oordination needed for new NGOs in Tajikistan
"Some of the NGOs did not have a clear objective when they first arrived," head of the WHO office in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, Lubomir Ivanov said. Some 40 new NGOs have established offices in Tajikistan over the past three months in order to access northern Afghanistan and to provide cross border services. He added that in such an emergency situation there is always a rush of aid organisations and that coordination was the key to ensuring that all aspects of health were covered.
WHO also prepared an initial health assessment for northern Afghanistan which was distributed to agencies in Tajikistan. "We updated NGOs on the situation here to ensure that people would receive a variety of health services," he said.
With an already long established presence in Tajikistan, the British-based health NGO, Merlin, welcomed the new aid agencies in the country. "A lot of agencies interested in accessing northern Afghanistan have arrived and quite a few stayed on, which is good news as this region is often forgotten," a spokesman for Merlin, Paul Handley told IRIN. He added that there was now more donor attention which was encouraging. "It seems that Central Asia is becoming more of a focus and this area will become more significant," he added.
While there was not a huge flow of Afghan refugees in Tajikistan and hence no outbreak of diseases on the border, Ivanov confirmed that there had been an outbreak of Typhoid unrelated to refugees. This, he said highlighted the country's need for better health services.
The most common diseases are malaria, typhoid and anthrax, Ivanov said, adding that WHO had acquired five new emergency health kits serving a total of 50,000 people for three months. "We have received more help and this a step to show that there is now more attention from donors due to the Afghan situation," he maintained.
The health agency also set up a training centre in southern Tajikistan to train doctors to use the kits. "We also hope to train doctors from northern Afghanistan. They speak the same language so they have an advantage here," he explained, saying that a preliminary agreement for the project was made between Tajik officials and the Afghanistan Interim Authority and was now awaiting final approval.
Tajikistan is home to some 10,000 Afghan refugees stuck on islands in the border area of the Pyandhz river who are soon to return to their hometown of Emam Saheb in the northern Afghan province of Konduz. "These people will be repatriated in March, however, there is still the problem of access to their hometown," Handley said.
The Afghans, who fled drought and conflict, have been living in the remote area which has been difficult to access for the past year. Their conditions are less than adequate resulting in cases of scurvy (vitamin c deficiency) and respiratory problems among children, he stressed. "They were recently provided with food and vaccinations for measles and polio," he added.