About the Author: Damian Wampler serves as an Information Officer in the Public Affairs Section at the U.S. Embassy Dushanbe in Tajikistan.
In the early morning of May 7, a massive mudslide devastated thousands of homes in Tajikistan. Estimates of the damage from the flooding in the Kulob region of this poor Central Asian country continue to grow, with more than 4,000 displaced people living in tent cities in the city of Kulob alone, and estimates of the affected population with partially or completely destroyed housing ranging from 7,600 - 11,000. On May 10, in an unexpected move, the President of Tajikistan made a formal request to the international community for help, and the U.S. Embassy responded immediately.
On May 11, U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan Kenneth Gross issued a disaster declaration, recognizing the significant damage in the Kulob area, and the request for assistance from the government of Tajikistan. That same day, the U.S. government delivered $277,614 worth of non-food items to flood victims. Counterpart International distributed cots, beds, mattresses, blankets, pillows, towels, and other household items valued at $214,120. The U.S. government also provided $63,497 in medical supplies to the Central District Hospital of Kulob. On May 14, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded a $50,000 grant to Save the Children to provide emergency supplies, such as hygiene kits, mattresses, blankets, and medical supplies, to more flood victims.
On May 16, the U.S. government sent an Air Force C-17 Globemaster cargo plane directly to Kulob with a full load of large, durable tents. On May 21, an Air Force C-130 Hercules transported five pallets of emergency medical supplies and hygiene kits to Dushanbe, and another shipment is expected next week. Embassy staff also did their part. Members of the Embassy's Public Affairs Section (PAS) went to Kulob with 15 boxes of clothes and non-perishable food donated from the Embassy staff. Members of the PAS gave the food products to kids in a kindergarten that was built for the flood victims, and gave the food to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
The PAS noticed that very few newspapers were covering the disaster to the full extent. When we talked to reporters, we found out that many simply didn't have the means to reach Kulob. The PAS invited nine journalists to go and see the flood damage first hand and report on the disaster. Three TV stations, two radio stations, and one newspaper witnessed the damage, interviewed victims, and spoke with representatives from U.S. government-funded relief projects.