About UNICEF Uzbekistan

Background information



Background information


UNICEF has been working in Uzbekistan since 1994. Its first programme from 1995 to 1999, provided supplies, training and techniques for healthcare, backed by social mobilization. By 1999, basic services for children were well underway, allowing us to shift to a rights-based approach aiming to ensure that the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) becomes the standard for health and education and for measures to protect children. The CRC recognizes that children need good health, proper nutrition, good quality education, protection from harm and exploitation, a safe environment, and encouragement to participate in the decisions that affect their lives. The most recent programme was completed in 2004, covering four major areas: Mother and child survival, development and protection; Child enrichment; The well-being of young people; Drought emergency 

The current Country Programme of Cooperation with the Government of Uzbeksitan commenced in 2005 and will continue until 2009.

Country Programme 2005-2009
The new Country Programme evolved from the Common Country Assessment (CCA) and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). The Government, UN agencies, civil society, academic organizations, World Bank, ADB, USAID and the Children’s Parliament actively participated in the CCA/UNDAF process and the CPC strategy was developed after further discussions and analysis. UNICEF played a major role through chairmanship of the CCA/UNDAF secretariat and membership of the Steering Committee, and contributed to coordination and development of resulting documents.The new programme will also be in line with the National Plan of Action for Children, the Millenium Development Goals and the ‘World Fit for Children’ initiative, and will continue to promote family empowerment and children’s participation. 

Under the framework of the CRC and CEDAW, the goal of the 2005-2009 Country Programme is to contribute to strengthening the ability of the state to respond to national priorities and meet its obligations towards children’s and women’s rights to live, grow up and develop in a nurturing, caring and protective environment.

Achieving the goals for children within the principles of CRC will directly contribute to the country’s overall development, as investing in children implies sustainable development of a human capital, which is a prerequisite for the improvement of a quality of life, reduction or alleviation of poverty and sustainable economic growth.

The overall country programme implementation will adopt the following strategies to achieve the targets: 

• The delivery of basic services in selected national priority areas will be enhanced through convergence of activities. A sustainable, integrated basic services system will better address the needs of women, young people and children, and will mainstream the principles of the CRC/CEDAW into national and local systems.

• The programme management capacity of local institutions  will increase efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery and promote  an enabling environment for community participation and familiy empowerment. This will entail enhancing the professional capacity of all service providers to make them more responsive to family needs.

• National policies to expand nationwide best practices of service delivery will be supported by communication, social mobilization and advocacy. The participation of duty-bearers, such as the private sector, civil society and the mass media, as well as young people and children themselves, will be secured in order to create an environment conducive to the development of better policies and legislation in support of child rights.  

The new Country Programme focuses on two areas of programming:

(a) Access to quality basic services for women and children, through improved convergence of services in selected priority areas. This programme component will address key issues such as:
• High rates of infant, child and maternal mortality;
• Poor quality of basic education;
• Increasing numbers of children in conflict with the law, on the streets or in institutions;
• Inadequate care for, and isolation of, disabled children;
• Children and young people engaging in risky behaviour, which can potentially lead to an increasing number of HIV/AIDS infections amongst them.   

(b) Good Governance for Achieving Children’s and Women’s Rights

A lack of families’ and communities’ knowledge on health and other child developmental issues, combined with lack of opportunities for them to be actively involved in the design of social support systems, has meant that services have remained inflexible and unresponsive to client needs. This has been reinforced by weak capacity of local authorities to plan, implement and monitor convergent programming, and an insufficient knowledge of effective social service delivery.

Key results under this programme will include:

At national level: State policies will provide a better framework for the protection of children’s rights, with existing legislation amended to comply with CRC principles. Administrative frameworks and institutional development (including codes of conducts and reporting mechanisms for users of services) will directly support implementation and will be backed up with increased awareness nationwide among families on children’s rights and appropriate childcare.

At sub-national level: Families will adopt improved child-rearing practices (health and nutrition, psycho-social and cognitive development, protection, hygiene and sanitation). The physical integrity and dignity of the child will be respected within local institutions (schools, law enforcement bodies) and communities. Communities (Makhallas) and local officials will develop and implement action plans for improved basic social services for women and children’s well-being.

