In Zingerya, a remote and hard-to-reach village in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province, where temperatures fall dramatically over the winter season, an avalanche occurred on 25 February 2021, sweeping away someone who was crossing the road. The local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) trained by the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) immediately reached the site and rescued the trapped person. They provided first aid to the victim and transported him to the nearest Basic Health Centre.
It is not easy for an external emergency response team to get to remote villages in northern Afghanistan, so AKAH has taught villagers to be self-reliant. It has trained over 702 CERTs and 187 Avalanche Preparedness Teams (AVPTs) in Afghanistan, comprising more than 19,000 volunteers. These teams are equipped with basic search and rescue toolkits and personal protective equipment (PPE) to support those in need until external aid is deployed. They are responsible for any emergency response in their assigned areas.
Shahbaz Khan, Head of the CERT team in his community, remarked that the CERT training helped him learn emergency response procedures that were needed by the local population in emergencies. He believes that such training and activities are very important, especially in remote areas prone to multiple hazards.
AKAH takes the training a step further. Disaster preparedness and community alert procedures have been established to reduce causalities and to ensure the safety of at-risk communities. In the case of Zingerya, as the avalanche was blocking the road between the village and the incident site, the CERTs and AVPTs reopened it. In fact, they reopened more than 25 kilometres of road, including parts covered by avalanches, from Shughnan to Ishkashim District of Badakhshan, as well as hard-to-reach areas of Darwaz that were blocked due to heavy snow and avalanches.