Tajikistan, a landlocked country of 9.1 million people, faces continuing food-security challenges—its rates of malnutrition rates remain the highest in Central Asia, despite lowering over the past 10 years.
The country is also the most vulnerable to climate shocks in the region.
Soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, melting glaciers and extreme weather events—such as floods, droughts, avalanches and landslides—regularly destroy land, crops, infrastructures, and livelihoods. For this reason, half of Tajikistan’s food is imported, with fluctuations in food prices disproportionally affecting the poorest people and reducing their buying power.
Mountains cover 93 percent of Tajikistan’s territory. The remaining 7 percent is arable land but 97 percent of it is subject to soil degradation.
Tajikistan is gradually recovering from an economic shock that began in late 2014. However, despite progress in poverty reduction, recent economic challenges compounded by population growth have contributed to an increase in the vulnerability of households to food insecurity.
Stunting among children aged under 5 years fell from 27 percent in 2012 to 17 percent in 2017, when the country’s last Demographic and Health Survey was published. With a yearly population-growth rate of 2.5 percent, however, the continuing rate of decline is insufficient to meet target of a 40 percent reduction in this group by 2025.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are high in Tajikistan; more than 40 percent of women and children are affected by anaemia and more than 50 percent of both women and children have iodine deficiency. According to the 2016 Micronutrient Survey, the prevalence of vitamin A deficiency among women and children is 47 percent and 37 percent respectively; a severe public health problem by World Health Organization measures. According to 2018’s ‘Fill the Nutrient Gap’ analysis, an estimated 30 to 56 percent of households, depending on region, cannot afford a nutritious diet.
WFP has been present in Tajikistan since 1993, when it launched an emergency operation to provide lifesaving assistance during the Civil War. Its strategy has since shifted from providing crisis assistance to increasingly focusing on three longer-term objectives:
- ensuring that food security and nutrition are prioritized in national strategies, policies and programmes
- enhancing the Government’s capacity to implement and monitor sustainable hunger solutions, through social ‘safety nets’ for the most vulnerable
- supporting communities to respond to crises and to improve their longer-term food security and resilience to shocks.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Tajikistan
WFP supports vulnerable households in Tajikistan that have been socially and economically impacted from COVID-19. Among them, WFP prioritizes those families that are chronically food insecure and rely mainly on remittances sent from their family members working abroad. Around 3,000 community members will be involved in public works through conditional cash transfers. The initiative is expected to assist about 15,000 people to cope with the shocks while setting the basis for the improvement of their livelihood in the medium-term.
Since 1999, WFP has partnered with the Government of Tajikistan to deliver school feeding—its largest operation in the country. In 2019, daily school meals were supplied to more than 400,000 schoolchildren across 2,000 schools in 52 rural districts. Providing food to children at school every day can mean not only better nutrition and health, but also increased access to and achievement in education. It also gives parents a strong incentive to consistently send children to school.
Working closely with Tajikistan’s Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population, UNICEF and WHO, WFP assists parents and health centres responding to moderate acute malnutrition (MAM). In 2019, WFP treated over 8,000 children for MAM through a supplementary feeding programme, offering mainly fortified cereals, in more than 200 primary healthcare centres. A pilot rollout included the Balkhi, Shahrituz, Kulob, Dusti districts of Khatlon Region and the Ayni District of Sughd Region.
Food assistance for assets
Communities receive cash transfers for working on labour-intensive activities on community assets such as irrigation systems, soil conservation and regeneration, drinking water supplies and the construction of bridges, roads and other critical infrastructure. These reduce the risk of disaster, strengthen livelihoods and build climate resilience. WFP is also providing Food Assistance for Training to enable the transfer of skills and to further build self-reliance.
Emergency response and preparedness
WFP provides policy advice, technical assistance and capacity and systems strengthening to key public institutions and private sector stakeholders, such as the Committee for Emergency Situations and Civil Defence, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Chamber of Commerce, and other relevant agencies, in line with SDG 17.