There are 10 years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. That’s the ambitious to-do list for prosperity and peace that the countries of the world agreed upon at the United Nations in 2015.
In Uzbekistan, the United Nations and the government decided to take the pulse of the country and its priorities. This exercise would enlist thousands of people across the country, collecting their stories and perspectives on what should be next for the UN in their country.
The UN in Uzbekistan held 49 dialogues with people nationwide, bringing together more than 5,500 people, including those most vulnerable to poverty, poor health, and other such indignities. Another 35,000 people have taken the #UN75 survey.
Several of them spoke about COVID-19 and the need for relief from the pandemic, which has lasted since at least 15 March, when the first cases were recorded.
Nilufar: “Take care of the future”
Nilufar is a single mother, a university student, an employee of the regional Ministry of Health—and she volunteers by collecting and distributing food in her community.
“At times I would ask myself, ‘why I am doing this, putting my life and health at risk?’ However, whenever I delivered aid to the elderly, people with disabilities or needy people, I would get my answer. I’m educated, I speak several languages. Friends said to me, why don’t you leave, for your own safety? I replied, “if people like me leave, who’s going to take care of the future? The notion of leaving no one behind matches perfectly with my belief in a better future. We need to be more collaborative, more passionate and to help each other.”
Rajab: “It’s a long road”
Rajab is a 19-year-old student in Western Uzbekistan. At age 13, he lost his leg in a car accident.
“After the car accident, I went through a deep depression, but with support of my family and relatives I decided not give up on my dreams and studied hard to enter university. Before COVID-19, I’d meet my friends every day, we’d talk for hours. Life was different. Now, during the lockdown, it’s hard to be in isolation, not seeing friends, not being able to talk to them offline. On top of that, during the lockdown, both my parents lost their jobs, which threatened our ability to pay for things. The future should bring new opportunities, with accessible and affordable healthcare, affordable access to digital technologies, respect for human rights and decent employment for youth. It’s a long road, but you have to keep walking. See you at #UN100! It’s hard to imagine, but I will be 44 in 2045. Let’s cross our fingers that we all be will be better off.”
Muborak: “What will be their future?”
COVID-19 took a lot of people by surprise, including 48-year-old Muborak, a banker from Tashkent.
“At the beginning of July, I contracted coronavirus and was hospitalized. In my hospital ward, there were two elderly women with me. Despite my anxiety, uncertainty, and depression, hope was the only way to stay positive. We always tried to help each other, sharing happy memories and plans for future. I am sure that it was showing kindness to each other that helped us all to make it through; kindness healed us and brought us a glimmer of hope. Looking at my children, I often catch myself thinking, what will be their future? Will they be able to find a decent job? Will the rule of law be observed and what will the environmental situation in Uzbekistan be?”
Ruslan: “Recovery will take some time”
Ruslan is a 43-year-old businessman in Tashkent. 2020 was marked by the birth of his second son, and an end to all his plans for the year—including opening a new auto parts store. Ruslan is active in a virtual community of businesspeople, helping to buy food and medicine for seniors in Uzbekistan.
“My business was on the verge of collapse, it was psychologically difficult to stay at home and not be able to communicate in person, especially not to see my parents. We will defeat the invisible enemy (of the coronavirus), and we need to show kindness and support each other, especially the elderly. My most recent photo with my parents dates back to 2011 and I blame myself for not spending much time with them. The pandemic has brought me closer to my parents, it’s made all of us stronger. It’s too early to relax though. Recovery will take some time. The international community should strengthen solidarity between nations and people and make a priority of universal access to healthcare.”
Produced by UN Uzbekistan. Story by Anvar Meliboev, National Public Information Officer, UN in Uzbekistan, with editorial support from Paul VanDeCarr, Development Coordination Office.