overwhelmed by financial burdens taking their own lives.  By Bakhtior Valiev in 

UZBEKISTAN: BLOOD SHORTAGES CAUSE CONCERN  Doctors say lives at risk because 
people have no incentive to give.  By Yana Sergeeva in Tashkent

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Indications that people overwhelmed by financial burdens taking their own lives.

By Bakhtior Valiev in Khujand

Economic hardship resulting from the global financial crisis is to blame for a 
spate of suicides in the northern Tajikistan region of Soghd, victims’ 
relatives and experts say.

A mother of three who lives in the provincial capital Khujand said her 
car-dealer husband committed suicide after some of his clients failed to pay 

“He was in the business of buying and selling imported cars. He took loans, a 
lot of money. He did not tell me about his problems but I understood that he 
had been simply let down,” she said.

On top of her bereavement, the woman has had to deal with some of her husband’s 
creditors, “Now they come to me and demand that I repay his debts.”

“Where do I get this kind of money? If I had been working I would have tried to 
pay it back little by little. It is good that others have cancelled his debts.” 

A mother of two from Bobojon Gafurov district not far from Khujand lost her 
husband of 11 years.

They shared a house with his two brothers and their families. While her husband 
was working they managed to make ends meet but things changed when he lost his 

“His brothers did not like it and told us to move out. My husband did not see 
any way out and hanged himself,” she said.

“After the 40-day mourning period, they [the brothers] threw me out of the 
house. It was a terrible time for me. I went to live with my relatives, and 
then with my sister. Kind people gave me a helping hand and found me a place in 
a hostel. I found a job to feed my children.” 

The Soghd region, traditionally better off than other parts of the country 
thanks to its industry, has been hit hard by the economic downturn. 

The crisis has not only cut local incomes and the number of jobs but also 
remittances from thousands of labour migrants. Some 150,000 seasonal workers 
from Soghd are working abroad, mostly in Russia but also in Kazakstan, 
according to official figures.

Najiba Shirinbekova, who heads a non-governmental group called Law and 
Prosperity, told IWPR, “The latest information indicates a particularly high 
level of poverty in the region. This is because factories are standing idle 
because of the financial crisis and the winter energy crisis.” 

In the first six months of the year, labour migrants from Soghd sent home more 
than 200 million US dollars, compated with last year, when the figure for the 
same period was more than 300 million dollars.

There are no official records of how many suicide cases are directly caused by 
the economic crisis, though police sometimes note “financial problems” when 
recording deaths. 

From January till the end of June, the number is given as 15. However, the 
figures do not distinguish between those living in long-term poverty and those 
whose dire financial situation has been compounded by the economic slowdown. 

The interior ministry office in Soghd said that in the first six months of the 
year police registered 92 cases of suicide and 52 attempted suicides, 25 more 
than the figures for the same period last year. 

Despite a lack of clarity in suicide statistics, there are some indications 
that people are taking their lives under the stress caused by the economic 

There are more men than women who committed or attempted suicide - 84 and 78 
respectively. Many men are of working age and the country has more women than 
men because of the numbers working abroad. 

An expert in gender issues, Rano Bobojonova, said financial problems are often 
the cause of suicide in men whereas among women the leading cause is domestic 

Men carry the responsibility of being the breadwinner and are expected to be 
able to provide for the family, “Society is used to seeing in a man a strong, 
brave person who takes care of his family.” 

But in times of economic crisis they struggle to fulfil this role and that can 
make them depressed, according to Bobojonova.

“They are not supposed to cry or show weakness. They have nowhere to turn and 
that is why they may take such a radical step,” she said.

Six suicide cases in the last month involved unemployed men aged between 22 and 
60, the local interior ministry office said. 

Commenting on suicide statistics, the coordinator of the crisis centre 
Gulrukhsor, Mavzuna Hokimboeva, said there is a widespread perception - and law 
enforcement bodies are no exception – that suicide is linked with mental 

“According to our information, to a large extent it is financial difficulties 
in the family that lead to the rise in this phenomenon,” Hakimbaeva said. 

Medical doctor Malika Saidalieva said that psychological illnesses tend to 
emerge against the backdrop of various factors including financial problems, 
“This could be the loss of a loved one, losing a job and a number of other 

She explained how the economic hardship could lead to suicidal thoughts, 
“Constant stress, a weakened immune system and nervous breakdown will lead to 
neurasthenia. [This brings] persistent thoughts including a desire to commit 

Neurasthenia is a condition whose symptoms include fatigue, anxiety and 

A 45-year-old resident of Khujand who gave his name as Samad told IWPR how he 
was driven to the brink of suicide when he lost his job.

