The head of the UNICEF office in Turkmenistan Christina Weigand said for "Turkmenportal" held today in Ashgabat round table, devoted to assessing the impact of the Aral sea crisis and environmental degradation on the health and nutrition of mothers and children.
– The Aral Sea has been steadily declining since the 60s of the last century, after the rivers that fed it were involved in irrigation projects. Since then, the size of the sea has decreased by about 90%, and the remaining water has become saltier and, as a result, the fishing industry of the region has been damaged. But not only the fishing industry suffered from the consequences of the disaster on the Aral Sea. Environmental degradation associated with water retreat also implies a high degree of contamination by pesticides and other chemicals in the Aral Sea region, as well as changes in climatic conditions in the area. This greatly affected both the health of the population and the environment in nearby settlements, including in Dashoguz province.
In 2015, the Committee on the rights of the child expressed concern about the devastating impact of the Aral Sea crisis on children living in the surrounding areas and developed recommendations.
To implement them, UNICEF and the Ministry of health and medical industry initiated an assessment of the health and nutritional status of mothers and children in Dashoguz province earlier this year. The evaluation will serve as a basis for future policies and actions to improve the health and nutrition of children and mothers who are at significant health risk from environmental degradation in the Aral Sea region.
This assessment is very timely. Last year, His Excellency the President of Turkmenistan held a regional meeting on the Aral Sea with the participation of the heads of state of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. All five Central Asian countries are the founders of the International Fund for saving the Aral Sea. At the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, His Excellency the President also called on the UN member States to support the initiative to create a special UN program for the conservation of the Aral Sea basin. This demonstrated Turkmenistan's commitment to solving the problem of the Aral Sea and its impact on the population.
Pregnant women and children are disproportionately more vulnerable to environmental risk factors. Therefore, overcoming the crisis associated with the Aral Sea requires a multisectoral approach with a focus on the most vulnerable groups.
UNICEF stands ready to support the government of Turkmenistan, together with other UN agencies, in implementing the recommendations of the evaluation report.
I would like to take this opportunity to Express my deep appreciation for the excellent cooperation with the government of Turkmenistan and especially with the Ministry of health and medical industry. I am sure that together we will be able to find solutions that will help improve the health and nutrition of children and mothers in Dashoguz province, – said Christina Weigand.