UNICEF Country Programmes complement the Millennium Development Goals for education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health and HIV/AIDS and is part of an overall UNICEF strategy for Central Asia.  It aims to empower families and communities through a rights based approach that considers every social and economic factor that has a bearing on a child’s survival, development, protection and participation. Our goal is: all rights for all children, with no child left out. We work with Government, national and local organisations, media, children and young people to:

 lobby for effective policies to benefit children;
 support innovative programmes to care for and protect children;
 ensure that the voices of children and young people are heard

We seek answers to fundamental questions:

 Who and where are the children and families most directly affected by a given issue?
 What are their views on their situation? What do they see as the solution?
 Who is responsible for action on this issue?
 Do they have the necessary capacity and resources to take action?

The aim is identify those who can make the most difference on the challenges that face children, and help them to fulfill their obligations.



 The transition has meant more poverty and inequality as a result of declines in production, increased unemployment, and high inflation. Around 18% of the population is living on less than US$1 per day, and GNI per capita is just US$450. The 2003 World Bank Living Standards Assessment estimated that more than a quarter of the population -- 27.5% -- could not meet their basic consumption needs. Despite many economic reforms, the country’s economic growth has slowed and exports and imports have fallen in recent years. Unemployment has risen as a result, particularly in the rural and small business sector.

Maternal and Child Health:

There is a wide gap between the official infant mortality rate of 16.5 deaths for every 1,000 live births, before the age of one year old  (Sources: Uzbekistan - Common Country Assessment (CCA), United Nations, 2003, tables from Ministry of Health), and survey results showing a rate of 62 per 1,000 (DHS, 2002). The difference in IMR reported by different sources is due to underreporting and largely to variations in the definition of "live birth".


 While net primary enrolment was 97.5 gross in 2002 (Sources: Social Monitor 2004), poor rural children have limited access to education and independent data suggest that the true net enrolment rate is lower. While primary education is officially free, the rising costs of textbooks, meals, clothing and transport are leading to falling attendance, particularly in rural areas where children may work in the cotton fields to boost family income. There has also been a dramatic reduction in pre-schooling, with only 20% of children aged 3 to 5 enroled in any kind of pre-school programme in 2002, compared with 37% in 1989 (Sources: Social Monitor 2004). Pre-school education is essential to prepare a child for full-time schooling. At secondary level, there are 12% fewer girls enroled than boys. Approximately 80% of schools need renovation. In Karakalpkastan and Khorezm, 90% of schools do not have proper toilets and 75% do not have access to safe drinking water.

Water, Hygiene and Sanitation:

 The drying up of the Aral Sea has meant growing concentrations of chemical pesticides and natural salts, blown from the increasingly exposed lake bed, contributing to destertification. Between 1960 and 1992, the Sea halved in size as the Amu-Darya and Syr-Darya rivers were channeled and dammed to provide irrigation for agriculture. The worst affected areas are Karakalpakstan (which contains the Aral Sea) and neighbouring Khorezm, with a combined population of over 2.5 million people. Around 70% of community water sources in these areas do not function properly as a result of poor maintenance, and are now contaminated. Salinisation is a major problem, and in Karakalpakstan, 63 of the 80 desalination units that are still functioning are working well below capacity and need urgent and substantial repairs. Water testing laboratories have old equipment and a shortage of chemical reagents for water testing is a major concern.

Child Protection:

There are more than 3,500 children in 31 orphanages, and 772 children 0-3 years of age housed in infant homes in Uzbekistan, most of whom are “social orphans” with at least one living parent. There are more than 130,000 children with disabilities across the country, and 87 institutions for almost 20,000 children with special needs. However, these figures may well be underestimates as many children with special needs, particularly in rural areas, go unregistered because of the stigma attached to any kind of disability.

There has been an alarming rise in the number of street children, up from around 2,700 in 2001 to around 5,400 in 2003, according to the Centres of Social-Legal Assistance. As not all street children go to these centres, the real numbers are probably far higher. In rural areas, children are often expected to help with manual cotton picking, which stops them going to school at particular times of year. While there are no hard statistics on domestic violence and sexual abuse, a UNICEF-assisted study has found that traditionally strict parental control persists, with 37% of parents stating that they should use physical punishment to control their children, thus hindering the conditions for the formation of a child’s confidence and decision-making abilities.


 The number of registered HIV infections rose from 230 in 2000 to more than 10.015 in 2006. Most new infections occur in those under 30 years of age and a growing number of women and girls are being infected. Injecting drug users account for 75% of registered cases, but sexual transmission has increased from 8.6% of cases in 2001 to 11.2% in 2002, showing the shift of HIV infection into the general population. UNDP estimates that there are 10,000 officially registered injecting drug users in Uzbekistan, while UNODC put the estimate at anywhere between 65,000 and 91,000. A UNESCO study in 2000/1 found that 65.5% of the young people aged 15-24 years surveyed knew nothing about sexually-transmitted diseases and 79% had little or no knowledge about HIV/AIDS. Young people themselves have asked for youth-only health services that will give them advice and support in a confidential and non-judgmental manner. There are, at present, no government clinics or hospitals, private doctors or pharmacists providing designated services for young people.


