Child Poverty in UzbekistanUzbekistan has made remarkable strides in reducing poverty and improving child welfare. Despite these gains, child poverty in Uzbekistan remains a pressing issue, with many children living in disadvantaged conditions. 

Declining Child Mortality Rate 

Uzbekistan has significantly reduced the infant and under-5 mortality rates over the past four decades. According to World Bank data, the infant mortality rate fell drastically from 98 per 1,000 live births in 1980 to just 13 per 1,000 live births in 2021. Likewise, the under-5 mortality rate reached an all-time low of 14 per 1,000 live births in 2021. 

Child Poverty in Uzbekistan

Nonetheless, child poverty remains a pressing issue in Uzbekistan. UNICEF’s 2019 report, “Building a Better Future: A Child-sensitive Social Protection System for Uzbekistan,” stated that 30% of young children and 24% of children between five to 14 years old belong to the poorest quintile of Uzbekistan. While the general poverty in Uzbekistan is 21%, the child poverty rate stood higher at 24%. 

As of 2019, 57% of children in the country lived on less than 10,000 UZS per day, approximately 1.5 times the minimum wage. The minimum wage in Uzbekistan also serves as the income eligibility threshold for families to receive child benefits. The prevailing circumstances signified that many children lived in households struggling to provide adequate child care. 

UNICEF currently estimates that children in Uzbekistan are one and a half times more likely to be poor than adults.


Many young children in Uzbekistan experience undernutrition. Another 2019 UNICEF report, “Building a National Social Protection System Fit For Uzbekistan’s Children and Youth,” reported that 9% of children are stunted, causing irreversible damage to the children’s cognitive development. The report also highlighted that stunted children were likely to earn 26% less as adults than their non-stunted peers, further exacerbating a cycle of poverty and inequality. 

However, from 2002 to 2017, the stunting rate in Uzbekistan dropped from 21% to 8.7%, thanks to Uzbekistan’s immense strides in reducing malnutrition and expanding social welfare.  

Children With Disabilities 

In 2019, 13% of children with disabilities between the ages of 7 and 15 were not enrolled in school. Nearly one-third of young people with disabilities could not attain any diploma, limiting their educational and employment opportunities.

Moreover, UNICEF also determined that 52% of children with severe disabilities lacked access to services from the Child Disability Benefits program, indicating the limited reach of social support for vulnerable children and their families in Uzbekistan.

Social Insecurity 

52% of Uzbekistan’s impoverished households are excluded from any support by the national social protection system, leaving many families with children without benefits and social services. Subsequently, only 17% of children living in households have access to child benefits, only 23% of children under two gain Child Allowance, and only 10% of children between 2 to 14 years old collect the Family Allowance.

Ongoing Efforts by UNICEF

Currently, UNICEF’s global interventions emphasize child-sensitive social protection programs and investing in early childhood and adolescent development. For example, UNICEF is helping Uzbekistan develop a cash benefits program to address household income poverty. The organization plans to further invest in childhood education, health care access, clean water and sanitation to provide impoverished children with the needed care, security and nutrition. The organization hopes to establish sustainable social investments and integrate child-poverty-reduction policies into government budgets. 

Addressing child poverty, improving social security systems and ensuring better access to education and health care for children with disabilities are crucial areas that require concerted efforts from the government, civil society and international organizations to improve the well-being of children in Uzbekistan. 

– Freya Ngo
Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in UzbekistanOn July 1, 2021, USAID successfully delivered 131 tons of food to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, to combat malnutrition in Uzbekistan. The almost $400,000 humanitarian aid package provides a “nutritious vegetable and legume mix” to health and social care facilities as well as disadvantaged Uzbek households. The aid is yet another act showing the U.S. commitment to long-term investment in health and nutrition in Uzbekistan.

Food Security and Uzbekistan’s Agri-Food Sector

Since it gained independence in 1991, Uzbekistan has wisely prioritized self-sufficiency in its approach to food security. Although the country has produced sufficient food to cover its population in the past, “food security also encompasses affordable food and a diverse diet that includes essential nutrients.” According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), malnutrition in Uzbekistan lingers because the country lacks adequate standards of balanced and nutritious diets and affordable food options are rare.

The World Bank states that the development of Uzbekistan’s agri-food sector is critical to strengthening food security and reducing poverty in the country. Economically, the agriculture division alone contributes 28% of Uzbekistan’s GDP and is responsible for employing more workers than any other sector. About 27% of the entire workforce, or more than 3.65 million people, work in the agricultural field.

In 2019, almost 10% of the country lived below the poverty line, surviving on less than $3.2 per day. This equates to about 3.2 million people, 80% of which lived in rural regions “with livelihoods that depend largely on agriculture.” For these reasons, USAID seeks to develop and diversify the agri-food sector by introducing new technologies and techniques to local farmers. In the past, Uzbek farmers could not access contemporary data on markets, weather, technologies and farming practices. By supplying almost 100,000 hours of agricultural training “and working with 64 new consulting service providers,” USAID has played a role in a 523% “cumulative increase in farm yields,” raising the income of Uzbek farmers by 107%.

USAID’s Impact on Uzbek Food Security

In the last decade, USAID’s International Food Relief Partnership program has supplied 1,300 tons of food assistance to Uzbekistan, amounting to more than $3.5 million in aid. The recent delivery will target more than “30,000 of the most vulnerable citizens” who are most at risk of food insecurity and malnutrition. The aid will cover 130 health and social centers, including mental institutions and orphanages.

USAID Uzbekistan’s mission director, Mikaela Meredith, states, “This program demonstrates the ongoing strong partnership between Uzbekistan and the United States of America to improve nutrition and ensure that the most vulnerable have adequate, safe and nutritious food to support a healthy and productive life.”

The Future of Uzbekistan’s Food Security

Uzbekistan is currently on course to meet the global nutrition targets of reducing child stunting by 40% by 2025. In terms of stunting in children younger than 5, the rate has reduced from 25% in 2002 to 10.8% in 2017. However, not enough data is available to determine how close Uzbekistan is to achieving its 2025 target for stunting. Nonetheless, the country has made progress over the years. The continued assistance from USAID and other international organizations will help develop the agricultural sector, increase food security and combat malnutrition in Uzbekistan.

Gene Kang
Photo: Flickr