Quake awareness in Uzbekistan given a shake-up


More than 60 community leaders participated in a seminar on rules of behavior during an earthquake, Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Photo: UNDP in Uzbekistan

Like many of his neighbours in Uzbekistan’s capital of Tashkent, Abdugani Rakhimov has a clear memory of the 1966 earthquake that destroyed more than 78,000 homes and left 300,000 citizens homeless:  “It was the sound of shaking windows that woke us up. We realised it was an earthquake and ran out into the street. We went to the school yard and saw that all the windows and the entrance hall glass were broken.”

As one of the most seismic active regions in Central Asia, the country is extremely vulnerable to natural disasters - from earthquakes to floods and fires. Making sure that citizens are aware of how to behave during a disaster is a key focus of the ‘Strengthening Disaster Risk Management Capacities in Uzbekistan’’ project, a four year initiative implemented jointly by UNDP and the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

With the goal of developing capacity to prevent, prepare for and recover from disasters, the project targets the Government and civil society, while raising community awareness to the risks.

Trainings for over 2000 community members were conducted in vulnerable districts of the capital to teach basic rules of correct behaviour during disaster. “We need to have a bag of emergency supplies prepared in advance and make sure every family member knows where to meet up if they become separated,” says Naima Isroilova, an advisor on women’s issues for one of the districts.

Highlights

  • A 4-year project strengthens the capacity of the government and communities to mitigate the impact of disasters in Uzbekistan.
  • Over 2000 community members participated in disaster preparedness trainings in vulnerable districts, 60% of the participants were women and children.
  • 200,000 children in schools and kindergartens across Tashkent learned basic rules of behaviour during an earthquake.

A particular effort was made to ensure that vulnerable members of the community, including elderly or disabled people, know what to do and have access to the right infrastructure to stay safe during an earthquake.

Over 200,000 children in schools and kindergartens across Tashkent learned the basic rules of behaviour during an earthquake with a cartoon film featuring a boy and his dog as rescuers.

Other measures to increase awareness amongst specialists and the general population include an earthquake simulator to train professionals, a mobile phone app that provides emergency information after a quake even in the event of signal failure, a public museum of earthquake resistant technologies, and a special movie theatre to screen public awareness films.

Reflecting on the 1966 quake, one of the primary reasons for the severe damage was the poorly constructed buildings, which were not seismically secure. Since then, all social and industrial facilities are constructed as per approved master-plans and monitored by government agencies. However, individual houses are in most cases still constructed by owners without plan and sketches.

To encourage safer construction skills going forward, the project provides workshops and guidelines on cost-effective ways of making homes more resistant to earthquakes.

“It’s possible that Uzbekistan may again experience a major earthquake that affects thousands of people and causes damage to both infrastructure and the economy,” says Amir Khan, UNDP’s National Disaster Reduction Advisor in Uzbekistan. “This project is a response to that risk; while seismic activity cannot be prevented, we can be better prepared.”