Cash assistance for struggling families in Tajikistan amid the pandemic

Complementary cash transfers provide lifelines for families in Tajikistan amid falling remittances and growing unemployment.

UNICEF
Sarvinoz and her family
UNICEF Tajikistan/2020
16 October 2020

As the poorest country in Europe and Central Asia and one of the most remittance-reliant nations in the world, the Republic of Tajikistan has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic: 41 per cent of families have reported reducing their food intake, and as in all economic crises, the brunt of the impact is being taken by lower income households and particularly by children, 34 per cent of whom live under the national poverty line. Malnutrition poses huge risks to children’s health and wellbeing, worsens health and education outcomes across the board, and prevents children from reaching their full potential as adults.

The Government of Tajikistan is working with the World Bank to provide support to low-income families in Tajikistan through the Tajikistan Emergency COVID-19 (TEC-19) Project. Up to 50,000 families with children under the age of 3, who are registered as poor in the national program of the Targeted Social Assistance (TSA), will receive one-off payments of 500 TJS (around US$50) in order to offset the impacts of the pandemic. 20,000 families have already received this vital support, which is helping them cover essential needs such as food and medication. In addition, as part of a partnership with UNICEF, families receive important messages about good nutrition and parenting practices that help children to stay healthy and grow to their full potential during these difficult times.

Barfiyo and her family
UNICEF Tajikistan/2020
Barfiyo and her family

Among those who benefited is Barfiyo Shoirmadonova, a 61-year-old resident of Shahrinav District, who lives with her sons and their families.  Her husband, one son and grandson live with disabilities. Barfiyo’s oldest son works in Russia, but lately he was not able to send much money, because of quarantine measures in Russia. According to UNDP, migrant remittances dropped by more than 28% in the first six months of 2020.

Barfiyo’s family received the payment of 500 TJS earlier this year, which helped them buy wheat flour to feed her grandkids.  She has five of them: the oldest is 7 and the youngest just turned one.

Sarvinoz
UNICEF Tajikistan/2020

When lockdown began, Mahina’s family was also hit hard. Her husband is a construction worker, but since the COVID-19 outbreak earlier this spring, he was not able to make income, as many construction projects were on hold. The cash assistance Mahina received was timely, as she was able to buy food and medications for her one-year old daughter Sarvinoz, who was recovering from a surgery.

Baby Sarvinoz
UNICEF Tajikistan/2020

"This support was very important and timely for us. Sarvinoz has fully recovered and is healthy now.”

Mahina

The cash and communication materials delivered through this project are a critical lifeline for families which show why it is important to invest in shock-responsive social protection systems. The support financed by the World Bank was delivered through a humanitarian cash transfer model developed by technical support from UNICEF. The model aims at expanding the role of the TSA in delivering cash transfers to emergency affected population groups. There is now a solid ground for further policy dialogue in making national social protection system shock responsive and ensuring that families in Tajikistan can continue to rely on rapid, effective support in times of crisis.