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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
12 January 2006

TAJIKISTAN: Year in Review 2005 - Steady progress in a tough neighbourhood

DUSHANBE, 12 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - Tajikistan, the poorest country in the Central Asian region, continued to depend heavily on external aid in 2005, although levels remained insufficient to meet the country’s needs.

Efforts to build a viable nation from the division and conflict of the civil war of a decade ago proceeded in 2005. This relative stability and progress meant continued international donor confidence in the mountainous republic.

With the country moving from a post-conflict to a development scenario, donors continued to redirect aid from food security programmes to development projects, concentrating on schemes which target infrastructure, agriculture, power and micro-enterprise creation.

According to government statistics, food aid in January-October 2005 totalled only US $71 million, little higher than in 2004 when aid was valued at $65 million. The bulk of aid came from the European Union (EU) and the US, which provided 34.9 percent and 45.8 percent respectively.

In a population of just over 6 million, around 60 percent remain undernourished, with 42 percent having no access to clean water, according to official figures. Despite economic growth in recent years, and a slight rise in per capita incomes, Tajikistan has continued to slide in terms of education and health indicators. It ranked 122 in the UN Human Development Index in 2005, down six places from 2004, putting it last among the former Soviet republics.

Growth also hides rising inequality in a country where over half of those able to work (around 1 million people) leave to earn money abroad, mainly in Russia.

Mine clearing from the Tajik-Uzbek border has not started yet, though plans to do so were announced by Uzbekistan. Some 1,800 anti-personnel mines were neutralised in Tajikistan in 2005, the Tajik Mine Action Centre, responsible for the clearance, said.

Mines killed at least 17 people and injured many more this year. Almost all the victims were civilians collecting firewood or grazing cattle along the border with neighbouring Uzbekistan. Two border guards perished from mines at the end of November on the Tajik-Afghan border, TMAC noted.

Transit of opium and heroin from neighbouring Afghanistan continued throughout the year. Officials confiscated around 4.5 mt of drugs, including 2.7 mt of heroin, according to Avaz Yuldashev, spokesman for the UN-supported Drug Control Agency in Tajikistan.

“It [opium and heroin transit], remains at the same level as 2004 and the departure of Russian border guards from the Tajik-Afghan border has not affected the amount of drugs coming through in any way,” Yuldashev told IRIN. Russian troops began leaving the border in late 2004 and there were fears opium trafficking into Tajikistan would leap as a result.

The burgeoning drugs trade in Tajikistan is leading to a growing number of intravenous drug users in the country, which in turn is boosting the rate of HIV infections.

The number of intravenous drug users in Tajikistan is at least 55,000 and continues to grow by 10,000 a year, Azamjon Mirzoev, the head of the Republican AIDS Centre, said in November.

The number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Tajikistan rose by more than 20 percent over the 11 months to November 2005 compared to the same period in 2004, totalling 506 people, according to government figures. Actual infections are estimated to be around 10 times this figure.

On the political scene, parliamentary elections were held in February 2005. However, observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) called the poll “disappointing” with a wide number of infringements during the elections raising questions of electoral fraud.

Media freedom remained curtailed in 2005. No independent newspaper or magazine was registered in 2005 in Tajikistan and the Ministry of Justice continued to stop all attempts to register non-government or opposition media outlets.

The Year Ahead

Despite land-locked Tajikistan’s isolation and poor infrastructure, the outlook remains stable for growth in the country and for a certain degree of independence in meeting its energy needs.

Russian and Iranian investors will continue construction in Tajikistan of three of the largest hydroelectric power stations in the region, allowing the country to create up to 50,000 jobs and to begin to export electricity to Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan by 2009.

The president of Tajikistan has asked donors for $13 billion in aid till 2015, which will allow Tajikistan to achieve its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the government has said.
Improvement in legal protection for Tajik labour migrants, following the recent signing of bilateral agreements between Russia and Tajikistan, should allow a stable stream of labour migrants to Russia to continue. Remittances from migrant labourers remain a key mainstay of the Tajik economy.

[ENDS]

 

This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but May not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2006



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