- Tajikistan, one of the most disaster-prone countries in Europe and Central Asia, and the only low-income country in the region, has been severely impacted by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, which has triggered unprecedented health, humanitarian and socio-economic crises. Some 6.9 million people, including 2.8 million children, require support due to high malnutrition rates, inadequate access to water and hygiene, disruptions to learning, exacerbated poverty and heightened protection risks.
- UNICEF will use its strategic position in Tajikistan to reach children, adolescents and their caretakers with life-saving interventions. The strategy will focus on outbreak control and mitigating the immediate impacts of the pandemic on children and their families by ensuring continuity of and access to health, nutrition, education, protection and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services.
- Given the inadequate resources for humanitarian response across all sectors, UNICEF requires US$17.9 million to provide immediate support.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION AND NEEDS
Tajikistan is one of the poorest nations in Central Asia. Over 27 per cent of the population lives below the national poverty line. As of 10 September, Tajikistan has confirmed over 8,900 COVID-19 cases and 72 deaths. The situation continues to deteriorate, with an average of 30 to 40 confirmed cases per day.
The pandemic has triggered unprecedented health, humanitarian and socio-economic crises. Health care systems were overwhelmed within two weeks of the first recorded cases in April. Persons with disabilities, particularly women and girls, have been disproportionately impacted due to underlying health conditions, lack of information, undernutrition and limited access to health, WASH and protection services. Reliance on service providers, lack of access to remote learning options, and pre-existing isolation and marginalization have also increased vulnerabilities.
The pandemic has had significant macroeconomic impacts on health, nutrition, education, child and social protection, and employment in Tajikistan. An estimated 3.3 million people, or one third of the population, are food insecure, including 1.6 million people who are severely food insecure. Reported real gross domestic product growth fell by 3.2 per cent in the first fivemonths of 2020. These rising vulnerabilities have left the country more exposed to emergencies and shocks, increased children and women's vulnerability to gender-based violence, and left more children living in poverty. In addition, 2 million students and 130,000 teachers have been affected by school closures.
Tajikistan has among the worst nutrition indicators in Europe and Central Asia: 18 per cent of children under 5 years are stunted, 6 per cent are wasted and 1.8 per cent are severely wasted. This situation, combined with the weak health care system, growing food insecurity, limited access to WASH, and suspension of nutrition services, seriously threatens the nutritional well-being of children and women.
The number of children living below the national poverty line – currently nearly one third of all children in the country – is expected to increase. Due to lockdown and travel restrictions, remittances have dropped sharply and put children from migrant families at high risk of multiple deprivations.
Across Tajikistan, 4.9 million people lack access to basic sanitation at home and 1,500 schools lack adequate WASH facilities and services, leaving a significant portion of the population at risk of COVID-19. Lack of WASH resources in schools and health facilities will also affect school reopenings and infection prevention and control in health facilities.