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UN agencies will support those worst affected by the COVID-19 in Uzbekistan through a new programme

17 Август 2020

The UN system in Uzbekistan started a USD 1 million Joint Programme in response to the COVID-19 crisis to mitigate its negative impact on the most vulnerable groups of population in Uzbekistan

While COVID-19 restrictions on trade and travel have affected everyone, vulnerable groups have been worst hit by the crisis. Youth and women who are unemployed or employed informally are struggling without direct income and social protection. Labour migrants and members of their families are experiencing disruptions to their livelihoods. The burden of care work by women and girls has vastly increased. Gender based violence and violence against children have surged. Families repatriated from armed conflict zones and children leaving specialized correctional institutions are experiencing increased psycho-social stress.

Although the Government of Uzbekistan have been quick to undertake comprehensive anti-crisis measures by introducing financial and regulatory interventions across the country, gaps remain in the scale and effectiveness of coverage of support for the most vulnerable, who include children, people with disabilities, women, the elderly and migrant labourers and their families.

To respond to these urgent needs, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will lead a joint programme. Participating UN agencies will include United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and International Organization for Migration (IOM).  National partners include the Gender Equality Commission under the Senate, and the Ministries of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction, Mahalla and Family Support, Finance, Labour, Public Education, and Interior, as well as civil society organizations.

Young people will be actively consulted throughout the programme on legal, business and psychological matters. A wide use of digital technologies within Joint Programme will be aiming to facilitate the process of legalizing informal labor relations by improving access of informal workers to social insurance instruments, monitoring payments, assessing the effectiveness and coverage of social protection, and flexible response to changes in situation on labor markets for the most vulnerable.

The Joint Programme will offer:

  • technical and financial support to unemployed informal sector workers, particularly youth and women, including women with disabilities and women-headed families;
  • legal and psychosocial support to families repatriated from armed conflict zones and children leaving specialized correctional institutions;
  • inclusive legal, psychosocial, and direct support to women and girls as well as gender-based violence (GBV) survivors through shelters, hotlines, and wider awareness raising activities;
  • socio-economic, psychological, and legal support to vulnerable returning migrants and migrants’ family members.  

The Joint Programme will complement UNICEF, UNDP and ILO’s ongoing engagement in the UN Joint Programme on Social Protection, launched last November, which aims to accelerate evidence-based transformation of the social protection system for the benefit of the most vulnerable in Uzbekistan. 

This Joint Programme is funded by a grant from the United Nations COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, which is a mechanism established by the UN Secretary-General to help support low- and middle income countries to respond to the pandemic and its impacts, including an unprecedented socio-economic shock. The Fund’s assistance targets those most vulnerable to economic hardship and social disruption.

Helena Fraser, UN Resident Coordinator said, “The COVID-19 outbreak is causing an increase in unemployment and poverty levels, and a spike in reports of domestic violence. New population groups are becoming vulnerable in the face of this unprecedented disruption, and there is a need for better understanding of the actual urgent needs of these groups to be able to address them timely and effectively. The UN Country Team is committed to working with our national partners in ‘development emergency‘ mode to ensure that the needs of most acutely ‘at risk’ groups are met at this unprecedented time.”

Matilda Dimovska, UNDP Resident Representative said: “Uzbekistan continues to demonstrate a proactive and holistic approach to mitigate the negative impact on country’s economy of the COVID-19 and global crisisIt includes adopting anti-crisis packages to combat the spread of coronavirus infection, support of entrepreneurship, employment and social protection for the populationWe need to see a resilient private sector which is better guarded against future shocks. Accordingly, the Joint Programme foresees a number of transformations in the private sector to assist national partners achieve that goal. These include a more inclusive private sector with particular emphasis on vulnerable groups; local communities and diversified business activities with strengthened local value and supply chains ".

Meanwhile, Mr. Sascha Graumann, UNICEF Representative said that “UN Country Team thank again the Government of Uzbekistan for its decisive action to reintegrate the repatriated children from Syria and Iraq into their families amidst challenging conditions”. He also commended the efforts of the Government to continue returning children from specialized correctional institutions into their communities in line with the 2019 Presidential Resolution on Restructuring Closed Facilities despite of pandemic. Mr. Graumann emphasized that “within this Joint Programme, UNICEF is committed to continue enhancing the skills and knowledge of family specialists, social workers and psychologists on case management approach to determine the needs of these vulnerable families and children in the period of COVID 19 followed by regular counselling and referral to existing social and legal services”.

Yu Yu, UNFPA Representative in Uzbekistan highlightedDisease outbreaks affect women and men differently. COVID-19 is worsening existing inequalities for women and girls, and deepening discrimination against other marginalized groups.  Gendered response plans are necessary to respond to women and girls’ unique needs during this time. UNFPA is integrating prevention of violence into COVID-19 response plans and supporting shelters, online services, extending the reach of hotlines, establishing innovative awareness raising channels (like dedicated “No to violence” telegram channel) aimed at prevention of gender-based violence. UNFPA promotes justice even during the COVID-19 crisis.”

 Sanjarbek Toshbaev, IOM Country Manager for Uzbekistan highlighted: “Thousands of migrants are stranded due to travel restrictions. Remittance flows – the lifeblood of several regional economies – has slowed to a trickle. Hundreds of thousands of jobs also have been lost abroad and millions of families are in danger of extreme poverty. The Joint Programme, amongst others, aims to address the immediate socio-economic needs of the most vulnerable returning migrants and migrants’ family members, by providing them reintegration support, as well as socio-economic, psychological and legal counselling. In doing so, we will partner with government agencies and NGOs in Uzbekistan”.

List of donors to the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund includes the United Nations COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund, Government of Japan and Canada Fund for Local Initiatives.