FOCUS also facilitates cross-border activities like the construction of this underground drainage system in Shegnan, Afghanistan.Tajikistan is a mountainous country and prone to natural disasters as it is located along a seismic rift. The Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO), where the Pamir Mountains are situated, encompasses some of the world’s largest glaciers and is extremely vulnerable to flooding, mudslides, rock falls, avalanches, landslides and earthquakes. Many communities in GBAO are also located in remote areas, creating challenges in disaster relief efforts.
Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS), an AKDN affiliate, works to meet these challenges by fostering disaster-resiliency amongst at-risk communities while working with the Government and academic partners to strengthen disaster management capacities. FOCUS, in collaboration with local government and non-government partners, also responds during emergency situations by providing relief aid for affected communities in the wake of disasters.
Since its establishment in Tajikistan in 1997, FOCUS has responded to over 50 natural disasters providing relief aid to communities; its training, planning and disaster mitigation projects have reached nearly 200,000 beneficiaries.
Fostering Community-based Disaster Resiliency
FOCUS conducts awareness and preparedness activities at a community level.FOCUS undertakes projects to strengthen the abilities of local communities and institutions, especially those of the Government of Tajikistan’s Committee of Emergency Situations and Civil Defence (CoES) to cope with disasters through initiatives in information management, capacity building, community-based risk reduction and scientific knowledge generation. FOCUS also partners with government institutions such as Departments of Geology, Hydrometeorology and Seismology as well as the Ministries of Education and Health to build the capacity of local specialists to better prepare and respond to natural disasters.
Funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) for its Disaster Preparedness programme (DIPECHO), these projects operate in vulnerable areas of all districts in GBAO: Ishkashim, Roshtkala, Murgab, Rushan, Shugnan, Vanj and Darwaz.
Programme achievements include:
Furthermore, through DIPECHO, FOCUS in Tajikistan also piloted such interventions with its partner agencies FOCUS Afghanistan and Mountain Societies Development Support Programme Kyrgyzstan to expand disaster risk resiliency efforts to isolated, mountain communities in bordering regions of Badakhshan, Afghanistan and Chon-Alai, Kyrgyzstan.
The Savnob School in the Bartang Valley has been reinforced by FOCUS with seismically safer construction techniques.Reducing Disaster Risks through Structural Protection Measures
Since 2001, FOCUS, with financial assistance from the Government of Japan, has partnered with the Government of Tajikistan and village communities to implement community-based structural mitigation projects. These projects have benefited more than 6,000 village community members.
In addition to building the resiliency of communities, these projects also aim to promote the development of grassroots civil society structures, provide an economic stimulus to the local economies and foster cooperation between local communities and the Government.
Reducing Risks to Glacial Lake Outburst Floods
FOCUS has implemented a Remote Geo-hazards Capacity Building and Monitoring Project, through which it seeks to foster resiliency in local communities to the threat of glacial lake outburst floods.
Project achievements include implementation of disaster risk reduction efforts in 13 at-risk communities; capacity building of government specialists; remote hazards assessment in Zarafshan Valley, the district of Jirgital and GBAO; and organisation of a Regional Climate Resilience workshop in Dushanbe, held in June 2010.
Furthermore, through this project an additional 49 communities were identified at risk to remote geo-hazards in Zarafshan Valley, the district of Jirgital and GBAO for which FOCUS has advocated to the Government and donors for further interventions.
Fostering Resiliency to Earthquake Risks
FOCUS’s earthquake safety projects disseminate knowledge through a cascading model of “Train the Trainer” workshops. Lead instructors facilitate workshops for local instructors, who then pass knowledge on directly to the local population and through schools, hospitals and community centres.
In collaboration with its partners, FOCUS has conducted trainings to raise awareness and promote earthquake preparedness. These sessions have directly benefited more than 1,600 communities and over 20,000 people in Tajikistan.
Reducing Disaster Risks in the Bartang Valley
FOCUS was the implementing agency for the social component of the Lake Sarez Risk Mitigation Project (LSRMP). The project aimed to reduce the vulnerability of communities situated along the Bartang and Pyanj River valleys, as these areas are prone to natural disasters.
Gabions, which FOCUS supports villagers in the Bartang Valley to construct, protect roads and river banks from natural hazards.FOCUS was the implementing agency for the social component of the Lake Sarez Risk Mitigation Project (LSRMP). The project aimed to reduce the vulnerability of communities situated along the Bartang and Pyanj River valleys, as these areas are prone to natural disasters. A particular emphasis was given to preparedness activities in the event of an outburst flood from Lake Sarez. FOCUS implemented training of emergency response activities and facilitated the installation of an emergency radio (Codan) communications system.
In an effort to further enhance the resiliency of local communities in the Bartang Valley, FOCUS was awarded a Japanese Social Development Fund (JSDF) grant in 2003. The JSDF project consisted of multiple components: mitigation of disasters, rehabilitation of roads, and enhancement of communications capacity in the valley. Through these activities, FOCUS was able to reach more than 150,000 beneficiaries.
FOCUS worked with communities to rehabilitate roads in the Bartang Valley to facilitate travel, particularly during the difficult winter months. The installation of Very High Frequency (VHF) and High Frequency (HF) radios in the project areas has enabled efficient emergency response.
Communities were also provided with assistance to undertake relatively small-scale projects such as flood protection measures, diversionary channels and other activities to protect against natural hazards that are common to this region.
Reducing Earthquake Risks in Schools
In collaboration with the Government of Tajikistan and the United States Department for Agriculture, FOCUS piloted a School Safety Initiative Project. The project identified 12 schools in GBAO where suites of disaster risk reduction interventions were applied. Activities included conducting risk assessments and seismic structural retrofitting; non-structural mitigation interventions included trainings to raise awareness about the risks associated with earthquakes.
In total, 15,000 local school children, teachers and villagers have benefitted from the project. More importantly, the project has demonstrated that risk reduction strategies, including structural retrofitting of schools, can be implemented in a cost-effective manner.
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