Rural women balancing housework and manual farm labour seen as especially vulnerable to health problems. The burden of manual work placed on women in rural Tajikistan leaves them in a poor state of health, which is being blamed for high rates of infant and maternal mortality.
Naima Rahimboeva, deputy head of the main maternity hospital for the northern Soghd region, says that one newborn died for every 28 births there in January to June this year.
“At our maternity hospital, 3,072 women gave birth, 70 per cent of them from the countryside. Over that period, 109 deaths of newborn babies were recorded, 80 per cent attributable to rural areas. Of the babies who died, 91 per cent were premature,” she said.
Officials say ten women died in childbirth in the Soghd region in the first six months of 2015. Most were from country areas, and most deaths were attributed to pre-existing health conditions rather than complications.
Married women in Tajikistan are often left to manage the household alone, as hundreds of thousands of men are away working as migrant labour, mostly in Russia. These wives also have to do heavy manual work in the fields to keep crops and livestock going, or take paid jobs to supplement their incomes.
All this takes a heavy toll on women’s general state of health, and anaemia, diabetes and dietary problems are common.
“Women in rural areas simply don’t take proper care of their health,” said Mahbuba Sultonova of Nasl, an NGO in northern Tajikistan.
Tajikistan’s healthcare system is underresourced and struggling to provide adequate maternity care. Since last year, the health authorities in Soghd have kept a centralised electronic register of all pregnant women with a view to ensuring they get the right services and medication.
This audio programme went out in Russian and Tajik on national radio stations in Tajikistan. It was produced under two IWPR projects: Empowering Media and Civil Society Activists to Support Democratic Reforms in Tajikistan, funded by the European Union, and Strengthening Capacities, Bridging Divides in Central Asia, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Norwegian foreign ministry.