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In 12 of 29 CEECIS countries are at risk of not developing to their potential due to poverty, stunting or both.
Khorezm provides inspiration for family-strengthening initiatives
On 11th and 12th April, Sascha Graumann, UNICEF’s representative in Uzbekistan, Yulia Oleinik, Chief of Social Policy and Furkatjon Lutfulloev, child protection specialist, visited several projects for children and young people in Khorezm, taking inspiration from the innovative ways that President Mirziyoyev’s stated ambition of strengthening families are being fulfilled in the region.
In Urgench, UNICEF met with Gulnoza Abidova, National director of SOS Children’s Villages to witness first-hand the profound effect of family-based care. At the SOS social centre, they met psychologists and social workers who help prevent the break-down of families, and support children to integrate well into mainstream schools. In Khorezm, SOS is pioneering a successful family-based care project; currently, 6 SOS families, living in local mahallas, care for 36 vulnerable children. This offers children the benefits of growing up, with siblings, in a loving environment that is as close to a traditional Uzbek upbringing as possible. UNICEF met with an SOS mother to 6 children aged between 8-18. She told them: “Here, the children grow up in a family, in a good environment, just like other kids. Here the door is always open, they play with friends.”
Later, the brand new Khorezm Youth Union building provided an opportunity to meet with its dedicated staff, who not only offer a wide range of after-school and vocational classes for the region’s youth, but who are specialised in offering support for those with the challenge of disability. Nilufar, herself a para-athlete, works with volunteer psychologists, encouraging families to bring their disabled children to the centre so that they too can realise their potential.
At the Khorezm Khokimiyat, Sascha Graumann met with local officials and commended the region’s energetic focus on preventing children, including those with disabilities, from entering institutions: “The institutionalisation of children should always be a last resort because we know that from research children who grow up in institutions, in all areas of development, do worse than those who grow up in families.”