Uzbekistan is located on the Asian continent in the basin of the great Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers and encompasses a desert subtropical zone, lowlands and mountainous highlands. Doubly landlocked and home to almost 30 million people, Uzbekistan is Central Asia’s most populous country.
The Amu Darya river delta was once heavily populated, and it supported extensive irrigation-based agriculture for thousands of years. However, since the 1960s, the world’s fourth-largest inland sea – the Aral Sea – has shrunk to less than 50 per cent of its former area and decreased in volume threefold. Water resources and forests are shrinking, as well as being poisoned by windborne salt, fertilizer and pesticide residues from the dried bed of the Aral Sea. High salinity and contamination of the soil with heavy elements are especially widespread in Uzbekistan’s autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan, which is adjacent to the Aral Sea. The rate of anemia, respiratory diseases and other health problems has risen dramatically.
Due to its geology and location, Uzbekistan is also prone to hazards and risks including earthquakes, cross-border population movements into Uzbekistan, extreme weather, drought, floods, debris flows and landslides.
OCHA has engaged actively with Government and humanitarian actors operating in the country to strengthen the emergency response capacity through the development of an inter-agency contingency plan and the subsequent conducting of an inter-agency simulation exercise to test the plan.