publication March 20, 2018

Addressing Childhood Malnutrition and Stunting in Tajikistan

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In Tajikistan, more than 20 percent of children under the age of five are stunted. Stunting and undernutrition in childhood are usually the result of several contributing factors related to environment, food, hygiene, and health. Risks related to malnutrition are most concentrated in rural areas of Tajikistan, underscoring the large disparity between rural and urban areas.

Inadequate nutrition during the first few years of a child’s life can have destructive impacts that are irreversible, such as permanent cognitive impairment. Indeed, malnourished children are at much higher risk of death. Stunting and undernutrition in childhood are usually the result of several contributing factors related to environment, food, hygiene, and health.

A recent World Bank study found that more than 20 percent of children under the age of five in Tajikistan are stunted. Children living in Tajik households that do not consume a diverse and high-calorie diet, that do not have access to clean water, and which live in an inadequate sanitary environment, are most at risk of stunting.


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In Tajikistan, there is a large disparity between rural and urban areas with regard to childhood stunting and malnutrition. Most undernourished children live in the rural areas of the Districts of Republican Subordination and Khatlon, followed by the rural areas of the Sughd region. The region of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast has a smaller population than the other regions, but has a relatively high rate of childhood stunting.

The study provides guidance on how the Tajik authorities could address the challenge of childhood malnutrition and stunting. For example, nutrition interventions that address multiple risk factors can promote better outcomes, rather than focusing on any single deprivation. Programs could be introduced that address food inadequacy with respect to the number of calories consumed as well as the diversity of food consumed. Policy interventions should predominantly focus on rural areas, where risks of malnutrition are substantially higher.