With 145,000 inhabitants, Urgench is the capital of the rural Khorezm region, about 1,000 km northwest of the capital Tashkent.
Living conditions in rural Uzbekistan are rapidly deteriorating, with high unemployment and widespread poverty. Although the region has traditionally lived off agriculture, the harsh climate and lack of water make living conditions precarious and offer few alternative employment opportunities. Parents often move to cities or other countries in search of work, leaving their children alone or in the care of the extended family, which may not have the resources to provide for them.
Since 2011, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Urgench.
While 54% of all children under 18 in Uzbekistan live in households, which receive social assistance, 52% of the poorest households are excluded from any national social protection. Despite poverty rates being highest amongst families with children, there has been a significant decline in benefits designed to support these families.
Since three-quarters of people who live in poverty are at home in rural areas like Urgench, children in these areas are at the greatest risk of suffering the consequences of poverty. These include poor nutrition, chronic disease, and mental health problems, as well as greater gender inequality, school absence and child labour.
Among children and young people in Uzbekistan, girls are twice as likely as boys to be out of school. This inequality is largely due to poverty and early marriage, which makes it impossible for girls to attend school.
Empowering girls is one of the best solutions to overcome poverty because it improves girls' lives by reducing child marriage and early pregnancy. This also helps them contribute to the well-being of their communities.