The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to advocate for the protection of children’s and women’s rights, help meet their basic needs and expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. Guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), UNICEF strives to establish children’s rights as enduring ethical principals and international standards of behavior towards children. In Tajikistan, UNICEF began its work in 1993, shortly after the independence of the Republic. Now, UNICEF is in its fourth country programme cycle of cooperation in Tajikistan.

UNICEF Tajikistan closely co-operates with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, Ministry of Finance, Ombudsman’s Office, National Commission on Child Rights, Agency on Statistics, local governments, donor agencies, other UN organizations and NGOs.

Past and Current Programmes in Tajikistan

In 1993-1994, a short bridging programme mainly targeted humanitarian needs. Activities were aimed at strengthening capacities of organizations dealing with child health.

The 1995-1999 programme cycle focused on emergency response in health, education, water and sanitation and nutrition. There were five projects and the total funds used for five years amounted to USD 9,000,000.

The 2000-2004 programme cycle aimed to reduce infant and maternal mortality and the prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies; improve children’s learning environments; increase school attendance and reduce drop-out rates; promote a child protection system; and raise awareness among young people on HIV and AIDS and healthy lifestyles. There were three programmes: 1. Mother and Child Survival, Development and Protection, 2.Child Enrichment, 3.Young People’s Well-being. The funds for 5 years totalled $18,835,000.

The 2005-2009 programme cycle focused on key issues that were identified in the context of international commitments such as the MDGs; national priorities as set out in the National Development Strategy and Living Standards Improvement Strategy; the UN Development Assistance Framework; as well as experience at community level. The four major programmes were 1. Maternal and Child Care, 2. Quality Basic Education for All, 3. Young People’s Health and Participation, 4. Social Policy Reform and Child Protection. The total funds for the 2005-2009 programme came to $28,520,000.

The current programme cycle 2010-2015 contains four major components: Child Survival and Development; Basic Education; Child Protection; and Policy and Planning. The planned budget for the 2010-2015 Country Programme cycle is $28,012,000. In March 2013, a Mid-Term Review meeting with Government and other key stakeholders agreed some changes to the programme, based on the changing situation of children and lessons learned in programme implementation. The key areas of the revised Country Programme are as follows:
Child Survival and Development:
UNICEF supports initiatives in child survival and development through a programme consisting of a mother and child health component, a nutrition component and an HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment component. In addition, emergency preparedness and response is incorporated into the capacity development activities of this programme component. The programme is being implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Health, other United Nations agencies and local and international non-governmental organizations.

Under the Mother and Child Health Project, UNICEF is supporting efforts made to strengthen systems to manage immunisation services, vaccine supplies and the cold chain; and to generate the demand for quality services. It will continue its engagement in health coordination and health sector reform.

In Nutrition, UNICEF is prioritising the promotion of infant and young child feeding and care practices and prevention of stunting and micronutrient deficiencies. Evidence from the 2009 National Nutrition Survey and the 2012 Demographic and Health Survey are used to inform policy decisions at national level and in the development of the required nutritional interventions at community level.

Through the HIV/AIDS project, UNICEF focuses on increasing access to quality voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) and treatment, as well as prevention and reduction of sexually transmitted illnesses (STI) and HIV. The focus is on Most At Risk Adolescents (MARA), pregnant women and newborns. The prevention of nosocomial infections is a priority. The project also uses policy advocacy and capacity building for paediatric AIDS and ensures that HIV-infected children have access to social assistance.
Basic Education:
This Programme supports the government and other partners to ensure quality education for all children by applying the Child-Friendly School (CFS) approach. The key areas of focus include: 1) Early Learning; 2) Out-of-School Children; and 3) Quality of Education. Emergency preparedness and disaster reduction is mainstreamed in all aspects of the programme, with the aim of immediately restoring education services in emergencies. UNICEF takes these interventions forward as an integrated package so that the key education issues are effectively addressed in a comprehensive manner. The intervention package specifically targets the most disadvantaged groups of children, including children with disabilities and girls. The aim is to demonstrate a model which can be used for scaling up and mainstreaming within the Government education system.

The Early Learning project supports the Ministry of Education in coordinating efforts to improve access, quality and equity in preschool and school readiness programmes, primarily by supporting the piloting and evaluation of cost-effective alternative early learning models, and the strengthening of the policy and legislative framework to support the Ministry of Education’s management of a mixed-model preschool system.

The Out-of-School Children project supports the Ministry of Education in reducing disparities in basic education and increasing attendance and completion rates of children who are out of school or at risk of dropping out. By building capacities of schools and district-level authorities, this initiative contributes to creating child-friendly, gender-sensitive and inclusive learning environments as well as boosting the demand for education. Through this project, UNICEF provides evidence and strategic direction for the adoption of a nationwide programme targeting universal enrolment and completion of basic education.
The Quality of Education project supports Government in its effort to transform the education curriculum from one that is knowledge-based to one that focuses on competencies. This includes support for the strengthening of life skills-based education, including attention for hygiene education, disaster risk reduction, healthy life styles and other critical life skills.
Child Protection:
The Child Protection Programme aspires to the transformation of the child care system into a comprehensive set of services centred on community-based activities (especially for children with disabilities) and family substitute care. The programme also seeks to ensure that the juvenile justice system respects the best interests of the child, and community-based alternative practices aiming at minimising deprivation of liberty are available and used.

In Child Care System Reform, the project supports the Government to develop and implement a national policy framework and encourages stronger coordination, as well as the adoption of common strategies among partners. This includes strengthening the social work function; detection, assessment, ‘gate keeping’, referral, and monitoring of vulnerable children; increasing the range, availability and quality of community based services and family support services; and expansion of quality family-substitute services. There is a special focus on children with disabilities and those affected by polio. The efforts under this project are expected to contribute to the reduction of institutionalization, especially of children under three years of age.

In Juvenile Justice, the project supports legal and policy reforms based on international standards and develops the capacity of the personnel involved in the administration of juvenile justice. It promotes alternatives to custodial sentences, including diversion to community-based services and non-residential rehabilitation services. The focus is on under-age, first-time and least-serious offenders. The project is gradually taking on a broader approach to justice for children, providing support also to child victims and witnesses of crime and children parties to civil proceedings (for issues such as custody, care or protection).
Policy and Planning:
This programme contributes to Government’s efforts to generate reliable and timely data to better inform policy and decision making. The programme aims to create an enabling social and economic policy environment that promotes child-centred policy as well as partnerships for sustained realisation of child rights.

The Monitoring and Evaluation project facilitates the national monitoring system and the organisation of a database (TojikInfo) covering essential indicators on children that will be available for use by decision-makers, public service managers and civil society organisations at national and district levels.

The Social and Economic Policy project concentrates its efforts on: promoting the integration of child rights issues in development planning and budgeting at national and local government levels; social policy development;; social protection; child poverty and disparities; migration, including impacts on children and families. The analytical work conducted by the programme has underpinned the advocacy efforts of UNICEF on issues related to poverty, vulnerability, social sector policies and expenditures.

The Communication and Partnership project advocates for children’s rights and is responsible for placing the children’s agenda at the forefront of the national policy dialogue. Key strategies of this project include producing high quality advocacy documents and broad media coverage of child policy, including development and maintenance of the UNICEF Tajikistan website as a knowledge centre on children. The project also contributes to strengthening the capacity of the media on child rights.

Future Programming Direction

UNICEF’s future programmes will continue advocating for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential, with a special focus on the most vulnerable children.