Rural and mountainous Tajikistan has the highest under-five child mortality rate in Central Asia and many of these deaths are caused, directly or indirectly, by chronic malnutrition. The Director for the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness program in the Vahdat region, Dr. Olga Akobirova, says that parents often don’t know how to feed their children.
As an innovative and tenacious young lawyer, Nodira Sidykova has played an increasingly prominent role in land reform in Tajikistan for more than 10 years. But even with her wealth of knowledge and experience, she admits that “there were many problems no one knew how to solve.” With the assistance of USAID, however, she and others have begun to discover various approaches to help deal with many of the difficult land issues facing Tajikistan.
Zebo Begmatova, a widow of 10 years, lives in one of the poorest districts of southern Tajikistan on the Afghanistan border. As a single mother Zebo has had difficulty supporting her two children, ages 12 and 10. Zebo has a small garden, their only source of food, where she plants cabbage, potatoes and tomatoes.
Ravshan grew up in Khujand, Tajikistan. He had no father and spent lots of time outside the home, sometimes pilfering in order to live. Influenced by his environment and lacking positive role models, Ravshan made friends with pick-pockets and started drug dealing. Later, he began taking drugs and was sentenced to prison for theft.
While serving his jail term, Ravshan decided to undergo HIV testing. Nearly one in five injecting drug users is infected with HIV in Tajikistan.
“I knew how to preserve food before,” says Zaron Hafizova, “but often much of the food I preserved spoiled and I was unable to preserve enough.” Zaron’s husband, Rahmaddin Shekhov, adds to the discussion, remarking about their greenhouse, “Many years ago we used greenhouses, but during the post-Soviet period we stopped using them and forgot about them.”
While both Zaron and Rahmaddin, 51 and 50 years of age respectively, are experienced farmers, they benefited greatly from the greenhouse and food preservation trainings conducted by the USAID and Mercy Corps Tajikistan Stability Enha
“The water in this tea is from the new drinking water system in our village,” 42-year old Saidakbar Devlokhov proudly explains while sipping black tea from his small cup. “Now I can get it anytime I need.”
After years of neglect, the existing drinking water system in his village had fallen into disrepair. Residents of his picturesque village had to walk more than a quarter of a mile to the source to fetch water for everyday needs.
Hakimova is the head of her household. Her husband is a labor migrant in Russia eight months out of each year, but remittances come only when requested. Her family of five lives on $100 per month and grows their primary food sources: wheat, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, beets, and turnips. With a small orchard of fruit trees, the summer is bountiful in comparison to winter when food diversity is limited to non-perishable goods. Hakimova explains, “I don’t have the income to purchase preserved goods at the market.
“For the last three years, my yields have been 30 percent of what they were before,” says Sabur Kumischev, as he makes a sweeping motion with his hand indicating the land where his crops are grown. “All I could grow was corn. The other farmers could only grow corn. We had nothing to sell to each other and had to buy all of our food.”
Sabur’s village is about two hours outside the northern city of Khujand. For years, the community has relied on the limited water supplied by the local collective farm.
Doniyor Jumanov, a 17-year-old from a village two hours from the nearest city in northern Tajikistan, is particularly energized as he and the other apprentices move from one machine to the next constructing their creations.
The large two-room workshop is filled with scattered pieces of completed and half-finished furniture. Some pieces have a modern style, while others have a more traditional flair. The light coming through the large showcase window illuminates two large wooden chests
Dr. Marhabo Bobojonova proudly displays her patient list – she regularly sees more than 20 patients per day. This kind of popularity is a feat for a family physician in rural northwestern Tajikistan, where people usually prefer to visit hospitals and to rely upon specialists for treatment. Since 2002, USAID has worked with the government of Tajikistan and international partners to promote family physicians, like Dr. Bobojonova, to provide Tajikistan’s people with quality health care that they can recognize and trust.