Small and landlocked, Tajikistan faces many development challenges. Food insecurity, high rates of multidrug-resistant TB, unemployment and malign influences from neighboring countries threaten Tajikistan’s long-term growth and resilience. USAID helps overcome these challenges by increasing food security and nutrition, improving health and education outcomes, and strengthening critical democratic institutions in the region.
Economic Growth and Trade
A small, landlocked, low-income country, Tajikistan is the poorest country in Central Asia, with a national poverty rate of more than 26 percent in 2019, and an extreme poverty rate of nearly 11 percent. The country remains highly susceptible to external economic shocks due to, among others, its dependence on labor remittances. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the Tajik economy. Restrictions on labor mobility and economic activity at home and abroad resulted in fewer remittances, weaker consumer demand, and reduced investments. During the first six months of 2020, remittances decreased by nearly 15 percent ($195 million) compared to the first six months of 2019.
Agriculture constitutes the largest sector of Tajikistan’s economy and contributes to 22.6 percent of the country’s GDP and 45.7 percent of the Tajik labor force. However, continued reliance on a few major crops like cotton is an impediment to further developing the sector. To support agribusinesses, USAID provides demand-driven assistance to agricultural associations, cooperatives, market integrators, and small and medium enterprises to take advantage of domestic, regional, and international market opportunities.
USAID supports expanding the private sector within the agriculture, logistics, textile, food processing, tourism, and information technology sectors to improve regional and international competitiveness. Tajikistan’s economic development is greatly strengthened by regional trade and its cross-border linkages, which will also result in greater regional stability. USAID is building the capacity of the newly established Tajik Export Agency to connect Tajik agribusinesses with lucrative European markets. Despite the disruption in trade caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, USAID’s interventions resulted in the signing of contracts representing $182,770 worth of Tajik exports, and letters of intent valued at more than $1 million.
Tajikistan is rich in water resources and hydropower for export in the region. USAID’s Central Asia Regional Electricity Market (CAREM) activity provides technical assistance and capacity building to create an economically viable electricity market that will also improve the consistency of the energy supply and promote regional economic growth. USAID also supports the Government of Tajikistan in establishing a transparent competitive market to export electricity beyond Central Asia by playing a major role in the development of the CASA-1000 transmission line. When finished, the $1.8 billion, 750-mile line will allow the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan to sell clean, low-cost hydropower to the energy-hungry markets of Afghanistan and Pakistan during the peak summer season. USAID’s energy programs, including the newly awarded Power Central Asia project, help Tajikistan use its energy resources in ways that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create long-term energy security.
Agriculture and Food Security
Tajikistan is highly vulnerable to food insecurity where more than 27 percent of the population live on less than $1.90 per day. Before COVID-19, as many as 3.3 million Tajiks, or one-third of the total population, were estimated to be food insecure, and of those, 1.6 million are severely food insecure. Tajikistan’s agriculture sector contributes to 22.6 percent of the country’s GDP while employing 45.7 percent of the population.
As such, improving the country’s agricultural productivity will play an important role in advancing overall economic growth, reducing poverty, and improving food security. Remittance payments from migrants working abroad are an important source of income for many rural households in Tajikistan, equaling nearly 30 percent of the GDP in 2019. However, due to COVID-19 induced travel restrictions, labor remittances have fallen by 15 percent, and currently, almost 60 percent of Tajik households cannot afford a nutritious diet.
Despite the falling child mortality rates and signs of the significant improvement in children’s nutritional status shown in the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) from 2012 and 2017, undernutrition remains a critical public health concern in Tajikistan. According to the 2017 DHS, 18 percent of children under five are stunted, an irreversible result of chronic nutritional deprivation. Stunting, wasting, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies affect children’s long-term health and wellbeing.
U.S. Government’s Feed the Future programs address the root causes of poverty, hunger, and malnutrition in 12 districts in the Khatlon Province, bordering Afghanistan. Khatlon has the third highest poverty rate in the country at 39.24 percent, 3.6 percent higher than the national average. Working in partnership with the Government of Tajikistan, Feed the Future draws on the expertise, resources from several local organizations, companies, and individuals to build resilience and transform lives.
USAID continues to improve the incomes of smallholder farmers, catalyze women’s economic empowerment, and increase the production and consumption of nutritious foods while supporting the diversification of livelihoods for increased household and community resilience to shocks and stressors.
Democracy, Human Rights and Governance
More than a million Tajik citizens live and work outside of their home country for most of the year. Due to insufficient knowledge of host countries’ languages, laws, and their own rights, migrant workers from Tajikistan are often vulnerable to human trafficking, including sexual exploitation. USAID addresses issues of trafficking-in-persons and labor migration through social, educational, and financial support to former migrant workers, particularly those who are no longer allowed to return to the Russian Federation. USAID programs help them reintegrate into their communities and gain the skills needed to obtain employment or start a business.
We also partner with local groups to foster accountable and inclusive local governance that is responsive to the needs of the country’s citizens. Alongside these efforts, USAID’s media programs are developing a more balanced information environment to increase openness for differing opinions among youth and adults that will lead to increased civic engagement.
The breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the civil war that ended in 1997 brought enduring repercussions to the integrity of Tajikistan’s education system. Over the past three decades, the Tajik government has been working with donors and partners to rebuild the system critical for the country’s long-term sustainable development. The Ministry of Education and Science continues to collaborate with USAID to strengthen the reforms of the education system in order to improve literacy and numeracy learning outcomes. Education in Tajikistan is moving from a teacher to a student-centered approach, using hybrid models on competency-based approaches, maintaining transparent assessment, and using digital teacher training platforms. USAID education programs in Tajikistan support updating curriculum standards with modernized guidelines, methods, and training based on internationally recognized best practices.
USAID developed the technical skillset of the Ministry of Education and its counterparts to champion and institutionalize modernized in-service and pre-service curriculum for primary education. The programs also bring U.S. leadership and influence through professional development, student-centered learning, data-driven decision-making particularly in the use of assessments, instructional practices, and age-appropriate teaching and learning materials.
USAID’s basic education programs align with the Tajik Government’s National Strategy for Education Development 2021-2030 to support the country in taking control of its own resources meant to improve learning outcomes and leveraging its resources to advance on the path of sustainability.
Tajikistan’s health system faces a growing HIV/AIDS epidemic, high rates of tuberculosis (TB), and persistent challenges in maternal and child health. Its systemic problems are further enhanced by the insufficient number of healthcare workers able to provide much-needed care to the Tajik population. In addition to addressing these problems, USAID supports an inclusive society for individuals with disabilities. The recent COVID-19 pandemic affected progress across all health services, including the decrease in TB and HIV detection rates, as health care workers were reassigned to support COVID-related needs.
HIV/AIDS: Situated along the illicit drug transport corridor from Afghanistan, Tajikistan suffers from a growing HIV/AIDS epidemic, fueled largely by people who inject drugs and spread the disease to other intravenous drug users and their sexual partners. USAID works closely with Tajikistan’s Ministry of Health to strengthen essential healthcare services. USAID programs expand access to comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care services for key populations and seek to reduce stigma and discrimination. USAID also focuses on strengthening the abilities of national and local institutions, non-governmental organizations, and individuals to more effectively lead the planning, delivery, and monitoring of the quality of services for key populations.
Tuberculosis: Tajikistan has one of the world’s highest rates of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) fueled by a general lack of awareness of how TB spreads and that it can be cured. The stigma that accompanies a TB diagnosis is also a serious challenge. However, there is progress. The 2020 WHO Global TB Report places Tajikistan among 113 countries that made significant advances over the last five years and achieved good testing coverage by the end of 2019. USAID works with civilian and prison health officials to increase access to TB care and expand the use of patient-centered ambulatory treatment approaches. USAID also supports a rigorous program to build the skills and capacity of health providers, communities, and patients to understand and address treatment and care for TB and multidrug-resistant TB. Additionally, USAID is helping the Ministry of Health roll out treatment regimens for all types of DR-TB that reduce the treatment period from 24 to nine months, and new drugs capable of saving the lives of those with extensively drug-resistant TB. In December 2017, the first cohort of XDR-TB patients completed the shorter treatment regimen, in which everyone fully recovered. The shorter regimen is now part of the national TB protocol.
Maternal and Child Health: Maternal and child mortality rates in Tajikistan are the highest in the region. Although the maternal mortality rate is steadily decreasing, Tajikistan is still a long way from reaching the desired level of child mortality of fewer than 25 deaths per 100,000 live births. USAID works closely with Tajikistan’s Ministry of Health to prevent morbidity and mortality of mothers and children under two as well as improve the quality and availability of lifesaving, evidence-based health interventions for women and children. To achieve these goals, USAID supports the strengthening of all levels of Tajikistan’s health system and works to change the social and behavioral norms for nutrition and health care for mothers and children.
Water and Sanitation
Despite considerable effort and investment, lack of access to clean drinking water continues to be a major issue in Tajikistan, particularly in rural areas. Many residents rely on rivers and open ditches for drinking water. Through USAID technical assistance, in May 2017 the Tajik parliament passed an amendment to a law on local government that increased the authority of municipalities in managing local revenue to address citizens’ needs, such as increasing access to safe drinking water. USAID helps the local government deliver water services to its constituents, works with farmers to better manage irrigation water through water user associations, and teaches families how to improve sanitation and hygiene behavior to keep themselves healthy.
USAID Response to COVID-19
USAID supports the Government of Tajikistan’s efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing life-saving equipment, technical assistance, laboratory and medical supplies, and support to Tajik migrants in need. As of March 1, 2021, USAID’s COVID-19 assistance totaled over $10.2 million. This assistance is being used to strengthen Tajikistan’s health care system; procure urgent supplies that support infection-prevention and control; improve the capacity of Tajik laboratories; improve COVID-19 surveillance, response, and case management; develop and enhance public health outreach, risk communication and community engagement; and support the deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine. Learn more here: https://bit.ly/3vlziGp
Mission Director, USAID/Tajikistan