UNICEF Representative in Turkmenistan
2021 is an extraordinary year, when Turkmenistan celebrates the 30th anniversary of its Independence and 26th anniversary of Neutrality, we also mark the 75th anniversary of establishment of UNICEF. These are important dates and milestones and celebrating these jointly also allows us to recommit to our joint work to fulfil and protect the rights of children.
Building on the many achievements of the past, our work in 2021 reflects the expanded scope of cooperation between UNICEF and the Government of Turkmenistan. In our new five-year country programme of cooperation which started this year, UNICEF redoubled its efforts to support the Government of Turkmenistan in meeting its commitments to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of children, as stipulated by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and further reaffirmed in the National Action Plan for realization of children’s rights. Towards this objective UNICEF has expanded its partnerships to more institutions across the country to ensure equitable access to high-impact and quality health, nutrition and early childhood development services; to protect children from all forms of violence, ill-treatment and socio-economic vulnerabilities; as well as to increase access to quality inclusive education and learning opportunities for Turkmenistan’s children and youth. These are key areas to continue improving the lives of all children in line with Turkmenistan’s commitment to the SDGs and to child rights.
On June 1st of this year, His Excellency, the President of Turkmenistan Mr. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov visited the Scientific and Clinical Center for Maternal and Child Health, accompanied by the Minister of Health and Medical Industry and my predecessor Christine Weigand as UNICEF Representative in Turkmenistan at the time, in an event organized in honor of the International Children's Day. This visit showcased the critical work of the center and the dedicated professionals providing services for the youngest children and helping them develop and thrive. Early Childhood Development is and will remain a priority for UNICEF work in Turkmenistan, and the long-standing partnership in establishing and developing the work of this center will continue to ensure as many children as possible are able to access these services.
Continuing with the implementation of the National Action Plan for realization of children’s rights (NAPCR) for the period of 2018-2022, a number of important milestones were achieved, regardless of the limitations caused by the global pandemic. Results and ways forward will be captured in the ongoing Evaluation of the NAPCR which will lay the basis for the development of the new NAPCR in 2022.
One important achievement of Turkmenistan is the routine vaccination programme, which continued despite the pandemic challenges and the country even significantly increased the funding for immunization under the five-year procurement plan for 2021-2025 with UNICEF. This procurement plan was signed in 2020 and is a continuation of the partnership under the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry of Turkmenistan for procurement services. In the framework of this plan, during 2021, UNICEF delivered 2 shipments of vaccines against polio, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, haemophilus influenzae, hepatitis A, pneumococcus, and tuberculosis.
Among other significant milestones of 2021, it is important to mention Turkmenistan chairing the Regional Nutrition Partnership Platform for the next two years, as well as approval of the National Strategy “Healthy Mother - Healthy Child - Healthy Future” for the period of 2021-2025, which has been developed with the support of UNICEF.
UNICEF continued to support the Government of Turkmenistan in the implementation of the Country Preparedness and Response Plan for Acute Infectious Disease and the Immediate Socio-Economic Response Plan. In the framework of these plans, UNICEF has led the efforts of the UN agencies to support the Government in strengthening risk communication and has carried out several activities through the State Committee for TV and Ministry of Education. Specifically, UNICEF developed video and animation messages with preventive measures recommended by WHO, distributed posters with these messages in all schools across the country and held Hygiene Promotion and Handwashing campaigns. In addition, UNICEF has been supporting Turkmenistan by procuring and delivering essential medical equipment and hygiene supplies.
To understand the impact of the pandemic on the society and the economy, UNICEF, International Labor Organization (ILO) and the World Bank supported with the integration of COVID-19 Module in the regular Survey of State Statistics Committee of Turkmenistan. The results of the survey provided valuable information for monitoring the pandemic impact on the population.
In 2021, UNICEF and the Government of Turkmenistan resumed the work on child protection and established a full programme pillar on social and child protection addressing the social service workforce, childcare and justice for children’s issues within the Country Programme Document for 2021-2025. Through the social and child protection component UNICEF will build on our previous engagement to support social and child protection systems and related reforms which will enable to provide increasingly effective services to children and families in need. While we have engaged in the past on specific aspects of social and child protection, we are now significantly expanding this work in the next five years. In this context, the Presidential Programme on Socio-Economic Development for 2019-2025 envisages developing social sphere and developing specialized social services for vulnerable groups of the population. This is an important point to begin strengthening the existing child protection mechanisms for ending violence against children, the prevention of family separation and the provision of appropriate alternative care for children deprived of parental care and making sure that all children have access to justice when they need it.
In the area of social protection, UNICEF together with our sister agencies UNDP, UNFPA and UNODC is successfully implementing the first SDG Fund-supported Joint Programme on “Improving the system of social protection through the introduction of inclusive quality community-based social services”. Under the leadership of the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection and participation of key ministries and agencies, a new model of inclusive community-based services has been piloted at primary level since November 2020, and 45 Social Work Specialists were recruited and trained to provide community based primary social services in 20 etraps across Turkmenistan. In the framework of the same programme, during 2021, UNICEF piloted four new specialized social services, namely active support of families with children at the community level, support for families with children with disabilities, reintegration of children from the baby house, and social support for young people in the process of reintegration from residential institutions into the family and community.
This year, in line with the CRC recommendations and the NAPCR which stipulate children’s right to participate in the decision-making affecting their life, well-being and development and express their opinion (Goal 6), children have been given the opportunity to
express their views on the CRC Articles and the situation of children in the country. With great support of the Ministry of Education, Mejlis Milli Gengesh, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Office of Ombudsperson more than 150 children participated in summer camp sessions and completed questionnaires regarding their rights. The results will provide useful inputs to the alternative report of the Office of Ombudsperson to the Child Rights Committee.
To ensure full birth and death registration, UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Adalat and other involved ministries to create a first ever Register on civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS). Development of such a Register will provide data for more than 67 SDG Indicators across 12 out of 17 SDGs. As part of this support a legislation review on birth and death registration in Turkmenistan and Costed Road Map for establishment of CRVS Register were developed.
Continuing the efforts on SDG monitoring and knowledge sharing, this year, UNICEF in collaboration with State Statistics Committee completed the Progress Review on Child-related SDGs, which is publicly available at: https://www.unicef.org/turkmenistan/reports/progress-every-child-turkmenistan and will contribute to the mid-term review of progress on SDGs in Turkmenistan.
In preparation to the national reporting on Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2022, to generate evidence on national financial investments in children with disabilities, UNICEF in partnership with the Ministry of Finance and economy initiated the work on introduction of the CRPD compliant budgeting concept.
This year, we continued our effective collaboration with Ministry of Education and other education partners aimed at increasing access of all children in Turkmenistan, especially those with disabilities, to quality inclusive education and learning opportunities that develop their competencies and promote well-being. Early childhood development Inter-Ministerial working group was established which strengthened national coordination of cross-sectoral policy on young children and their families. UNICEF delivered 2,000 hand-sanitizers to the Ministry which are being used in schools of Turkmenistan for infection prevention and hygiene promotion. UNICEF has been working and will continue to work with the Ministry of Education on development of the national education management information system, digital education roadmap, and climate change adapted curriculum and teacher-training programs.
UNICEF would like to express its appreciation to all partners in the Government, civil society, media, academia, international organizations, diplomatic missions for the support and commitment in our joint mission to help children of Turkmenistan survive, stay healthy, learn, and develop to their fullest potential!