Uzbekistan 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.
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