Urgench is in the north-west of Uzbekistan, next to the Aral Sea. When the former Soviet Union diverted the rivers which fed the Sea, the waters were reduced to just one tenth of its volume, causing an environmental disaster. The crisis has had a devastating impact on the living conditions and health of the local population. In addition, during 2006-2007 the Turkmen Government deported many Uzbekistan women and their children back to their country. Left with no money, they face social and economic hardships, and are at constant risk of being separated from their children.
SOS have initiated a programme of services to improve the situation of children in vulnerable families and empower parents to meet their children’s needs. In partnership with local government, SOS have opened a family support centre in the city of Urgench. The centre offers services including social, economic, psychological, educational and health support for children and their families. The programme aims to empower parents and carers to be financially stable, and SOS offer career guidance to support them to do this. The centre runs a nursery for pre-school children, and after-school activities for older children so that parents are able to earn a living. Minavar is one woman who has improved her family’s quality of life, with support from SOS Children:
"Three months ago we had problems getting enough food - we had only bread and tea. Now I have an income and I have something to give my children."
Minavar (right) lives in the region of Khorezm in Uzbekistan with her husband Kakhraman and their three children who are 16, 14 and four years old. There is no industry in the region and her husband was only able to find work occasionally. Temporary employment pushes many families, including Minavar’s, into poverty, as they have no reliable income. She was unable to feed her children properly, or afford decent clothes for them to wear.
When SOS first came in touch with Minavar last September, we immediately carried out an assessment to establish her family’s needs. Staff found out that Minavar could sew and her husband had some experience in construction work. SOS helped Minavar to find a sewing class to improve her skills, and set up a small business sewing blankets. She is able to sew blankets at home, which means that she does not need to pay for childcare for her youngest child. Her business quickly became a success and her blankets were sold by local shops. Minavar says “Our family’s income increased from 40,000 soum (£37) to 150,000 soum (£67) per month."
SOS also supported Minavar’s husband to find permanent work in repair and construction and the family’s income quickly increased. The children are now eating much better. Minavar and her husband have designated a corner of their home for the children where they can study and play. The children are doing better at school and the two older children have started to play sports at a local club.
Minavar plans to expand her business by starting to sew women's and children's clothes. Even though the family's situation has improved, the family is not yet financially secure, and SOS will continue to help the family to develop and become independent.
Across the world, SOS Children are strengthening vulnerable family’s ability to protect and care for their children. You can read more about our Family Strengthening Programmes.