He tried to find work but failed to get a stable job and earnings from 
temporary work were meagre. In his desperation, Samad turned to alcohol. He and 
his wife quarrelled constantly.

“I was ready to take my own life and even pictured in my mind how to do it. But 
one evening my youngest daughter sat on my lap and said, ‘Daddy, I love you 
very much’,” he said. “I felt reborn and realised that there are more important 
things than one's own worries.” 

The decline in remittances puts a strain on people who have used funds sent by 
family members working as labour migrants as collateral to take out loans. 
Microcredit organisations accept a bank’s letter confirming monthly transfers 
from a relative abroad as a guarantee for repayment.

The head of crime prevention among minors and young people at the interior 
ministry, Lieutenant-Colonel Rahimjon Abduvaliev, told IWPR that this year’s 
suicide statistics included cases of men who took their own lives because they 
had problems repaying a loan. He was not able to give the number. 

Barbara Kreuter, a consultant with the German Development Service advising the 
Tajik Association of Microfinance Organisations, confirmed that many people are 
struggling with loan repayments. 

“This year delays in repayments have risen four times compared to 2008,” she 

The rise in suicides has been noted in the Soghd region over the last couple of 
years but the latest increase in attempts has attracted the authorities’ 

The local government in the northern region of Soghd last month decided to set 
up a special commission to work on how to prevent suicide attempts.

The head of the department for social and cultural affairs and interethnic 
relations in the city administration of Khujand, Zulfia Umarova, said the 
commission plans to organise meetings and talks. Members of the commission will 
include a deputy of the Tajik parliament, a psychologist, a cleric, a police 
officer and a writer.

The administration is enlisting the help of mosque leaders. 

“They will be asked to talk in their sermons about being patient and thinking 
of responsibility towards the family,” Umarova said.

Bakhtior Valiev is an IWPR-trained journalist in Tajikistan.


Doctors say lives at risk because people have no incentive to give.

By Yana Sergeeva in Tashkent

Uzbekistan will have to start paying more donors to ease a major shortage of 
blood that is costing lives, say medical professionals despite official denials 
that there is a problem.

Students are effectively being forced to donate en masse, getting paid for 
their blood in bags of sugar. Some, from the impoverished countryside, are 
being made ill by the process, they say.

There is money for a few donors to be paid 25 or 30 US dollars a time but 
mostly the Uzbek system relies on voluntary donors.

The director of the Scientific Research Institute of Haematology and Blood 
Transfusion, SRIHBT, of the Uzbek health ministry, Hamid Karimov, said over the 
last decade the number of volunteers has fallen dramatically to four or five 
per 1,000 people compared with what is regarded as the norm of ten times that 

He said there had been an increase in donations in the first six months of the 
year compared to last year but did not give details.

This followed a government programme aimed at encouraging blood donors adopted 
last February. 

“More than 1,000 SRIHBT staff members volunteered to give blood. The overall 
number of volunteer blood donors over [the last] six months exceeded 5,500 
people,” said Karimov.

The head of the administrative department at the same institute, Zair 
Saidvaliev, said the problem of blood donor shortages is common in many 
countries and is not unique to Uzbekistan.

Saidvaliev believes that putting the emphasis on volunteering is the way 
forward, “In our country there is a tendency to give blood for free and in the 
foreseeable future we will fully switch to voluntary blood donations.”

Medical professionals say that the shortage is caused by a combination of the 
government’s reluctance to pay blood donors and a lack of publicity to 
encourage voluntary contributions. 

Also, unlike the Soviet government in the past, the Uzbek authorities are no 
longer able to order a vast army of public sector workers to give blood for 

Medical staff say people most at risk include those with blood cancers, 
oncology patients, women giving birth, patients undergoing operations and 
victims of accidents.

The shortage covers reserves of fresh blood and blood components such as plasma 
- the liquid in which the blood cells would normally be suspended - and 
thrombocytes, the cells that promote clotting.

The head of haematology at SRIHBT, Mamura Nigmatova, said, “We have 65 patients 
with leukaemia. One female patient has a nose bleed from yesterday. Her blood 
does not clot.”

