Tajikistan: severe cold and energy supply crisis threatens health

Copenhagen, 12 February 2008

Tajikistan is facing a growing humanitarian crisis. United Nations agencies warn that the health of large parts of the population is already affected, as the country struggles with a cold and energy emergency.

The central Asian republic, home to about 7 million people, is currently experiencing its harshest winter for three decades. The average temperature is around minus 15 degrees Celsius, dropping to as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius at night. Roads between several districts are blocked by heavy snowfall, affecting supplies of food and other basic products.

The cold wave has also led to severe problems with the water supply system, as supply lines either break or freeze.

The energy problems are seriously affecting the health sector: 50% of all health facilities in the four major districts of Tajikistan - Kulyab, Rasht valley, Kurgan-Tube and Sogd oblast - report severe power shortages and complete blackouts. According to a WHO assessment, all hospitals in the Kulyab district are without water supply. Hospitals and heath facilities in other districts are facing serious water shortages. Maternal morbidity and cold-related diseases are reported to be on the increase.

Together with the Government, United Nations partners present in the country, including WHO, are urgently assessing the immediate needs that must be met as soon as possible. WHO has already started making medical supplies available to the people who are most at risk.

“The energy crisis puts thousands at risk. There is particular concern for the health of elderly people, children and pregnant women,” says Dr Marc Danzon, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “Every effort must be made to get medical and energy supplies to the country.” Dr Danzon will visit Tajikistan on Sunday, 17 February, to identify urgently the health needs and priorities to counter the crisis.

The United Nations is preparing a joint appeal for international assistance to address the most urgent needs.

For more information contact:

Dr Gerald Rockenschaub
Regional Adviser, Disaster Preparedness and Response
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Scherfigsvej 8, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
Tel.: +45 39 17 15 51. Fax: +45 39 17 18 18
E-mail: GRO@euro.who.int


Ms Liuba Negru
Press and Media Relations Officer
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Scherfigsvej 8, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
Tel.: +45 39 17 13 44. Fax: +45 39 17 18 80
E-mail: LNE@euro.who.int