Improving capacity for emergency road rescue in Tajikistan’s Pamir Mountains

News, Post-Crash Response, Tajikistan

The Pamir Highway in Tajikistan is a main trade route across the mountains of Central Asia and one of the most dangerous roads in the world. Sections of the road are unpaved, narrow, steep and at high risk of flooding and landslides, with deep canyons at the road edge. For a low-income country, maintaining and ensuring safety on such difficult roads is an enormous challenge not faced by higher-income countries. What’s more, it is an area with a relatively high population and increasing numbers of tourists but it remains extremely remote and difficult for the emergency services to access.

Through FIRE AID, EASST has been working in Tajikistan with the Staffordshire Emergency Services Humanitarian Aid Association (SESHAA) and the Young Generation of Tajikistan since 2015 to build the capacity and resilience of local emergency services to respond to road traffic crashes. In this time we have learned a great deal about the needs of the local fire serviced as well as developing a productive on-going working relationship.

During a 2017 visit a team of SESHAA instructors found that one way in which local services could improve rescue times for road casualties was though better equipment and training for rope rescue in the mountainous regions. As such, last month in partnership with the UK Embassy in Dushanbe, we supported a team of volunteers from FIRE AID members SESHAA and Women in the Fire Service (WFS) to travel to Tajikistan to deliver essential equipment for rope rescue including stretchers and other first aid equipment donated by Kent and South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Services.

The deliveries were accompanied by training for local fire services in the capital Dushanbe as well as all-female search and rescue teams in the mountain regions in rope rescue and immediate emergency care. Search and rescue teams made up of solely women are active in this area because they often stay in the villages whilst the men are away working and therefore first to respond. As a result, a group of 14 women were invited by the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat from rural areas along the Pamir Highway to participate in the training which was led by female firefighters from WFS, supported by London Fire Brigade. The training and equipment will allow the search and rescue teams to extract and stabilise casualties within the ‘golden hour’ of emergency rescue. This will significantly increase chances of survival and may even help promote recovery before the emergency services reach the scene. This is crucial to improving post-crash care and has the potential to prevent up to 50% road traffic fatalities in a country where road deaths are disproportionally high.

“This international project has been so rewarding proving that women are just as skilled as men within fire and rescue services. The appreciation for both the training and equipment donations has been overwhelming and the knowledge, skills and confidence gained by us all will allow us to be more effective on a day to day basis”

Instructor Emily Butler from London Fire Brigade