“She urgently needs plasma but we are still waiting for it to be delivered. 
There is a shortage of donor blood and its components in our country.”

Her colleague from the department, haematologist Eldor Iskhakov, who is in 
charge of scientific research, confirmed that the shortage had reached a 
critical level, “In extreme situations we loose the patient due to a lack of 
donor blood.”

Iskhakov said that doctors themselves give blood up to five times a year, 
“Unfortunately the majority of our citizens are not conscientious enough.”

Most people only donate when their relatives fall ill, Iskhakov said.

At the department, IWPR was told that in July, a 25-year-old woman named Malika 
died from an acute form of leukaemia after doctors failed to secure the 
transfusions of thrombocytes and plasma that she needed.

Another doctor at the department who wished to remain anonymous said, “The 
death toll among our patients [with leukaemia] is very high: two or three out 
of ten die from bleeding.

“What triggers their death is that they are not given timely transfusions of 
blood or blood components. They were just not there when patients needed them.”

He said available reserves of blood and its components were a fifth of what was 
required, “Many patients with advanced blood disorders might need up to two 
litres of blood components equalling four litres of blood.

“Over the course of treatment they could require blood from 60 donors.” 

The shortage can be more acute for particular blood types. Sapura Ibrahimova, 
who heads the children’s department of the same institute, said, “Sometimes we 
don’t have enough group A blood and plasma of all types and have to look for it 
at all the blood transfusion centres.

“If a patient arrives with an advanced condition, we don’t have time to find a 
supply of the right blood group and he dies.” 

She said that sometimes they face the difficult choice of who should get 
treatment first, “There are 50 children being treated in our department. At 
least ten of them need daily transfusions of blood and its components. We order 
it from our blood transfusion centre but receive only half of what we need.”

The City Oncology Hospital in Tashkent has been forced to delay even urgent 
cancer operations, said the head of the blood transfusion department, Ilhom 

“Due to a shortage of funds our department is not functioning for one and a 
half months, so we have to place an order at the city blood transfusion centre 
and at the institute for haematology,” he said.

The government’s programme targeting student donors brings its own problems, 
students and university teachers point out.

University students are considered easy prey for the government’s campaign. 
Gone are the days of the Soviet Union when authorities were able to rely on 
employees of state enterprises and other public sector workers to donate blood 
en masse. These days the private sector that employs a majority of the people 
is reluctant to allow blood donors to take paid time off to give blood.

In addition, unlike the Uzbek authorities, the Soviet government was known for 
allocating huge sums to the country-wide promotion of voluntary blood donations.

According to the head of the blood donor promotion team, Mashhura Muhamedova, 
“All the universities in Tashkent have been divided between the city’s five 
biggest blood transfusion centres.”

In the last campaign, the most donations came from students at the Paediatrics 
Institute – 350 people. The University of World Languages and the Institute for 
Chemical Technology supplied 300 students each and IT University provided 250 
people, said Muhamedova.

She said that each student volunteer donates 420 grammes of blood and receives 
two kilogrammes of sugar in recompense. The students also have to undergo blood 
tests to detect infections such as HIV-AIDS and hepatitis C and B.

But the giving is not as voluntary as the authorities suggest. According to a 
second-year student from the IT University, just before the summer holiday all 
students from his group - with one exception – were ordered to give blood. 

He said that they did not even get what they were promised, “Last year we were 
given two kilos of sugar; this year only one kilo. I don’t know why.

“Instead of having two days off we had to attend lectures and take notes with a 
bandage on one arm. Some felt unwell.”

Some teachers point out that many students come from the countryside where 
living standards are worse than in the city. They tend to have a weakened 
immune system and suffer from anaemia due to their poor diet. These students 
were also forced to give blood although they are supposed to be excluded.

An anonymous teacher from the same university confirmed that some students 
fainted after giving blood. She said many students come from poor families and 
do not eat well. 

Medical professionals say that the best way to tackle the problem is to provide 
financial incentives for giving blood.

The head of a blood transfusion centre in Tashkent, who refused to give her 
name, said that although some donors are paid, a lack of funds means she turns 
many away. Donors can get 25 dollars for giving 280 millilitres of concentrated 
thrombocyctes or 30 dollars for plasma. 

Other measures that the government is partially implementing include media 
campaigns to raise awareness of voluntary blood donations and publicising the 
profiles of individuals who regularly give blood.

Yana Sergeeva is the pseudonym of a journalist in Uzbekistan.

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