On 19 April 2021, community emergency response volunteers trained by the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) rescued Nazanin Motiee, a young Iranian woman who got lost on an unguided trek of the Passu Glacier in northern Pakistan.
It’s not unusual for a tourist to be dazzled by Passu, which is famous for its landscape, including the beautiful Passu glacier and the cone-shaped mountains called “the Passu Cones”. Passu attracts many local and international tourists every year who come to Gilgit-Baltistan for its mountain landscapes and trekking.
Nazanin left her hotel in the late afternoon, thinking she would have enough time to visit the glacier and return before dark. However, after climbing the glacier and visiting its sites, she got lost on her way back down. With nightfall approaching, Nazanin feared being stranded on the glacier.
Luckily, she had mobile phone coverage – not always reliable in the area – and was able to call friends in Islamabad for help. They in turn alerted local authorities. The Assistant Commissioner for Gojal village contacted AKAH’S local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) as soon as he heard about the situation.
The CERT volunteers immediately mobilised a search and rescue operation. A dozen volunteers mounted a search across different sites on the glacier. After several hours, despite dark and difficult terrain, they were able to locate and safely rescue Nazanin.
On reaching the valley with the help of CERT volunteers, Nazanin remarked, “It was unbelievable to get any help at the glacier site, a place far away from the valley. But after seeing the group of rescuers coming towards me at the glacier with torches in their hands at night, my feelings got out of control, I started laughing loudly, and I felt as if I was given a rebirth. Indeed, it was one of the blessed days of my life. It is quite amazing to see and meet young, trained emergency response volunteers in such a remote area. As a visitor, I really appreciate the active response they have given to me and are providing to villagers and other travelers.”
The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat’s active CERTs – 6,000 strong – respond to all kinds of emergencies across the country and ensure preparedness at the village level. It’s part of a community-led programme to manage natural and man-made disasters that AKAH has been running for more than 20 years through its Community Based Disaster Risk Management approach. CERTs are a cornerstone of the model, providing capacity at village level to respond to local disasters and emergencies to save lives and property.
For Nazanin Motiee, their presence in the remote areas of the mountains was a comfort. She said, “Their services definitely made this mountainous area safer for the traveler like me.”