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Severe winter threatens children in Tajikistan

© Muhammedkhajaeva/UNICEF

Dushanbe, Tajikistan, February 1
UNICEF would like to bring to your attention an emerging situation in Tajikistan, Central Asia, which is suffering from extreme cold and power cuts.

The situation is having a severe impact on families and children.  The precise numbers of people affected and the areas affected have yet to be established however, in the capital, Dushanbe, electric power is limited and many residential areas have no electricity overnight. The majority of rural areas do not have electricity at all. Most water wells have frozen over and piped water supplies relying on electric pumps, have been knocked out by the power shortage. Many families are melting snow for drinking water and cooking, and the price of solid fuel such as wood has doubled in price to 20 US dollars, beyond the budget of many. A UN team is assessing the situation and we hope to have further information for you later next week. UNICEF can report that the consequences have included: 

• At least two reported new born deaths in maternity hospitals owing to electricity shortages
• Around 60 per cent of the country’s maternity hospitals not having access to safe water
• Children in all 3,800 schools in the country learning in extremely severe conditions; most schools have limited or no heating or electricity. School attendance has plunged.

According to the regional weather outlook, cold temperatures and extreme weather could continue for the whole of February. The energy shortage has been caused by a number of factors, including the freezing of rivers feeding an important hydro-electric plant in the country and a drop in energy supplies from neighbouring countries such as Uzbekistan. 

© Muhammedkhajaeva/UNICEF

As a response to the growing needs of the country’s population, a UN inter-agency team known as REACT has partnered government officials in order to carry out a rapid assessment of the situation in the country. Moving around the country presents its own problems are road systems are poorly developed and mountain passes are impassable owing to high snowfall. The REACT team is expected to report back later next week. 

Based on requests for assistance from the Ministry of Health UNICEF has already procured  generators (25) and distributed: soap (2,000 packets) and baby blankets (2,000), jerry cans (200 x 10 ltr and 100 x 20 ltr) baby bed-linen( 200 sets). Specifically for children’s residential institutions, UNICEF has supplied: soap(490 packets), adult size blankets(260 sets), baby blankets(230).

Discussions with government officials and on-the-ground knowledge has prompted UNICEF to appeal to donors for $720,000 to improve its ability to help meet the needs of children. UNICEF intends to use the funds to buy electricity generators, incubators, emergency health kits, essential drugs, high protein biscuits, winter blankets, bedding, and sanitation items




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