The boy who lived at the hospital

In Uzbekistan, Timur finally finds support after being left alone due to migration and tragedy

Sanobar Khudaybergenova
Timur sits on a swing in the yard of the Center for Social and Legal Aid to Minors in Uzbekistan’s capital city Tashkent.
UNICEF Uzbekistan/2019/Khudaybergenova

24 May 2019

Every morning, 11 year old Timur wakes up to the birds singing in the garden. While he makes his bed, he thinks of his mother recovering from a badly fractured leg.

It has been a week since he last saw his mother and since he was placed at the Center for Social and Legal Aid to Minors in Uzbekistan’s capital city Tashkent. The centre is run by the Department of Internal Affairs and is located at the end of an alley, far away from the city’s main streets.

The centre provides temporary, short term shelter, food and medical care to children like Timur who lack parental care. Staff at the shelter work to identify extended family members or other family-like, safe living arrangements for children as soon as they arrive.  Children usually stay approximately 14 to 35 days. UNICEF has been supporting the centre by training staff who work there.

“At first, I thought of running away,” Timur says. He was afraid that he would be bullied and beaten at the center, but now he likes the place, especially the food.

Timur stands in the football field of the Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
UNICEF Uzbekistan/2019/Khudaybergenova
The football field is Timur’s favorite place to hang out at the centre. Although at first, he thought of running away, now he likes the place.

Over the last four months, Timur had been living in a hospital, where his mother has been receiving medical care.

Hospital staff fed him out of pity and patients gave him money to take the bus to school. There were times when he had to walk nine-kilometers from school to the hospital.

“I would spend the money to get to school rather than buying lunch with it,” he says.

Only a year ago, life was good for Timur. He was celebrating his 11th birthday at one of Tashkent’s amusement parks with friends. His uncle had organized a pizza party and presented him with a teddy bear.

Then his uncle left for Russia to find work. “I will save money to buy you a bike,” he told Timur. A few months later, his mother Aziza fell and broke her leg. She lost her two jobs and their rented apartment, and had to go through a lengthy recovery process, which included several surgeries.

His uncle's migration was a turning point in Timur's life and led to a number of hardships.

According to official data, 2.6 million people from Uzbekistan are permanently employed abroad, but there is little understanding about the effects of labour migration on families and children who are left behind.

“Children left behind by migrating parents or primary caregivers may find themselves in circumstances of inadequate care and protection,”

said Maziyar Taleshi, a child protection expert working with UNICEF in Uzbekistan. “Despite the economic benefits of labour migration, the absence of a caregiver may lead to decreased care, supervision and emotional well-being among children affected.”

In July 2018, UNICEF and the Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan, with support from the European Union, launched a project to better protect children affected by migration.

The programme includes conducting a detailed research study in Bukhara, Fergana, Surkhandarya and Khorezm regions of Uzbekistan, to better understand the situation for children left behind due to economic migration. Based on the findings of the study, recommendations will be developed to better protect these children.

Before being placed in appropriate care, Timur was on the verge of being expelled from school because he was accused of taking money that was not his.  

 “Under stressful situations, some children develop behavioral problems in response to difficult life circumstances they find themselves in,” says Taleshi. “It is a normal reaction for a child in abnormal conditions.”

Timur worries about his Mother’s well-being, so he left his teddy bear with her. “She will think of me, when she holds it,” he says.