In 2017, newly married and looking forward to graduating from her bachelor’s degree in management, Anisa began noticing problems with her eyesight. As she completed her last year at the State Financial and Economic University of Tajikistan, she started to wear glasses and hoped that would fix the problem.
One day, her sight became considerably worse and she was barely able to see, even with her glasses. Doctors told her that she needed surgery, and that without immediate action, she would become permanently blind.
A community-based approach to healthcare
Earlier that year, Anisa travelled home to visit her family in Pitob, a village in the mountainous Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) region of Tajikistan. During her visit, her mother told her about community-based health financing (CBHF) schemes. In these schemes, participants contribute money to a fund throughout the year, and the savings are loaned to community members as needed.
The schemes typically cover the costs of emergency medical care, transportation, medication, diagnostic testing, and other services as agreed upon by the members. Participation is voluntary, and all villagers are eligible for membership, helping them increase their access to health care while lowering the financial burden.
Anisa liked the idea of helping her community in this way and joined a scheme in Dushanbe in 2017 and in Pitob village in 2018.
Since Thrive Tajikistan launched in 2018, it has helped form 36 community-based health financing (CBHF) schemes in the Khatlon and GBAO regions, and support 218 existing CBHF schemes in GBAO.
Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Aga Khan Foundation, the Thrive Tajikistan program is working to promote socio-economic development for people across the country.
Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, CBHF schemes have been critical to helping community members access diagnostic services, treatment, and transportation. They have been able to finance personal protective equipment and antiseptics, as well as food for COVID-19 patients.
Setting sight on the future
Within two weeks of learning she needed surgery, Anisa and her mother traveled to Russia for the procedure. They planned to ask for a loan in Russia to pay for the eye surgery and have her mother stay to work in the country until the loan was paid off.
That’s when Anisa’s CBHF scheme found out about her surgery and stepped in. Her scheme representatives reached out to the Pamiri diaspora in Russia. The Pamiri community supported Anisa and her family through her health crisis, helping them find a doctor and negotiating a lower price for the surgery. Meanwhile, the CBHF scheme in Pitob gathered enough money to pay 10 percent of the surgery cost. With this money, Anisa and her family were able to afford the surgery she needed.
“When people hear the story of me almost losing my sight, I see pity in their eyes, but I personally consider myself a very lucky and blessed person,” Anisa says. “Now I walk without glasses and see properly.”
Today, Anisa is studying for her Master of Arts in Accounting and enjoys spending time at home with her husband and three-year-old son.
Anisa is grateful to CBHF schemes and urges people to join similar groups. She even brought two of her classmates into her scheme.
“After joining the CBHF scheme, I really feel that the money from the scheme is a special barakat (blessing),” she says. “Everyone whom I know is saying that they benefit from CBHF.”