DUSHANBE, May 29, 2020 – To effectively contain the COVID-19 outbreak in Tajikistan, people must be aware of both the risks and the measures they can take to protect themselves. Communicating these details is challenging, especially for remote areas with limited connectivity and infrastructure. But the rapid roll-out of mobile phone networks in recent years has made it easier than ever to connect to Tajikistan’s large and geographically dispersed population. Mobile phone coverage rates are now above 90 percent even in very rural areas.
To leverage these networks during the pandemic, the World Bank recently launched an SMS-based platform for broad communication called “Mobile Engage.” Information about the risks of coronavirus and ways to minimize these risks is delivered to more than 3.5 million users through local mobile phone companies. The SMS function is complemented by an automated phone line to which citizens can call for free to receive more detailed information on frequently asked questions. Now that it is in place, the system will be available for future public service communication needs. The Mobile Engage project is financed by the Korea Trust Fund for Economic and Peace-Building Transitions. Megafon Tajikistan has generously supported the project by providing free SMS services.
Another tool, the Listening to Tajikistan (L2T) phone-based survey, has also been adapted to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. The survey is collected monthly and focuses on key dimensions of wellbeing – including on remittances, jobs, food security, and services. New modules added to monitor the impacts of the pandemic will keep the Government informed on public awareness of critical public health issues, the effectiveness of mitigation policies, and the overall economic wellbeing of households. More than 1,300 households from all regions of Tajikistan participate in the survey through phone interviews. The results of the survey serve as an input to the social and economic policies by the Government.