Save the Children continues to assist families facing economic difficulties and harsh winter in Tajikistan

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (Nov. 20, 2008) - In response to a series of economic and social shocks that are hampering the ability of families in Tajikistan to obtain sufficient and nutritious food, Save the Children is providing ongoing assistance to help vulnerable people through the current crisis and the onset of winter.

Save the Children has launched a five-month emergency food security project, funded by USAID, to help support children and their families in some of the country's poorest areas: the Khatlon and Sughd oblasts (regions) and Rasht Valley. Some 16,800 households will benefit from emergency assistance.

This project will establish a safety net for vulnerable households in Khatlon oblast, to ensure that they have enough food to hold them through winter. The agency, in partnership with Mercy Corps in Rasht Valley, will provide one-off cash transfers to the most vulnerable households, working with the community to identify those in most need. Based on normal expenditure patterns, these households are expected to spend at least 80 percent of the cash they receive directly on basic food items, enabling them to stockpile food before heavy winter snows make some areas inaccessible for aid distribution. The project will have an ancillary benefit of strengthening local markets.

Tajikistan has experienced a series of economic shocks - among them damage to crops and seeds, and higher prices for staple foods. The prices of wheat and vegetable oil have increased by 83 percent to 130 percent; costs for other foods have increased by 50 percent or more. Tajikistan is highly dependent on food imports.

Save the Children has begun to distribute wheat seed to vulnerable farmers who have adequate land and labor for cultivation. The seed was procured and imported by ICARDA with separate USAID funding. At-risk families also receive cash to reduce the need for food-insecure households to eat or sell part of the seed received. In the remote village of Guliston village last week, 45 households (out of 150) received 50 kilograms of wheat seed and 510 Somoni in cash to help them purchase nutritious food and sustain themselves through the winter. Living conditions are harsh in this mountain village. Residents have limited access to drinking water, and roads are often impassable.

In addition, Save the Children, in partnership with Mercy Corps, will conduct regional procurement and distribution of food from neighboring countries. Save the Children will serve households in Khatlon and Mercy Corps will serve households in Sogd region. Over the next four months, each household will receive monthly rations consisting of 50 kilograms of wheat flour, 12.5 kilograms of lentils/red beans and 4 kilograms of vegetable oil. These rations are expected to meet approximately 70 percent of families' minimum food requirements through the winter.

Save the Children has worked in Tajikistan since 1994. The agency has programs to combat hunger and malnutrition, protect vulnerable children, improve the quality of preschool and primary education, and improve family health and community health services, especially in rural areas.

Save the Children (www.savethechildren.org) is the leading independent organization that creates lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. Save the Children USA is a member of the International Save the Children Alliance, a global network of 27 independent Save the Children organizations working to ensure the well-being and protection of children in more than 100 countries.