In Worst Case Scenarios, Mother's Fund a Bargain

Shulabibi Ismatova stands in her yard following her recovery. The burns on her neck and chest are visible.
Shulabibi Ismatova stands in her yard following her recovery. The burns on her neck and chest are visible.
Tajikistan Single Year Assistance Project
USAID Gives Rural, Isolated Women in Tajikistan a Better Chance to Survive When Emergencies Arise
"I can't imagine what my children would have done on that terrible day if there had been no Mother's Fund", said Ismatova.

A few pennies per month may mean the difference between life and death for a woman in the mountainous villages of Tajikistan. There, in such isolation, USAID and partner Mercy Corps have been helping mothers prepare for worst-case scenarios since 2009.

Some of this assistance comes by way of training community-selected volunteers to improve women's knowledge on health, agriculture and disaster preparedness. Another has been the creation of a Mother's Fund – a community-managed pool of money – to respond to the emergency health issues of mothers and their children. Every mother contributes as much as she can to the fund and it's used as a form of informal health insurance when money is tight.

Shulabibi Ismatova, a 38-year-old housewife, is a resident of Pildoni Bolo, a remote village in Tajikistan's Rasht Valley. Her husband is a migrant laborer in Russia, along with many other men who work abroad to provide for their extended families. Ismatova lives alone with her mother-in-law and four young children.

One day, while starting a fire in the tandur (traditional oven) to bake bread, a fuel explosion caused severe burns on Ismatova's throat and chest. With her husband away and her children and mother-in-law in shock from the accident, no one was able to help her. For the poor family, a ride to the hospital was cost-prohibitive.

After hearing the commotion, Mohiyon, a neighbor and an agriculture volunteer with the program, came to their aid. She gave them $11 from the Fund and organized a car to take Ismatova to the hospital, 16 miles away. Although Ismatova was in a critical condition, she has recovered after nearly a one-month stay.

"I can't imagine what my children would have done on that terrible day if there had been no Mothers' Fund," said Ismatova. "Those days nobody believed that I would recover. I wish prosperity to the Mercy Corps volunteers that helped me survive."

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Last updated: July 23, 2014

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