Action on poverty:

UNICEF is a global partner in the war against poverty. By improving conditions for children, we aim to reduce the immediate problems caused by poverty, while advocating for all rights for all children. If this overall goal were achieved, it would have a direct impact on worldwide poverty. The Government of Uzbekistan, with support of the Asian Development Bank and active participation of UNICEF and others agencies, has developed the strategy on improving of living standards of the population. This strategic document presents a long-term comprehensive government plan to alleviate the poverty and improve living conditions of the total population. Issues with respect to the well being of women and children have a central place in the document. The strategy is a road map to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in Uzbekistan, and therefore it is closely linked with the United Nations Development Assistance Framework through which the UN agencies will contribute to the implementation of this strategy.

Action on maternal and child health:

 Our health programmes promote and support health reform, safe motherhood, the integrated management of childhood illnesses, immunisation, and the prevention of micronutrient deficiencies. We are working with the government to:

 Support the nationwide introduction of the international criteria of live birth definition;
 Assist in development and implementation of National Policies and Strategies on Safe Motherhood;
 Advocate for and assist the incorporation of HIV Prevention for Mother to Child Transmission into service in maternal and child health system
 Introduce continuous capacity building of  key health authorities and health professionals in management   safe motherhood initiatives and PMTCT;
 Increase the number of Baby-friendly Hospitals from 3 to 16, to ensure that 50% of babies are born in hospitals that promote, encourage and support breastfeeding and to continue to increase the percentage of babies being exclusively breasted until the age of six months;
 Boost protection from disease through measles elimination, polio eradication, increased vaccination coverage for infants, and better management of childhood illnesses such as respiratory infection and diarrhoea;
 Tackle Iodine Deficiency Disorders with universal salt iodization
 Provide Vitamin A supplements for children aged 6 to 59 months to reduce vitamin A deficiency as a strategy to improve the micronutrient status of children and reduce infant  and child mortality;
 Support iron supplements and flour fortification to reduce anemia among woman of fertile age, pregnant mothers and children in selected most vulnerable areas of the country ;
 Ensure that the integrated management of childhood illnesses, safe immunization practices, lactation management and micronutrients deficiency control are incorporated into medical curricula and becomes part of the Primary Health Care.

Action on education:

We are enhancing early childhood development through Uzbekistan’s unique and traditional local structure: the Makhalla (neighbourhood). Local ‘councils’ are taking on increasing responsibility for community development and social assistance, particularly for pre-school services. Makhalla kindergartens focus on the survival and protection of newborns and women by promoting access to safe immunization services, encouraging breast-feeding and mobilizing families and communities to encourage better parenting skills. Plans are underway to develop the makhalla kindergarten system 6 regions, enabling more than 50% of children in these regions will participate. Furthermore, UNICEF has developed a manual on how to set up good quality kindergartens, and has trained kindergarten teachers and helpers. UNICEF also focuses on:

 Family education: to involve parents, siblings and extended family members in organized neighborhood play/learning activities that include elements on health, nutrition, environmental hygiene and early education;
 Children with Special needs: ensuring that they receive mainstream education in ordinary schools alongside other children, backed by the commitment of the Government, under the 1992 Constitution, to guarantee free and equal access for all children at primary and secondary levels. Basic education services are now provided in all seven national languages: Uzbek, Russian, Karakalpak, Kazakh, Turkmen, Kyrgyz, and Tajik. 
 Child-friendly schools: to entice drop-outs back into the classroom and ensure that education is relevant, high quality, child-centred, gender-equal, rights-based and lifeskills-based. Child-friendly schools make education a more relevant preparation for life, by introducing children to such themes as democratic citizenship, environment, health, the rights of the child, human rights and social justice.

