Cash Assistance for Struggling Families in Tajikistan Amid the Coronavirus
Complementary cash transfers provide lifelines for families in Tajikistan amid falling remittances and growing unemployment.
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 intake1, 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 line2.
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 young children, who are registered as poor in the national program of the Targeted Social Assistance (TSA) will receive 500 TJS in order to offset the impacts of the pandemic. These emergency cash payments are 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.
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.
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.
COVID-19 has worsened the state of food insecurity across Tajikistan and exacerbated malnutrition among struggling families. 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.
“This support was very important and timely for us. Sarvinoz has fully recovered and is healthy now.”
The cash support financed by World Bank was timely in promoting shock-responsiveness of social protection system in Tajikistan. This contributed to testing the 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.
Along with this mechanism, UNICEF’s contribution to the TEC-19 Project includes the development of materials on nutrition and early child development, which are being distributed to parents and caregivers who are beneficiaries of the Project to enable them to help their children grow to reach their full potential.
So far, over 20,000 families with children under the age of three have received one-off payments of 500 TJS (around US $50), and in the coming months another 30,000 families will receive this financial assistance.
About Tajikistan Emergency COVID-19 Project
The Tajikistan Emergency COVID-19 Project is financed by a grant from the World Bank at the amount of $11.3 million and implemented by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Tajikistan. It aims to support the country’s efforts to respond effectively to the health and social risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is a brief overview of all components supported under TEC-19: https://bit.ly/2Ep32fr