Tajikistan is a mountainous country prone to frequent natural disasters, such as earthquakes, mudslides, floods and avalanches. The geography of the country makes emergency preparedness and response challenging, with disasters often affecting high mountain areas and remote villages. Natural disasters continue to have a devastating impact on communities: taking lives; destroying homes and infrastructure; and disrupting livelihoods.
IOM’s presence in Tajikistan began with humanitarian assistance programmes during the Tajik Civil War of 1992-1997. This included transportation and reintegration assistance for internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees and former combatants. IOM was again active in 2001 during the Afghan refugee crisis in southern Tajikistan following the fall of the Taliban.
Today, IOM’s emergency preparedness and response activities are aimed at capacity building, coordination and relief. IOM established the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) for the Committee for Emergency Situations and Civil Defence (CoES) in Dushanbe to ensure robust disaster response coordination mechanisms.
IOM is also responsible for the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) sector in Tajikistan, co-chairing it with CoES. As such, IOM is responsible for the coordination of CCCM planning and response throughout the country. During emergencies, IOM provides coordination, technical missions, and capacity building related to displacement sites.
During previous earthquakes and mudslides in Tajikistan, IOM has also been engaged with shelter response, providing winterization support for IDPs and upgrading of shelters.
IOM’s work in the field of in community stabilization in Tajikistan is focused in various ways on fostering cohesion and building resilience among communities adversely affected by high levels of return migration, cross-border crime, and natural disasters. Tajikistan has undergone both a post-socialist and post-conflict transition, with major ruptures in society and the economy, many of which are still being felt today.
Close to one million Tajik citizens are migrant workers abroad, with the main destination being the Russian Federation. A lack of employment opportunities, particularly in rural areas, results in many people- predominantly men- seeking livelihoods outside of the country. The absence of men in rural areas has had long-term effects on the social fabric of Tajikistan and is made more complex by the large-scale return of migrant workers who are banned from re-entering Russia, a phenomenon ongoing since 2013. The labour market in Tajikistan cannot absorb the large number of people returning to already strained communities
Districts on the border with Afghanistan are among some of the hardest hit by the re-entry ban issue, as well as being affected by instability emanating from Afghanistan. In particular, this relates to the narcotics trade and associated violence, kidnappings and other types of cross-border crime. These instances have a damaging effect on cross-border relations and community cohesion.
Creating livelihood alternatives is a key part of IOM’s community stabilization work in Tajikistan and focuses on reintegrating returned migrants with re-entry bans, providing opportunities to youth, and supporting single female headed households of migrant families.
IOM provides in-kind grants to community members in districts bordering Afghanistan in both GBAO and Khatlon regions to start new enterprises. Many business ideas supported by IOM are for cross-border businesses, which help to stimulate trade and build relationships between Tajik and Afghan communities as well as reduce incentives for smuggling goods. Popular businesses which IOM has provided equipment and materials for include: livestock breeding; sewing workshops; carpet weaving; food conservation; bee-keeping ; carpentry; welding; cargo transportation; and car-repair. Since 2015, 210 businesses have been supported through in-kind grants.
In partnership with the Adult Training Centres of Tajikistan (part of the Ministry of Labour, Migration and Employment) IOM has provided vocational training to over 800 people. Participants on the courses are primarily returned migrants, youth, and single female heads of households. The courses are officially certified by the Ministry of Labour, Migration and Employment and have greatly improved the employment rates of vulnerable community members. The introduction of new skills into communities facing multiple challenges continues to have a stabilising effect. Types of courses offered include: fish-farming; textile weaving; ICT; welding; bee-keeping; baking; and accountancy.
Since 2015, IOM has completed 21 community infrastructure projects across Badakhshon and Khatlon. The completed projects are used by over 20,000 people. The community infrastructure projects improve socio-economic conditions in vulnerable border communities and also act as an important source of employment.
The decision on what community infrastructure projects are built is led by the communities themselves, in cooperation with IOM and local government structures. To date, IOM has
constructed or rehabilitated: markets; cold storage facilities; electricity supply systems; schools; irrigation channels; drinking water supply systems; primary medical care points; toilet blocks; and river bank reinforcements.
Community Cohesion and Cross-Border Cooperation
As well as strengthening cross-border livelihoods, IOM also facilitates community dialogues between Tajik and Afghan communities living along the border. This is achieved through cross-border exchanges of civil society groups and community leaders to discuss shared challenges and joint solutions related to life on the border.
Over 600 people have attended cross-border cultural exchanges involving musicians and performers from Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Cross-border sporting exchanges have also been facilitated by IOM, with the construction of 16 volleyball courts in remote border villages in Afghanistan which have played host to matches between Tajik and Afghan youth. These events are important in building trust and positive relations between the two sides.
Tajik and Afghan youth play volleyball on an IOM constructed court as part of cross-border community dialogue activities.