FIRE AID leads emergency vehicles convoy 4000 miles from UK to Tajikistan
Life-saving emergency fire and rescue vehicles, equipment and training have been delivered to Tajikistan by FIRE AID, a partnership of UK emergency services and charities, supported by donors including the FIA Foundation.
Following successful deliveries of aid in 2015 and 2016, a team of FIRE AID members has returned to the mountainous Central Asian country of Tajikistan to donate three fire appliances, an ambulance, rescue equipment, and a 7-day training programme to the Republican Fire Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Tajikistan.
The team included representatives from UK charities Staffordshire Emergency Services Humanitarian Aid Association (SESHAA) and Eastern Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Transport (EASST) who delivered life-saving vehicles, equipment, and training to the Fire Service in the capital Dushanbe with support from EASST partner Young Generation of Tajikistan. Training was delivered too to the main fire station in the town of Khorog in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region in cooperation with FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance (an affiliate of the Agha Khan Development Network).
This first ever humanitarian aid convoy driven over 4000 miles from the UK to Tajikistan, was funded by the Woodford Charitable Trust and other generous supporters of UK charity EASST along with valuable support from the British Embassy in Tajikistan, public donations, and others – all united to save lives and to address some of the key risks facing the country.
A team of 30 people participated in the complex project delivery within Tajikistan over a period of three weeks, with many others involved in the preparation phase back in the UK, coordinated by EASST/FIRE AID’s Julie Utting and SESHAA’s Alf Wilson, during the eight months prior to the convoy departure.
For the volunteer convoy team, led by SESHAA’s Alf Wilson, the challenging journey started on 14th May when the 15-strong team from SESHAA began their long journey across Europe and Asia. With some adventures along the way, the intrepid convoy team arrived at the Uzbek-Tajik border on 31st May after travelling some 4000 miles through France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Motivating the convoy team throughout their tough journey was the knowledge that the vehicles they were driving would make a tremendous difference to the work of firefighters in Tajikistan. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), road fatalities are increasing in Tajikistan from 18.1 deaths per 100,000 population in 2010 to 18.8 in 2013 – six times higher than the UK despite a far smaller vehicle fleet. One reason for this high fatality rate is the lack of training and equipment to respond effectively despite highly motivated and capable crews. The Ministry of Internal Affairs in Tajikistan reports a further increase in 2014 with every 5th injured person reported as child or a teenager. As well as the daily and increasing risk of road traffic collision, Tajikistan is at high risk of natural disaster yet has limited capacity to prepare for or respond to disasters.
With this in mind, training continues to be a fundamental aspect to the project with a team of six SESHAA instructors returning to Tajikistan to provide instruction in road crash response and first aid. In Dushanbe, RTC training was delivered by volunteers Neil Pedersen and Steve North resulting in the making of Tajikistan’s first-ever RTC Instructors. Whilst Michael Maybin delivered first aid training to two groups of trainees, building on previous medical training conducted in Dushanbe.
A training programme was also conducted regionally outside the capital. Instructors Ron Morley, Matt Jenkinson and Tony Eyres travelled to Khorog, a town in the Pamir mountains of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region in the east of Tajikistan, accompanied and facilitated by Focus Humanitarian Assistance. The three instructors built on the training delivered in previous years and continued the focus on road crash response and medical training for firefighters and personnel of the Committee for Emergency Situations. The team viewed the devastation caused by flooding and landslides and to further discuss Khorog’s needs in terms of rescue capability.
Driving the Pamir Highway to and from Khorog, the team experienced first-hand the dangers of the roads in Tajikistan. Aid workers engaged in humanitarian work often find themselves in extreme environments – facing risks from natural disasters, terrorist attacks and crime. But the greatest risk they face is often unrecognised: road deaths. According to Paul Jansen, Executive Director of Fleet Forum, “Road traffic accidents are the number one killer of aid workers.”
With this in mind, reducing road deaths in Tajikistan is a core aim of the group. As well as improving the emergency service’s ability to respond to road crash fatalities, the team are actively working with EASST’s local road safety partner Young Generation Tajikistan to prevent road traffic collisions, work also supported by the FIA Foundation.
The continued successful partnership between the UK and Tajikistan was marked with an official ceremony and demonstration attended by the Minister for Internal Affairs, British Ambassador Hugh Philpott, Chief of the Fire Service General Ibrohimzoda and other dignitaries, who were able to view the donated vehicles and observe an excellent demonstration of the new skills learnt during the training.
For more information on the work of FIRE AID www.fire-aid.org