Nazri Azizova is sitting on the floor of her small house in southern Tajikistan where a WFP staff member has just brought a small miracle into her life. The 72-year-old woman, thin and worn out, a lifetime of hardship reflected in her eyes, has just been informed that her family will get a two-month supply of staple food commodities from WFP. Her eyes fill with tears at the prospect of this unexpected relief after one of the longest and coldest winters in Tajikistan in living memory.
Nazri’s family was selected for the Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) programme because she meets all the criteria for vulnerability. She has only a few kilograms of flour and a few potatoes in the kitchen of her dilapidated house. She has no indoor drinking water supply and no livestock she could sell or slaughter for food. Her small piece of land has no vegetable garden because there is no one to tend it – Nazri is full occupied, day and night, caring for three adult children, all of them mentally disabled. She depends on the charity of her neighbors to get through.
When Nazri was young, she was married off to a mentally disabled man. Of her six children, four were born with the same condition. After her husband and eldest son died, she was alone to look after the other three. In a country where by unbreakable tradition the elderly are supported by their children, Nazri has spent her entire life supporting them and struggling to make ends meet. Usually, they don’t. Her pension and the children’s disability benefits come to 300 somoni a month ($US 61), which cannot cover keep pace with the rising prices of food in Tajikistan.
The WFP VGF programme is intended to help people like Nazri get through the worst time of year – the months between the end of winter and the new growing season. In May 2012, WFP gave this lifeline to approximately 90,000 people in the country, people who had lost cattle and crops to the cold and who had exhausted their firewood and food supplies. The food distributed was purchased with donations from Japan and Russia.
Nazri lives in Temurmalik district, which WFP food security assessments showed to be among areas the hardest hit by the winter. Wherever possible, WFP will follow a VGF distribution with Food-for-Work projects that will create a community asset – like irrigation canals or a drinking water supply – that improves people’s livelihoods.
But for Nazri, right now it is enough for her that she and her enfeebled family will be able to hang on a little longer, thanks to WFP.