The Republic of Uzbekistan has a population of around 34 million people. While 12 % of the people live below the national poverty line, the poverty rate in rural areas remains particularly high: three quarters of the people living below the poverty line live in rural communities.
About a quarter of the population works in agriculture, and the Uzbek economy is heavily dependent on water-intensive cotton production.
This need for water and the poor water infrastructure with declining freshwater sources, means that at least 80% of the country lives with some degree of water scarcity.
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it, in Uzbekistan since 1986.
Micronutrient deficiency in children is widespread in Uzbekistan. While 15% suffer from anemia, more than 50% are affected by iron deficiency. In addition, 9% of children show signs of chronic malnutrition.
Malnutrition in children has multiple effects, from the inability to concentrate at school to poor cognitive function, poor growth, and stunted development. This also leads to a weakened immune system, which in turn can result in various illnesses.
Although access to preschool education has improved, it is still only reaching 53% of children in Uzbekistan. Early childhood education can be particularly beneficial for disadvantaged children as it prepares them for success in further stages of education and enables them to achieve better grades.
Despite the high enrollment rate in elementary school, many children drop out or repeat classes. The number of children who go to secondary schools is steadily declining and the dropout rate is higher among girls.
The youth unemployment rate in Uzbekistan is twice the national average (18%), and there is evidence of significant skills gaps among young people entering the labor market.
Youth unemployment is associated with long-term wage losses, increased risk of further spells of unemployment, and poorer health and mental health conditions.
Uzbekistan has high rates of self-injury and suicide deaths among young people – they account for more than 70% of all suicide cases, both male and female.