Following a successful delivery of aid and training in November 2015, a team of FIRE AID members returned to the mountainous Central Asian country of Tajikistan in September 2016 to continue their effective cooperation with emergency services. The team included representatives from the Staffordshire Emergency Services Humanitarian Aid Association (SESHAA) and EASST who delivered life-saving extrication equipment, firefighting PPE, and other rescue items to fire 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 of 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.

Tajik firefighters and officers with members of the UK team and Ambassador Philpott 

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.

Adam Gent delivers first aid training at the Dushanbe Training Centre

With this in mind, the team returned to Tajikistan to provide instruction in road crash response and first aid and much-needed equipment to the firefighters in Dushanbe.  Several sets of hydraulic cutting equipment were donated with associated training delivered by SESHAA’s volunteers Neil Pedersen, John Kitchener and Damian Armstrong and expert first aid training delivered by Adam Gent (pictured above). Firefighters receiving the training were using the equipment for the first time – equipment that will enable them to rescue casualties from vehicles that usually would be trapped. Held at the Dushanbe Fire Service Training Centre, the course was visited by UK Ambassador Hugh Philpott who saw first-hand the quality of the training delivered and the impact of the donations.

Damian Armstrong, Neil Pedersen, and John Kitchener familiarise firefighters with the rescue equipment

The continued partnership between the UK and Tajikistan was marked with an official ceremony at the Fire Service Training Centre with the Chief of the Fire Service, senior representatives, and the Deputy British Ambassador Jonathan Layfield who were able to observe an excellent demonstration of the new skills learnt during the training.

Those receiving the training demonstrate their new skills using the UK-donated equipment and a casualty centred approach to rescue 

Accompanied and facilitated 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 the same instruction in road crash response and first aid to firefighters and personnel of the Committee of Emergency Situations and much-needed equipment to the key fire station of the region. The team viewed the devastation caused by flooding and landslides and to further discuss Khorog’s needs in terms of rescue capability.

The SESHAA instructors delivered practical and theoretical training

Driving the Pamir Highway to and from Khorog, the team experienced first-hand the dangers of the roads 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 team in Khorog in the GBAO Region

With this in mind, reducing road deaths in Tajikistan is a core aim of the group. As well as improving the emergency service’s ability to respond to road crash fatalities, the team are actively working with EASST’s local road safety partner Young Generation Tajikistan to prevent road traffic collisions.  Kier Group’s donation of high visibility clothing was made to the Young Generation Tajikistan to aid with their road safety projects and this will continue to be a core focus of the team ongoing.

Kumush Murtazokulova receives the Kier-donated high vis clothing from EASST and FIRE AID’s Julie Utting which will be used in Young Generation of Tajikistan’s road safety campaigns

Further focusing on the prevention of road traffic collisions, SESHAA’s Damian Armstrong delivered a road safety lesson to school children at School Number 28 in the Firdavsi District of Dushanbe in which encouraged the youngsters to think about their safety on the road and to encourage their parents to do the same.

Damian Armstrong talks to school pupils about the importance of staying safe on the roads

EASST and the FIRE AID team would like to thank Ambassador Philpott and the British Embassy, FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance, General Ibrohimzoda, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and Young Generation of Tajikistan for their support.

The project management team Chris Wood and Alf Wilson of SESHAA and Julie Utting of EASST/FIRE AID held a series of meetings throughout the 2 weeks to plan for future phases of the mission.  

With special thanks to: Holmatro, Cornwall FRS, Staffordshire FRS, Newcastle FRS, Alex Hitch and Kier Group, The Embassy of Tajikistan in London, Malika Giles and Peter Stevenson of FOCUS, Naimjon Mirzorakhimov and Kumush Murtazokulova of Young Generation of Tajikistan, Shuhrat Sharipov of the British Embassy in Tajikistan, and the FIA Foundation.

Further photos can be found on the FIRE AID Facebook page: Tajikistan 2016

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