DUSHANBE, October 2, 2009, Asia-Plus  -- Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) with financial support from the United States Department of Agriculture implemented the School Safety Initiative Project in Tajikistan, the FOCUS Office in Tajikistan reported.

As part of this project, FOCUS conducted structural retrofitting, non-structural mitigation measures as well as earthquake risk awareness and preparedness trainings in the 12 schools in the districts of Vanj, Rushan, Shugnan and Roshtqala of the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO). This project benefitted more than 15,000 people in these districts.

The schools were constructed 20 to 30 years ago through traditional collective community labor called ‘hashar’, and in 2009 as part of this project, structural safety interventions were applied to all the 12 schools. These interventions included seismic netting of the school walls, strengthening school foundation with additional cement and placement of additional pillars to support the school ceilings and the roves. All interventions were in accordance to national and international guidelines.

The school handover ceremonies were held from September 22 to 25 and were attended by the representative of the Department of Education of GBAO, district government officials and FOCUS.  In the village of Shujand, with more than a hundred people in attendance, the event began with students welcoming guests and thanking donors, the Tajik government and FOCUS for making their school and environment safer.  “We can work with relief knowing that our children are protected and safe in the school,” said one of the representatives of the parents committee. After the ceremony, FOCUS staff members provided a tour of the school to government and parents committee representatives.

The School Safety Initiative Project is part of FOCUS’ on-going efforts in Tajikistan to build the disaster risk resiliency of communities in collaboration with the Government of Tajikistan.

Focus Humanitarian Assistance is an international group of agencies established in Europe, North America, South and Central Asia to complement the provision of emergency relief, principally in the developing world. It helps people in need reduce their dependence on humanitarian aid and facilitates their transition to sustainable self-reliant, long term development. Focus Humanitarian Assistance is affiliated with the Aga Khan Development Network, a group of institutions working to improve opportunities and living conditions, for people of all faiths and origins, in specific regions of developing world.