четвер, 30 квітня 2020 р.

COVID-19 in Tajikistan

I have received on the ground information from Tajikistan that the number of infections among college students, including medical students in the university, is growing day by day. International organizations should pay attention to the fact that Tajikistan has closed schools and kindergartens, but not universities nor other jobs. No official quarantine has been introduced in Tajikistan, and the number of deaths due to Covid-19 is increasing day by day. International human rights lawyers and human rights organizations should recognize that the President personally has ordered that case of Covid-19 be identified instead as pneumonia. Recently the news site Akhbor published an article with a video where one can hear the voice of doctors speaking about the fact that people are dying of Covid-19, not pneumonia. Unfortunately, the face of the doctor is not visible in the shot, although one can see relatives crying at the loss of a young person due to Covid-19.

Civil servants have also reported that President Rahmon has not allocated the international financial aid that he has received from International Financial Institutions, the European Union and the United States toward the protection of Tajikistan’s population from Covid-19.
I am appealing to all human rights organizations and activists to raise their critical voices and demand that the Tajik authorities immediately allocate the money received for the fight against Covid-19 to support our sick population, medical workers, students, prisoners, and other at-risk groups.

Perhaps the Tajik government believes that those outside the country will not be able to confirm the reality of what is happening on the ground. This is a profound mistake.

Doctors and nurse are complaining that they are being forced to buy personal protective equipment (PPE) at their own expense in order to protect themselves. Medical workers in Tajikistan should not under any circumstances be forced to choose between purchasing PPE out of their own pockets or catching a deadly disease.

As the president of the country, it is the responsibility of Emomali Rahmon to provide all medical institutions and medical workers the PPE they require to stay safe while treating patients.

I sincerely hope that the Tajik authorities start thinking about the health of the population of Tajikistan, which is worsening rapidly. Even the “disinfectants” authorities are spraying on the streets are simply industrial soap, proper disinfectants.

A fifth-year medical student at one university reported to me that at her institution at least 50 medical students with high fevers have been removed, but authorities have not acknowledged this and are instead actively trying to hide it.

I also want to note that in the city of Kulob there is no quarantine imposed on places of work. But it appears that the illness might already be more widespread in Kulob and southern Tajikistan than in Dushanbe. This is why the government should have imposed a lockdown on every corner of the country weeks ago and why it is necessary to provide medical workers with the personal protective equipment they need in every medical facility—not only select ones in Dushanbe.

The Tajik government must immediately apply a quarantine to every corner of the country to stop the spread of this deadly virus. Moreover, the president should spend the millions of dollars and euros he has received in the form of aid on making all Covid-19 treatments free and accessible to the entire population, including medical workers. Dear Emomali “Berdymuhamedov” Rahmon, no amount of special “advice,” magic herbs, plants, foods, or anything else will help. The government must make testing, contact tracing, and free medical treatment widely available for the public. Protect medical workers and the population and stop making them pay for what you should provide for free! People in Tajikistan barely survive. Now is the time to let them live!

A high number of migrants who are returning from Russia to various parts of the country as well as to Kulob are coming back infected and are being hospitalized. Many medical workers have been infected with the virus. Our medical workers are too scared to speak openly about this with the press and the press itself is under constant pressure to avoid critical reporting. Some medical workers who were sick have been forced to leave the hospital before fully recovering. The Ministry of Health has been selling protective personal equipment to doctors which were donated by China, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan and supposed to be provided for free. The PPE is extremely expensive by Tajikistan’s standards. Medical workers receive between 800 and 1000 somoni per month and simply do not have the resources to purchase them. While in Dushanbe and Khujand the prices authorities are charging are a bit lower, the prices are higher in Kulob.

Prices in Kulob

The shoes cost around 200 somonis, the coveralls cost 500 somoni. The glasses cost 60 somoni, the caps 100 somoni and 10 masks cost approximately 30 somoni. Some medical workers are told that they will be fired if they do not agree to purchase the PPE. We know that the US and EU have sent more than a million dollars and euros to Dushanbe to aid in the fight against coronavirus. The president publicly asks his son—the mayor of Dushanbe and now speaker of the Senate—to lower prices but now Tajikistan is witnessing runaway increases in prices for garlic (100-150 somonis per kilo) and other items. Where is our government looking? Instead of providing the population what it needs the government is allowing price increases which are exploitative and threatening people who speak the truth.

I live in Warsaw where the government sent out text message surveys to each family seeking to learn how many family members are in each home and offering special help. While Poland is not the richest country, it is taking steps to try to help and do right by its people. At least, authorities are not scaring us and our children! But in Tajikistan authorities are trying to scare the people and use the fear of returning to the civil war as a way to keep people in place. How long must we wait until President Rahmon understands? For the second month in a row I have been under lockdown. Despite all the problems the Polish government is helping its citizens and even its non-citizen residents. Today I am not asking, but demanding of the President of Tajikistan that look closely at the problems of medical workers and the public at large. The human rights community should do everything it can to ensure that the financial assistance that has been sent to Tajikistan will be used accordingly, ensuring that medical institutions and workers have access to PPE and that the people of Tajikistan, including in my native city of Kulob, have the treatment they need at no additional cost.


Shabnam Khudoydodova

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