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Tajikistan – Child Poverty Rises Despite Economic Growth

Children's Voices: A Qualitative Study of Poverty in Tajikistan
Children's Voices: A Qualitative Study of Poverty in Tajikistan

DUSHANBE, 1 May 2007 – Children are not reaping the benefits of the country’s significant economic growth, according to the first ever report on child poverty in Tajikistan to be launched this week.

The report shows that the numbers of people living on less than USD 2.15 per day dropped from 81 per cent in 1999 to 64 per cent in 2003, but an estimated 66 per cent of children under 18 years are still defined as poor, compared with 61 per cent of adults. This means there 66 per cent of children who suffer from restricted access to basic welfare services, such as: health facilities, safe drinking water and a decent education.

 “Although the country has experienced sustained economic growth over recent years, children are becoming poorer and are increasingly being denied their rights to quality social services and to protection,” says Yukie Mokuo, the UNICEF Representative in Tajikistan. “There is a disturbing trend happening in a country which already has the worst social indicators in the region.”

“Poverty is destroying the chances of Tajik children to become productive members of society. It is depriving them of a nutritious diet, pushing more children onto the streets to work, forcing more children, especially girls, to drop out of schools and increasing child abuse.”

“The marginalized groups in our society are the most vulnerable, like the estimated 10,000 children in institutions and the 200,000 children who are engaged in some form of child labour, outside the house. About 20,000 of those children do not attend school,” adds Mokuo.

The child poverty report, written by Angela Bascheiri and Jane Falkingham of the University of Southampton, also observed marked regional disparities. For example, child poverty is higher in GBAO and Khatlon provinces in the southern part of the country which border Afghanistan.

Their findings show that:

  • girls remain less likely than boys to enroll in secondary education;
  • the level of acute malnutrition increased between 2003 and 2005;
  • 17 per cent of children under the age of five years are underweight and as many as 27 per cent of children are stunted;
  • few people use health facilities because  they cannot afford to, for example they cannot afford to pay the high prescription costs;
  • 28 per cent of young children rely on surface water; which is often contaminated exposing children to the risk of waterborne disease including typhoid and cholera;
  • child mortality rates vary considerably from region to region; the poorer regions having higher mortality rates.  2005 UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey shows that  overall 65 children die before the age of one  year out of every 1000 live births and 79 die before the age of five years out of every 1000 live births, which are the highest child mortality rates in the region.

The authors also highlight the threat of HIV and AIDS. While the current HIV prevalence rate is low at less than one per cent of the population, poverty also creates conditions for a spread of the disease. However, only 30 per cent of young women aged 15-19 years had heard of HIV/AIDS in Tajikistan, according to the  child poverty report. At present, HIV/AIDS is concentrated among drug users, two thirds of whom are less than 30 years old.

“Tajikistan is now at a crossroads,” say the authors of the child poverty report, referring to the  period of peace following a five-year civil war soon after Tajikistan gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The authors continue, “The cohort of children born today will be aged 15 years in 2021 and have the potential to enter the labour force better educated , healthier , more socially integrated than in the past, with greater productivity and making a higher contribution to society. Thus how the benefits of economic growth are distributed within society over the next few years will shape these children’s future and the future of the country as a whole.”

The child poverty report will be formally launched at a National Poverty Conference organized by the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, the World Bank and UNICEF in the capital Dushanbe, May 2-3, 2007. It will be one among other reports on poverty and the economy that  the conference participants will discuss.

“The conference aims to identify different policy options and the investments that are needed to reduce poverty,” says Mokuo. “We expect that the conference participants  will come up with a clear set of recommendations to policy makers, donors, UN agencies and our partner agencies on the directions and scale of investments that need to be made to reduce poverty for all groups, particularly  children, who are the future of Tajikistan.”


UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information, please contact:

Mukaddas Kurbanova, Assistant Communication Officer UNICEF Tajikistan
Tel.: +992 37 2218261







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Children's Voices: A Qualitative Study of Poverty in Tajikistan
UNICEF, Strategic Research Center under the President of the Republic of Tajikistan (May 2007)
First ever report on child poverty in Tajikistan


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