Tajikistan, as one of the most remittance-reliant economies in the world, was hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Like in any economic crisis, the brunt of the impact is being borne by lower-income households and especially by children, who are already affected by higher poverty rates compared to other population groups. More than 80 percent of households in Tajikistan that receive remittances spend them primarily on food and other basic necessities. Remittances to Tajikistan are projected to decline by 15 percent in 2020.
When the pandemic struck, according to a World Bank survey, 41 percent of households reported that they had been forced to reduce their consumption of food, and 20 percent of families that they were unable to obtain medical care. The situation is threatening previously won gains in poverty reduction and has already worsened the state of food insecurity and malnutrition among struggling families. Not surprisingly, as a result of the crisis, Tajikistan is currently experiencing its slowest economic growth in two decades: growth in 2020 is estimated at 1.6 percent compared to 7.5 percent in 2019.
Through the Tajikistan Emergency COVID-19 Project (TEC-19), the World Bank is financing cash transfers, which have proven to be an effective tool to support the poor worldwide. The one-time cash assistance of 500 somoni (roughly $50) targets low-income families with young children under the age of three across the country to offset the impacts of the pandemic, such as increased prices and limited income opportunities. In partnership with UNICEF, the families also receive important messages about good nutrition and parenting practices that help children stay healthy and grow to their full potential during these difficult times.
When the lockdown began, Mahina’s family was one of those severely affected. Her husband is a construction worker, but since the COVID-19 outbreak earlier this spring, he has not been able to work, due to the suspension of many construction projects. The cash assistance Mahina received was much needed, as she was able to buy food and medications for her one-year-old daughter Sarvinoz, who was recovering from surgery.
“The assistance was very important and timely for us. Sarvinoz has fully recovered and is healthy now,” says her mother.