Uzbekistan rebuilds kindergartens in the devastated Aral Sea region

children around a table
The Nauriz kindergarten in Muynak, Uzbekistan, after renovations as part of a community development initiative in the region. (Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan)

The city of Muynak, in northwestern Uzbekistan, used to be home to a flourishing fishing industry. But when the Aral Sea started to dry up, so did the jobs. Today, the population in Muynak is down to 29,000, and has the highest percentage of unemployment in the region.

To address the economic, health and food needs of more than 130,000 people affected by this environmental crisis, five UN agencies – UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, WHO and UNV – launched the UN Aral Sea Programme in 2012. Funded by the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security, the programme seeks to create new income opportunities for rural communities and help address their basic infrastructure needs.

Highlights

  • The UN Aral Sea Programme helps address the economic, health and food needs of more than 130,000 people affected by the environmental crisis.
  • Indirect beneficiaries include close to 500,000 people in 10 additional districts that benefit from the provision of sustainable health care and improved governance.
  • Due to improved conditions at local kindergartens, mothers of pre-school children can now pursue job opportunities.

The Programme’s community development initiative engages directly with the affected population to respond to their specific requests. In Muynak, one of the main needs was to renovate and equip existing kindergartens with proper furniture and learning supplies.

“There is no heating system, furniture needs to be replaced and playgrounds renovated. Toys and learning supplies are limited. There are no lunch tables, and children have their meals while sitting on the floor,” says Sagitjan Aytjanov, who conducted needs assessment of the city’s seven kindergartens.

Current local funding and monthly payments from parents (around US $30) are not enough to keep the kindergartens running in accordance with contemporary standards. This deprives children from a valuable learning experience, but also keeps mothers out of the workforce.

Following the kindergartens’ assessment, UNDP Uzbekistan purchased lunch tables, desks, chairs, beds and bedding, improving conditions for 366 children overall.

“This will help us to better care for the children, entertain them and educate them in a better way so that they are fully prepared for school,” said Flora Aymanova, director of the Gumsha kindergarten, which accommodates 140 children.

The community development initiative also targets small subsistence farmers, helping them establish business plans. As a result, 25 small business projects were launched, related to vegetable farming, pasture management, and application of water-saving solutions. Another 29 community development plans were designed to ensure access to drinking and irrigation water, improved social services and healthcare, benefiting almost 500,000 people indirectly.

By Zakiya Abdurazakova