In the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan, which lies at the heart of Afghanistan, Pakistan and China, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have hit the population particularly severely. Since many of the country’s citizens rely on remittances that family members send to them from abroad, Tajikistan has been facing economic difficulties for years. Moreover, with the loss of employment that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, thousands of families are struggling to make ends meet. Here is some information about Tajikistan during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Food Insecurity in Tajikistan
Although the Tajik government has implemented emergency cash payments for public distribution and promised to raise the national wages, the donations of private individuals and the subsidization of food are the solutions that will make the largest difference according to Tajik citizens. As evidenced by the surveys that the World Bank conducted in 2020, the effects of COVID-19 have caused families to cut the size of their meals significantly and for parents to go hungry so that their children may have food to eat for lunch at school the next day. Nearly half of respondents to the World Bank survey reported reducing their food intake to compensate for the increased pressure on finances.
The Tajikistan Emergency COVID-19 (TEC-19) Project
Yet amidst all of this misfortune and sorrow, the humanitarians working with the World Bank have helped draft a relief bill called the Tajikistan Emergency COVID-19 (TEC-19) Project with the government of Tajikistan to provide some support and assistance to the Tajik citizens. The program, which is specifically intended for low-income families, aims to provide immediate and direct solutions to public health challenges by supplying funding for more ICU beds and granting emergency cash transfers to families with toddlers and infants.
Despite these efforts, only 50,000 families who the Targeted Social Assistance Program listed as critically poor were eligible to receive these funds. The resources that charitable organizations can give are finite, and the government of Tajikistan does not have the capacity to offer the level of resources that the country requires for recovery. Among the 9.3 million people within Tajikistan, about 2.5 million individuals still fall below the poverty threshold. In 2019, Tajikistan began experiencing promising economic growth, with contributions from Tajiks abroad allowing the percentage of those in poverty to decrease by several points for the first time in years. However, in this most recent economic crisis, projections have determined that poverty rates will rise again.
Solutions to Help Tajikistan During the COVID-19 Pandemic
So, what can individuals and organizations do to aid Tajikistan during the COVID-19 pandemic? In an article from RadioFreeEurope/Radio Liberty by Farangis Najibullah, a Tajik woman named Maryam suggested that institutions implement free lunch programs for school children, at least until the COVID-19 pandemic becomes more readily treatable in Tajikistan. Providing mid-day meals to young students free of charge would alleviate financial pressures immensely for families during a time of extremely high food insecurity and allow parents to save their money for other necessities.
Additionally, the World Bank predicts that the Tajik economy will experience future growth within the next couple of years, suggesting that there is room for private investors to fund projects and get laborers back to work. Despite the current global conditions, Tajikistan’s surrounding neighbors, China and Russia, may soon rein in an era of recovery that will offer trade opportunities for adjacent economies. Private donors have the power to spark a period of upward mobility in Tajikistan and drastically revitalize the market.
Tajikistan’s potential financial growth, which the World Bank estimates could go up to over 3% in 2022, is beneficial for both the Tajik workers and the investors in the larger sphere of trade, as an increase in international trade would bring Tajikistan out of its economic slump and bring about a reliable source of labor for future endeavors. If these efforts succeed, the government of Tajikistan would be able to make great progress in providing more in-depth public programs, financing social enrichment efforts for families and youth and addressing its international debts, paving the way to a more stable footing for the nation in 2022.
– Luna Khalil