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  • Asfiyo helps her team prepare for a refugee simulation exercise.
Meet Asfiyo: A Pamiri woman saving lives through search and rescue

My name is Asfiyo and today I am exceptionally proud to be a part of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) team in Tajikistan as a member of the AKAH Search and Rescue Team. Today I had the opportunity to participate in a very high-profile national exercise where the Committee for Emergencies and Civil Defence for Tajikistan simulated the response to a major earthquake in my hometown of Khorog. 

There is no place like home, and my journey with protecting my friends and family began when I joined the AKAH Team as a Community Emergency Response Team member many years ago. I and my fellow team members felt passionately about being on the first line of defence for Khorog in an emergency, leading our neighbourhoods and community to safety in those early hours of an emergency and making sure that everything was in place for when the Government, AKDN and International response took place.

Over the years, training with AKAH and with the Committee of Emergencies we learned so much about what it means to be responsible citizens in our country, and the value of working together as a team with the Government and AKAH to make sure that we are all speaking the same language and working to the same high standards.

As a volunteer I was overjoyed when AKAH gave me the opportunity to join their professional Search and Rescue Team. It has been one of the most demanding jobs I have ever had, physically, emotionally and spiritually, training in high mountain rescue, swift water rescue and all the other skills that are needed in our terrain.  Knowing that in what we do, we are representing the AKDN institutions to both the communities and our Government is a tremendous honour and one that none of our team takes lightly. It has made me so proud to see the partnership that has been developing between AKAH and the various government agencies in Tajikistan, particularly the Committee of Emergencies and the geology and environmental protection agencies and the way that this partnership has opened the windows for us on how deeply the Government is working to make our lives better and how much it values our institutions.

Today, as a part of this simulation, I had the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with the AKAH volunteer teams from Khorog and with the Committee of Emergencies as we simulated a 7.5 earthquake in Khorog. For the first time in my experience we had volunteers, Committee of Emergency Responders, the fire department, security agencies, health and education ministries, AKDN teams and the entire United Nations and NGO teams working together with a common purpose to save lives. I’m proud of our team and I’m proud that the world has the faith in us that it does to be a part of something so important for the country.

The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, as a member of the National Rapid Emergency Action Coordination Team (REACT) for Tajikistan and as the convener for the REACT team for Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) in Tajikistan, participated in the first national simulation exercise with the Government of Tajikistan on an inter-ministerial, UN and International community response to a major earthquake in GBAO. AKAH Response teams and volunteers engaged with UNOCHA, UNDP, WFP, IOM, UNHCR, UNICEF, The Red Crescent Society, and OSCE over three days which included a tabletop simulation followed by a field simulation and which included search and rescue, registration and assistance to survivors.