Action on water, hygiene and sanitation:

UNICEF aims to improve access to safe water and proper sanitation, particularly in Karakalpakstan and Khorezm. We have introduced easy-to-use test kits to test bacteriological contamination at the community level and, with the help of the Centre for State Epidemiological Surveillance, water quality monitoring is underway in 50 villages. With more funding, this programme could be extended to reach a further 200,000 people. Hand-operated water pumps were developed to benefit 40,000 people during the pilot stage and many more in future, whilst many water sources, such as wells and hand pumps have been prepared. We work with communities on water conservation, environmental improvements, water system maintenance and the upgrading of existing pit-latrines to water seal toilets that require minimal amounts of water. Some 80 schools are currently reached by this programme, which is also a channel for hygiene education for children, families and communities.  The programme will be expanded to cover 150 more schools with 100,000 pupils over the next three years. UNICEF is supporting the development of a policy framework for water supply and environmental sanitation, to provide water and sanitation to areas where these are in short supply, and reduce water-borne and water-related diseases, improving the health of the population in general and children in particular.

Action on child protection:

Our protection programme focuses on enhancing the protective environment for children from revision of legislation to capacity building of protection staff.  In specific:
• In-depth understanding of sensitive areas regarding child protection such as information about the nature and extent of child labour, nature of violence and abuse towards children, child trafficking, disability and the referral of children to institutions.
• Focused advocacy resulting in increased visibility for issues of vulnerable children, with the situation of children in particularly vulnerable circumstances being brought to the notice of policy makers.
• Enhanced action of issues of children with disabilities through establishment of inter-sectoral coordination committee of organisations dealing with children with disabilities.
• Joint UNICEF/UNESCO project on inclusive education for children with disabilities leading to the establishment of Resource Centre on Inclusive Education.
• Establishment of workplaces for disabled mothers and mothers of children with disabilities, with training and support to participants for implementation and management of income-generating activities.
• Organisation of national level conferences on children without parental care and juvenile justice and preparation of action plans and get commitment from high level officials towards strengthening the protective environment of children.
• Significant steps towards a change of approach from punishment to prevention, with restructuring of 11 former remand centres as centres for socio-legal assistance and establishment of a centres for juveniles at Davlatabad Rayon by the Prosecutor’s Office.
• Training through State Academy of Social Construction on juvenile justice issues and CRC, for staff of legislative bodies at central and Oblast levels, teachers, students, young people and staff from hokimiyats and makhallyas.
• Training of trainers on transmission of messages on rights-centred approaches to juvenile justice.

Action on HIV/AIDS:

UNICEF supports Youth-friendly Services to give young people the services they need in a friendly, non-judgmental atmosphere. The primary aim is HIV prevention. The Ministry of Health has subsequently decreed that AIDS centres should be established in each oblast, providing anonymous and confidential testing and counseling. According to UNAIDS, this is unique in Central Asia. UNICEF has worked with the youth movement “Kamolot” on HIV prevention, including the development of a mass media campaign to reach around one million young people in 2003, also supported by UNESCO, the “Yoshlar” TV station and FM radio stations across the country. Kamolot was also instrumental in developing and testing a Manual on HIV/AIDS, sexually-transmitted infections and substance abuse for young people. The Manual is now being used by 126 young trainers and 72 volunteers in seven Youth-Friendly Health Information Centres. Round table discussions on HIV have resulted in Government and Makhalla endorsement for community-based HIV prevention activities.

Action on Partnership with Children and Young People:

UNICEF works with young people on the development of life-skills education and on youth-friendly services. We work with young parliamentarians and media creators. The Parliament is composed of 219 young deputies (109 girls and 110 boys) elected from ever rayon (district) in Uzbekistan, together with 25 volunteers and trainers. As a result, children and young people are beginning to capture the attention of decision-makers. The Youth Parliament recently took over the national Parliament for a debate on IDD and it’s prevention.  A Young People’s Media Network has been created, including children who are creating their own videos, and radio or TV programmes, and children who have been trained in media and HIV/AIDS prevention.

Action on child rights:

UNICEF is working with the government on a range of activities to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and improve Child Rights;

 A National Plan of Action on CRC implementation;
 Support for the “National Alliance of Government and Non government Organizations who work for the CRC” (created in 2002);
 Legislation on domestic violence against children, the penal system, and institutions;
 Policies to counter child prostitution, child pornography and assault on children;
 Support for the national Leave No Child Out Campaign in 2003-2004 by the NGO Coalition, comprising 125 NGOs working on children’s issues – part of the Regional Network for Children;
 An outline of government obligations on children with disabilities, juvenile justice and child labour;
 The modernisation of teaching methods to make them more interactive and child-centred;
 The National HIV/AIDS strategy and Programme;
 Support for the widespread distribution of Facts for Life (FFL). Now used in almost 200 countries worldwide (and in 213 languages), FFL puts essential knowledge on child survival, health and development into the hands of parents, families, and communities. UNICEF has produced an Uzbek version with local photographs and clear, appropriate messages for the country’s families and communities.




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