Food distribution has always been a critical aspect of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat’s (AKAH) COVID-19 relief efforts, but it has been particularly important in addressing the economic crisis caused by the pandemic as many households lost income and vital remittances due to lockdowns in Tajikistan and abroad.
Bakhtibegim Shoikova, a 58-year old resident of Rijist village in the Roshtqala district of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) struggled to feed her family of eight. The entire family depended on the insufficient single income of her working son. “We were in dire straits even before COVID-19, and the pandemic only made it worse,” she said about the food basket her family received from AKAH. “Without this assistance, we couldn’t possibly have survived as other sources of support had dried up.” She noted that the support, comprising necessary items including flour, rice, and oil, must keep coming as many families are continuing to face hard times, with no end in sight. So far, AKAH has distributed over 151,000 food packets to some 3,446 households with 17,175 individuals in total across 30 towns and villages in GBAO.
In addition to food supplies, AKAH has mounted a significant humanitarian and emergency response to the pandemic, including distribution of essential medicines and medical supplies and equipment to institutional and community partners; logistical aid to convey these supplies to hard-to-reach areas of the country; setting up and manning quarantine centres and health posts, and setting up handwashing posts.
Delivering humanitarian relief to remote locations, which has been a logistically complex task in the past, has made the added risks of the ongoing pandemic even more challenging. To protect its staff as well as vulnerable communities, AKAH is deploying additional protective measures, including providing PPE for staff and volunteers in the field, strict protocols to minimise physical contact in aid distribution, etc.
AKAH’s humanitarian activities are being undertaken in collaboration with relevant agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), as well as with the support of donor agencies including the Swiss Agency for Development (SDC), the European Union, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the Polish Centre for International Aid.
The Government of Tajikistan has recognised and commended these activities at both the regional and national levels. In July, the Governor of GBAO, Yodgor Faizov, noted upon accepting a significant donation of emergency and medical supply items from AKAH, “We are indeed grateful to the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat for the ongoing support. The assistance and support that has been provided since the outbreak of the virus in the Republic of Tajikistan has saved lives, enabling medical workers to provide medical assistance safely and without any limitation thanks to the PPE that has been also provided by the agency.”
For another Rijist resident, 63-year old Fayzullobekova Layli, whose family became dependent on food aid after her husband contracted the virus and could not work, the humanitarian assistance may have saved their lives in more ways than one. “AKAH has had a strong presence here in our village throughout this pandemic,” she said. “The volunteers have provided us knowledge about preventing and managing the disease, with some distributing masks and sanitizers. We’re grateful that in our time of need, we can rely on them.”