Then and Now: Improved capacity for emergency response in Tajikistan
Since 2015, with the support of the Department for International Development and the UK Embassy in Tajikistan – and under the umbrella of FIRE AID – EASST has been implementing a project in Tajikistan with the Staffordshire Emergency Services Humanitarian Aid Association (SESHAA) working in partnership with the Tajikistan Ministry of Internal Affairs and supported by the Young Generation of Tajikistan. Tajikistan is the poorest country in Central Asia, and the fire service is tragically under equipped. During an initial visit to the country the project team visited a fire station housing just a single 25-year old vehicle to serve 50 villages and a key international road connecting Tajikistan to neighbouring countries.
The Chief of the Republican Fire Service warmly welcomed the initiative to improve the country’s capacity for emergency response. Within six months the first donation of fire-fighting PPE and medical equipment was delivered to fire and ambulance services in Dushanbe and to the main fire station in the town of Khorog in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, along with ‘train the trainer’ instruction on how the equipment should be used. This was supplemented in 2016 with hydraulic extrication equipment essential for road crash response, and additional training by UK volunteer firefighters in emergency post-crash medical care.
In 2017, a convoy of three fire appliances and an ambulance were driven over 4,000 miles through 10 countries from the UK to Tajikistan. These donations, along with other equipment and ‘train the trainer’ instruction on road crash response, were delivered by UK fire fighters to create Tajikistan’s first ever cadre of specialist road crash response trainers.
This support is already helping Tajik emergency services respond to disasters faster, safer and more effectively. In 2019 we supported the delivery of a second convoy of vehicles along with training by Women in the Fire Service (a UK based organisation) to provide basic mountain rescue and first aid skills to women in rural communities in the Pamir Mountains – an area of increasing tourism but remote and difficult for emergency services to access – as well as rope rescue training by SESHAA (vital when vehicles drive over cliffs). The training will help save lives during the ‘golden hour’ of emergency rescue to prolong life until other emergency services reach the scene.
Post-crash response is vital to saving lives and has been an essential Pillar within the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020. By giving someone first aid within the first 10 minutes after a crash, their chances of surviving increase by 60-70 per cent. Unfortunately, despite often highly motivated and capable crews, post-crash care is generally poorly resourced in the EASST region.
Improving capacity for emergency response and post-crash care can make a vast difference to saving lives. In 2016 the WHO estimated that improving emergency care “could address over half of the deaths in low and middle income countries”. For this reason, one of EASST’s core aims is to build resilience and capacity for emergency response across the region: to improve post-crash response and save lives.
EASST is one of the founding members of FIRE AID, an association of UK organisations and services with a mutual interest in providing ethical and sustainable donations of fire and rescue aid and training to countries facing the greatest challenges. Among other areas of work, FIRE AID provides guidance for donation projects, manages an equipment database, and provides a forum for discussion on issues relevant to its members. In 2019, FIRE AID was the proud winner of the Premier Award at the 2019 Prince Michael International Road Safety Awards for its contribution to post-crash response.