure that the chorine concentration is correct, though the makers boast that the SE200 will always make the right concentration.

The SE200 has been field tested over the past several years with many positive results. The makers of the SE200 say that it can last for up to five years and provide clean water to 200 people. Each batch of chlorine can clean 200 liters of water.

The SE200 is currently being distributed by NGOs to the areas that are in need of clean water. The Mountain Safety Research group is providing yet another way for people in developing countries to access clean water and live better lives.

– Katherine Hewitt

Sources: Global Biodefense, NPR, The Water Project, United Nations
Photo: Wikipedia