A lifeline for the elderly in Tajikistan’s capital

Published: 21 October 2011 13:41 CET

by Ganjina Bobokulova

At the entrance of an anonymous building in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, we meet Baba Valya, a 76-year-old woman who is coming back from the grocery store empty handed. “The price for eggs went up again,” she says sadly. She lives with her husband and they do not have any children.

Dyed Vitya, who is 82, complains about the insignificant pension of about 25 dollars that he receives. “I worked in the textile complex for 46 years in three shifts, and now we have been forgotten,” he says. “Yet, the main thing is that we have a house, and it is thanks to the Red Crescent Society of Tajikistan (RCST), we have Sabohat, a nurse who visits us, and we hope it will last for many years to come.”

Then we meet an optimist, Elena Stepanovskaya, an 89-year-old lone woman who, in spite of her age, has young and strong spirit. “Ah, our saviours have come,” she smiles, when she sees the RSCT nurses.

“I am not old, I am in full vigour,” she continues. “This is thanks to God; thanks to the Tajik Red Crescent; thanks to my nurse that comes twice a week, helping me in my housework, checking my blood pressure, talking to me, and listening to my stories. Now she is not only a nurse but my daughter as well.” 

Mirjamol Bobo, a 74-year-old man, thanks Salomat, one of the RCST nurses, for having confirmed his good blood pressure. He says: “If everybody were like her, life would be wonderful. I wish to every elderly person a nurse like Salomat.” Mirjamol lost his son three months ago, and his daughter is in Russia. She left Dushanbe with her husband and children during the civil war. Sometimes she calls and they talk on the phone, but unfortunately, she cannot afford the trip home to see her father.

In April 2011, the RCST Dushanbe city branch, with the financial support of the Japanese Red Cross Society, launched a home visiting project, to serve some 110 elderly people. However, there are 7,000 people like Elena, Mirjamol, Valya and Vitya in Dushanbe city and just 12 nurses involved in the project. Their main task is to visit the elderly and help them clean their house, bring them newspapers, medicines, check their blood pressure and render medical assistance as far as possible.

“Thanks to this project, we could provide our nurses with bags containing first aid kits and other medical equipment,” says Ergash Melikovich, the project coordinator. With some spare funds, the RCST was able to provide food parcels and hygiene kits as well. These presents caused tears of joy in many elderly people, who have not seen such items in many years. “I serve ten people and all of them are different. I do not only visit them twice a week, but I try to find time to call them, talk to them, support them morally and ask whether they need anything,” says nurse Salomat. 

The project cannot satisfy all the needs of this target group. Some are have disabilities and are trapped in their apartments due to the lack of sufficient and effective equipment and can only move within a room. Others are in need of good treatment, eye operations and hearing aids, things that the average pension may not stretch to.

Baba Lena affectionately calls her nurse Shurochka, giving the Tajik name in a Russian diminutive, the ultimate tone of affection. She says that Shurochka is the only person she sees: “Shurochka, my Shurochka what would I do without you?”