Two little-known former Soviet republics this year celebrate twenty years of independence following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan mark the 20th anniversary of statehood on 31 August and 9 September 2011 respectively, but do they have reason to celebrate?
Independent statehood has been tough for both countries. Tajikistan has undergone a bloody civil war and a process of rapid de-development which has left millions living in poverty and caused mass male labour migration.
Kyrgyzstan meanwhile has experienced two revolutions and violent ethnic conflict caused by poverty, inequality and uncontrolled corruption. On the capital city’s streets, the shocking sight of homeless elderly people scavenging for food highlights the social abandonment that many citizens are experiencing.
In Kyrgyzstan, Christian Aid is supporting partner organisation, Resource Centre for the Elderly, to help old people – many of whom have been abandoned due to migration, help each other.
Old people’s rescue teams and vegetable growing initiatives are providing safety and food for hundreds of the most vulnerable.
Today, in Tajikistan, women and children are particularly vulnerable. Yet, government social welfare programmes frequently play second fiddle to state vanity projects, such as the new flagpole in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe which has set the Guinness world record for the tallest of its kind.
Preventing people from descending even further into poverty is critical.
Christian Aid’s local partner organisations such as Rights & Prosperity are helping citizens’ get their rightful access to services while also promoting government accountability to the people. Through new citizen’s advice chambers, Rights & Prosperity have helped vulnerable, powerless women who regularly suffer abuse, access welfare and legal support. In one region, this has helped reduce suicide rates among women.
Christian Aid is also helping women and men, young and old, to improve their livelihood skills and techniques, to build sustainable, climate-resilient livelihoods, and to access markets.