The World Bank has identified Tajikistan as one of the disaster hot-spot countries in the world, with over six million people affected by natural disasters between 1980 and 2010.
In 2009, FOCUS, which is now part of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, piloted the School Safety Initiative Project in collaboration with the Government of Tajikistan and the United States Department of Agriculture. The project retrofitted 12 schools in three districts across Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) to improve their resistance to earthquakes.
The schools identified had been constructed approximately 20 to 30 years ago through traditional collective community labour called ‘hasahr’ and were structurally deteriorating. As part of the project, the schools went through comprehensive structural safety interventions including the seismic netting of school walls, strengthening the school foundation with additional cement and the placement of additional pillars to support school ceilings and roofs. The structural safety interventions were combined with earthquake awareness and preparedness trainings for more than 15,000 participants. All interventions were in accordance with national and international guidelines.
In January 2010, an earthquake struck the Vanj District of GBAO where three of the retrofitted schools were located. These schools withstood the tremors of the earthquake without incurring damage.
“We can work with relief knowing that our children are protected and safe in the school,” said one of the representatives of the parents committee.