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Building disaster resilience for mountain communities

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When disaster strikes, access constraints can severely affect timely humanitarian assistance to isolated and disaster-prone mountain communities. Local people often are forced to be self-sufficient in the first days and weeks following a disaster. Last year, Tajikistan’s vulnerable mountain communities were struck by flash floods, mudslides and a 7.2-magnitude earthquake. But what is being done to reduce the vulnerability of these at-risk communities and increase their skills as first responders?

Known in Tajikistan as "The Rooftop of the World", Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast province (GBAO province), a mountainous region in eastern Tajikistan, is highly prone to a range of disasters, from seasonal floods and glacial lake outbursts, to mudflows, landslides and earthquakes. The dearth of humanitarian organizations in the sparsely populated province, coupled with difficult access to remote villages, starkly increases local people’s vulnerability. For example, after a disaster, the only road that connects isolated mountain communities to the outside world is often blocked with rocks, soil, snow or water, cutting off people from external aid for weeks. Weather conditions can also prevent responders from using helicopters to reach affected people.

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