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UNICEF trains social workers to help Uzbek families provide for vulnerable children

By Rob McBride

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, 18 November 2010 – In a suburb of the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, social worker Elena Vorobyova enters an apartment block in a quiet neighbourhood to visit a family that has endured a tragedy from which they are now recovering – with the help of social workers trained in a UNICEF-supported programme.

VIDEO: UNICEF correspondent Rob McBride reports on how UNICEF is helping orphaned and abandoned Uzbek children find new families.  Watch in RealPlayer


Shahzoda Mavlyanova, 14, lost her mother a few years ago. Alone and orphaned, she was taken in by her aunt, Oynisa Abdugaumova, who treated her like a daughter.

“I was very close to my sister,” Ms. Abdugaumova explains quietly. “There was no difference between our families, so it was natural for our children to come together after she died.” Shahzoda was formally adopted into the family when social workers helped her aunt through the process.

“Whenever a case like this happens,” says Ms. Vorobyova, “the Family and Child Unit looks for the best solution, and in this case it was adoption by the extended family. With training from UNICEF, we’ve gained more social-work skills, and families are more aware of our support services and are more willing to interact with us.”

‘Interests of the child’

Doing his homework at his desk, another child in Tashkent, Solikhov Zokir, 8, talks about his studies and shows off the school certificate he was awarded for achievement in mathematics.

© UNICEF video
Shahzoda, 14, is now cared for by her aunt (right) after an adoption process supported by social workers trained with UNICEF's support in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Solikhov is lucky to be enjoying a stable childhood, since his parents abandoned him when he was a baby. He was found by Shukhrat and Orzukhan Mahkamov, who wanted to bring him up along with their other two children. The Mahkamovs were able to do so with support from Rano Rakhimova, another social worker trained by UNICEF to assist local families with the adoption process.

“This has been a very good outcome,” says Ms. Rakhimova. “In cases like this, the interests of the child must come first. And everyone agrees, being with this family is the best result.”

A family environment

With help from UNICEF, family and child support services in communities throughout Uzbekistan have been improving There has also been a growth in awareness of social problems, and a willingness on the part of affected families to reach out.

© UNICEF video
Solikhov, 8, is busy with his homework. Found abandoned as a baby, he has been adopted by a Tashkent family with help from social workers.

UNICEF’s work in this area is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which clearly states that all children have the right to grow up in a family environment, to know and be cared for by their own families whenever possible. Given the importance of families in children’s lives, families who need assistance to care for their children have a right to receive it.

When, despite this assistance, a child’s family is unavailable, unable or unwilling to care for her or him, then appropriate and stable family-based solutions should be sought to enable the child to grow up in a loving, caring and supportive environment.



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