Humanitarian aid in favour of the population of Tajikistan affected by floods and landslides

Amount of Decision: Euro 350,000
Decision reference number: ECHO/TJK/BUD/2004/02000

Explanatory Memorandum

1 - Rationale, needs and target population.

1.1. - Rationale:

On 13 and 14 July, torrential rains accompanied by heavy winds and landslides resulted in flooding in the Varzob district of Tajikistan, causing first of all, substantial damage to infrastructure. The major Dushanbe-Anzob-Istarafshan road was severely affected at several points and key bridges were destroyed or damaged. Although flooding is a normal phenomenon in Tajikistan at this time of year, the water levels this year have been much higher than in previous years.

In addition to the damage to infrastructure, the floods have caused severe problems for the water supply to the capital, Dushanbe. The Varzob river which provides up to 60% of the city's water supply, was highly polluted by landslides. Dushanbe's water system, which is in terrible condition following years of neglect, is unable to cope. On 14 July, tap water was deemed unfit for human consumption and recommendations were made not to touch the contaminated water. Water supplies were rapidly shut down, with consequently over half of the 600,000 population in the capital having no access to water at all. Despite the warnings there is a serious risk that many people will become infected with disease through collecting and using unsafe water. From 15 July water has been provided by authorities from 44 water trucks. The volume serviced is however insufficient to cover needs.

On 16 July, the capital's water supply system was temporarily reopened, with warnings from authorities against consuming it or using it for any purpose. In the absence of other water sources, there are high risks that the population will nevertheless use this water. Because of high levels of sediments in the water, it seems that no proper chlorination will be feasible for at least 2 to 3 weeks. The water system's filters have also been de-activated. In the meantime, the weather forecasts announce additional rains and water levels are still high.

Because of the use of water on the day of the events, as well as continued collection and use of water from unsafe sources since 14 July, massive outbreaks of water-borne diseases are expected within the next 10 to 14 days. Consequences could be disastrous for the socioeconomic situation of many families. The medical structures of the capital would not be able to cope with large amounts of patients. All experts indicate that unfortunately, all the conditions exist to allow for major outbreaks of gastro-enteritis, typhoid, and possibly cholera.

Tajikistan is the poorest of the former Soviet republics. Since gaining independence in 1991, the country has suffered economic collapse (80% of the population currently live below the poverty line), drought and civil war. The country is prone to natural disasters such as floods, landslides and earthquakes and has been identified by a recent ECHO evaluation as "high disaster risk with very high level of hazards". Tajikistan is also regularly affected by epidemic outbreaks of infectious diseases. These factors, combined with systemic weaknesses in government and local structures, have left most of the country without appropriate infrastructure and with very little disaster preparedness and response mechanisms. At all levels, the response mechanisms which do exist often lack the necessary skills and equipment, including essential basic items such as fuel and communication means. The situation is exacerbated by the weaknesses of co-ordination mechanisms. The health care system is particularly fragile, with little capacity in terms of budget, pharmaceuticals and preparedness. Staff are de-motivated and there is often a fear of reporting.

The government is soon expected to make an international appeal for the whole country. The core of this appeal will probably focus on infrastructure and needs for support in rehabilitation, reconstruction, logistics etc. Part of the appeal may relate to the situation around Dushanbe.