From preparedness and response to longer-term support to Afghanistan refugees
The project in brief
The project was implemented by the Red Crescent Society of Tajikistan (RCST). It began in August 2021 and ended in December 2023.
Following the emergency appeal launched by IFRC in mid-August 2021, the Red Crescent Society of Tajikistan (RCST) initiated preparedness and, where relevant, response activities to support the Afghan refugees. The RCST developed contingency plans and established coordination mechanisms with national authorities. When the emergency response phase ended, the RCST has continued its support, based on need assessments, to vulnerable refugees with improved access to meet basic needs, health service, shelter, including support to hosting communities.
The main goal of the project was to increase resilience of vulnerable refugees, by:
- Improving access to assistance, protection, and information,
- Assisting with provision of emergency support and livelihoods including life skill learning and education opportunities,
- Providing psychosocial support, including restoring family links, also a mobile clinic, for their well-being,
- Coordinating effectively with stakeholders (see below) from various sectors, including private sector, and
- Engaging support from public authorities from national level to town and communities where refugees are living.
Main activities of the Good Practice
Renovation of a secondary school (including winterization) was prioritized, which allows the children of Afghan refugees residing in the area to study in an appropriate environment.
Jobs and livelihoods:
The RCST has targeted more vulnerable refugees and supported them with cash. In addition, the RCST also implemented social economic projects in host communities.
The RCST regularly coordinated with WHO, MoH and partners in health sector to provide health services, including initial screening, vaccinations, psychosocial support, health referrals, and basic health care provisions. The RCST also conducted awareness raising campaign to promote public health with refugees and host communities. Hygiene kits were provided to meet the basic needs.
Women and girls:
For women identified, based on assessment, from vulnerable refugee population, life skill training, such as sewing skills and job opportunities, were provided.
The RCST has put in place a protection, gender, inclusion (PGI) focal person to train staff and volunteers to support refugees, particularly women and girls.
Food security and nutrition:
Food parcels were delivered to vulnerable people in both refugee and hosting communities.
Fostering good relations and peaceful coexistence:
Community engagement and accountability was an integral part of the operation. The RCST while undertaking assessments, has conducted consultation with refugees and host communities for them to identify priorities, ensuring the meaningful participation of refugees and host community in decision and design.
The RCST has set up and made available a Help Desk and complaint box with phone number for communication. Moreover, a project banner, a flyer and referral/feedback cards in Tajik and Farsi/Dari languages were developed and installed/distributed at cash distribution points.
Elements which helped facilitate the implementation of the good practice
- Effective preparedness, including increasing RCST capacity at all levels and volunteers, for response.
- Partnerships with stakeholders, including government agencies of Tajikistan, Movement partners, civil society organizations, IFRC, UNHCR, WHO, UNICEF, IOM, and inter-agency coordination mechanism, also Afghan refugees.
- Community-based activities, including with host communities, for direct support to and communication with refugees.
- Relevant agencies of the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan, e.g. MoIA, MoH, MoE, BTs;
- WHO, UNHCR, UNICEF;
- Refugee hosting communities/towns, and their public authorities;
- Civil society organizations, e.g. Mercy Corps and Afghan Aryana Society (Afghan Diaspora), and
- Afghan refugees.
What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?
The RCST has faced numerous challenges during its delivery of the project:
- There is a constant need to keep updated the list of Afghan refugees: An up-to-date list is essential, for example, for effective cash distribution. However, with resettlement, some refugees left the country but not removed from the list or some refugees were not connected to their phone number, which made it difficult to inform them before cash distribution;
- Another challenge which was encountered was the lack of sharing data about beneficiaries by the partner organizations such as UNHCR, RCVC, and IOM. This lack of sharing data has led to duplication and repetition of names of Afghan refugees as vulnerable people in different relief lists;
- Cultural and language differences posed some minor challenges in the delivery of assistance. Most of the Afghan refugees, especially the elder generation, do not understand the Cyrillic alphabet. Different speaking dialects caused some small challenges as well.
How they were overcome
The project delivery to Afghan refugees in Tajikistan was with its fair share of challenges. However, through perseverance, collaboration, and innovative problem-solving, these challenges were ultimately overcome.
- In close collaboration with Association of Afghan Diaspora in Tajikistan “Aryana”, we managed to follow and check to have the most accurate list of beneficiaries;
- The challenge of the lack of data sharing between partner organizations remains. Recently the IOM and UNHCR signed an agreement for data sharing. The RCST can ask UNHCR to verify whether people from the list have left the country. But this process is time-consuming;
- To overcome the challenges caused by cultural and language differences, the RCST printed all the information (banners, fliers, info-cards) both in Tajik and Persian (Dari), and involved the Afghan refugees as volunteers in the local RCST branch during the cash in hand distribution.
Results of the Good Practice
- More than 1,000 households benefited from the implementation of the project in Vahdat, Dushanbe, Rudaki, and J.Rasulov districts and become more resilient.
- For the most families this initiative has been a significant booster to reduce their vulnerability, because it has assisted in provision for them to meet primary needs like house rentals, medical needs, preparation for the cold season, and buying school requirements for the children.
- The capacity to choose and prioritize ways to meet their basic needs has increased, thanks to cash distribution. It was highly appreciated by all the beneficiaries.
It was expected that the project would be extended after December 2022, which fortunately happened. The IFRC has supported the project continuation until the end of December 2023. The focus of extended project is financial support of the 1,000 Afghan refugee households to increase their resilience. RCST managed to distribute cash-in-hand for 500 Afghan refugee households in mid-October 2023.
Are there areas in which support would be required to continue and/or scale up your good practice?
According to our experience with assisting Afghan refugees, we would suggest continuing the project focusing on livelihood. The livelihood project for Afghan refugees in the future could be an initiative aiming at providing sustainable income opportunities for Afghan refugees who are among the most economically vulnerable group of society in Tajikistan which adds to the sorrow of being forced to flee their home-country due to conflict and instability.
The livelihood project would recognize the importance of empowering individuals to rebuild their lives and contribute positively to their host communities. We would suggest that one of the key objectives of this project to be provision of vocational training and skill development programs for Afghan refugees. By equipping them with marketable skills such as carpentry, tailoring, agriculture, barbering, car masters, and other skills that the local market would demand they can gain employment or start their own small businesses. This not only helps them become self-sufficient, but also contributes to the economic development of the host country.