Following a successful scoping visit in March 2015 funded by UK DFID, a team from FIRE AID returned to the mountainous Central Asian country of Tajikistan in November 2015 to continue their cooperation with emergency services in Tajikistan. The team included representatives from EASST and SESHAA who delivered firefighting PPE and medical equipment to fire and ambulance services in the capital Dushanbe and to the main fire station in the town of Khorog in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region in cooperation with FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance (an affiliate of the Agha Khan Development Network), EASST partner Young Generation Tajikistan, and sponsored by the UK Embassy in Tajikistan – all united to improve resilience and emergency response, and to address some of the key risks facing the country.

Instructors from both fire and ambulance services were idenitifed to receive the necessary familiarisation training for the equipment in Dushanbe. Ambassador Philpott awarded them with certificates in recognition of the UK donation

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), road fatalities are increasing in Tajikistan from 18.1 deaths per 100,000 population in 2010 to 18.8 in 2013 – six times higher than the UK despite a far smaller vehicle fleet.  One reason for this high fatality rate is the lack of training and equipment to respond effectively despite highly motivated and capable crews. The Ministry of Internal Affairs in Tajikistan reports a further increase in 2014 with every 5th injured person reported as child or a teenager. As well as the daily and increasing risk of road traffic collision, Tajikistan is at high risk of natural disaster yet has limited capacity to prepare for or respond to disasters.

With this in mind, the team returned to Tajikistan to provide ‘train the trainer’ instruction and much-needed equipment to the fire and ambulance services in Dushanbe. Donations included firefighting PPE, thermal imaging cameras, spine boards and large quantities of medical equipment for the ambulance service. The donation was marked with an official handover at Dushanbe’s main fire station with representatives of the Ministry for the Interior, the Fire Service, the Traffic Police, Ambulance Service and the British Ambassador Hugh Philpott.

Familiarisation training for firefighters in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region

Accompanied by Focus Humanitarian Assistance the team travelled to Khorog, a town in the Pamir mountains of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region in the east of Tajikistan, to provide ‘train the trainer’ instruction and equipment to the key fire station. As with Dushanbe, firefighting PPE, thermal imaging cameras and medical equipment were officially donated to the crews and meetings were held to discuss the risks faced in Khorog. Focus Humanitarian Assistance representatives took the team to view the devastation caused by the June flooding and landslides and to further discuss Khorog’s needs in terms of rescue capability.

The flooding in Khorog covers over 80 homes

Driving the Pamir Highway back to Dushanbe, the team experienced first-hand the dangers of the road in Tajikistan.  Aid workers engaged in humanitarian work often find themselves in extreme environments – facing risks from natural disasters, terrorist attacks and crime. But the greatest risk they face is often unrecognised: road deaths. According to Paul Jansen, Executive Director of Fleet Forum, “Road traffic accidents are the number one killer of aid workers.”[1] The poor road conditions of the mountain road caused an articulated lorry to become lodged on a corner of the Pamir Highway. The team discovered that just a few kilometres after passing the lorry, it left the road, crashing into the river below and killing a driver.

The Pamir Highway

In addition to providing training and equipment, a key objective of the team was to plan what is hoped to be a larger scale donation of aid in 2016. A successful roundtable discussion was held with the Deputy Minister for the Interior, Fire Service, Traffic Police, Health Service, Focus Humanitarian Assistance and Young Generation Tajikistan to gather information, receive feedback and inform project stakeholders on the team’s aspirations for 2016.

Those attending the roundtable included the Deputy Minister for the Interior, representatives from the fire, police and ambulance services, Focus Humanitarian Assistance, Young Generation Tajikistan, and the FIRE AID team

The FIRE AID team would like to thank Ambassador Philpott and the British Embassy, FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance, General Ibrohimzoda, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, and Young Generation Tajikistan for their support. Members of the team also met with UNICEF and the Swiss Cooperation Office Tajikistan to discuss possible future cooperation.

The team included representatives of FIRE AID members SESHAA and EASST and Focus Humanitarian Assistance

Further information about the project development will be published on the FIRE AID website in due course. For further information please contact us.

Further photos can be found on FIRE AID’s Facebook page

[1] ‘Traffic accidents: the main cause of aid worker deaths in developing countries,’ The Guardian, 22 November 2013.