On July 5, the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), in partnership with the Emergencies Committee of Tajikistan – under the auspices of the Government of Tajikistan – UNHCR, other UN Agencies, government and other humanitarian partners, conducted the second large-scale disaster simulation exercise designed to respond to an emergency situation related to a massive influx of refugees.

According to the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), the real-time scenarios – with the responders split over three sites – enabled a test of the emergency response capabilities of the Government and associated agencies.  The responders were located at the National Emergency Operations Center (EOC), AKAH’s EOC in Dushanbe and a field site 50 kilometers from the EOCs in Qaratogh of Hisor Valley, which served as the hosting and registration site for the refugees.

The aim of the simulation was reportedly to strengthen the coordination mechanism, build capacity and coordination skills for future responses and identify gaps in response and coordination during emergencies.

The first simulation exercise, conducted last year, provided an opportunity for the emergency agencies to address such gaps.

All the relevant institutions were reportedly able to mobilize resources on the ground, coordinate and collaborate together and build a platform for mutual engagement which supported communities at risk with dignity and professionalism. 

AKAH deployed dedicated Emergency Management Staff, its professionally trained Search and Rescue Team (SART), and provided resources, including 24 tents (donated by the Swiss Agency for Development and Coordination in Tajikistan), a mobile antenna to provide cellular network and internet, non-food items, hygiene kits. The agency also staffed an Emergency Operations Centre to support the National Emergency Response Centre.

The simulation exercise provided an opportunity for AKAH to put into practice the Memorandums of Understanding that have been signed with UNHCR, WFP and other UN Agencies, and AKAH’s longstanding close partnerships with the Government Emergency Response Mechanism.

“Our long-standing collaboration with the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat and other international organizations enables us to strengthen the preparedness measures, coordination and response to natural or man-made disasters in Tajikistan,” said Jamshed Kamolov, the head of the Main Department of Population and Territory of the Emergencies Committee under the Government of Tajikistan.  “This year’s simulation exercise was based on the achievements and learnings of the last year simulation.  In addition, we were able to jointly work on the gaps that were identified during the last year event, and came up with the better preparation, response and coordination this year.”

Ms. Rosa Minasyan, Protection Officer, Officer-in-Charge, UNHCR further pointed out that “it is critical that countries facing possible influx follow the lead of governments in countries such as Tajikistan, to work hand in hand with humanitarian actors present in their country, to enhance planning, preparation and better leverage on existing resources.”

The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), which merges the capabilities of Focus Humanitarian Assistance, the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services, and the Aga Khan Development Network’s Disaster Risk Management Initiative, focuses on preparing for both sudden and slow-onset disasters.  AKAH works to ensure that people live in physical settings that are as safe as possible from the effects of natural disasters; that residents who do live in high-risk areas are able to cope with disasters in terms of preparedness and response; and that these settings provide access to social and financial services that lead to greater opportunity and a better quality of life.  Initially, priority areas of AKAH will include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and India.