Poverty reduction in Tajikistan has been significant over the past couple of decades. From 2000 to 2015, poverty fell from over 83% to about 31%, while economic growth averaged at 7.7%. Despite this important progress, however, adequate access to quality healthcare, education, heating, water and sanitation remains a challenge for many people, especially families in rural areas.
Access to piped drinking water and to sanitation, in particular, is unequally distributed, with major implications for people’s health and wellbeing. As such, infectious diarrhea and other serious waterborne illnesses are considered to be leading causes of infant and child mortality and malnutrition in Tajikistan.
From 1992 to 2015, the level of undernourishment among the general population in Tajikistan increased from 28% to 33%, compared to just 6% in neighboring Kyrgyz Republic. In 2012, the stunting rate among under-five year olds in the country was 26% of all children, and 32% of poor children. Children who are poorly nourished, who are stunted, and who do not receive adequate parenting or stimulation before their 5th birthday, are likely to learn less at school and earn less as adults; they are also less ready to compete as adults in an increasingly globalized economy.
The World Bank is working closely with the government of Tajikistan to improve maternal and child health and nutrition in the country, through two ongoing projects: the Japan Social Development Fund and the Health Services Improvement Project.
A grant from the Japan Social Development Fund is helping to improve health and nutrition among children under five years of age, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, in 14 food insecure districts of the southern Khatlon Province of Tajikistan. The project tackles issues at the community level, providing quality seeds and fertilizers to help families grow nutritious food, delivering critical micronutrient supplements to pregnant mothers and children, and raising awareness among women and volunteers about how to detect and prevent childhood illnesses.
In less than two years, the project has started showing positive results: the number of underweight children under 5 years of age in the project districts decreased by 20%; levels of stunting decreased by 2%, and wasting (acute malnutrition) decreased by more than 8%. In addition, more than 100,000 mothers, 1,000 health workers and 300 community volunteers were educated about improved nutrition practices, the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, and how to detect signs of childhood diseases.