(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Severe winter weather taking its toll

Conditions in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, are slowly returning to normal following severe winter conditions but concern remains for those in isolated regions. "There was no electricity, no gas and water failure in many places [in Dushanbe]," Maarouf Muhamedov, the programme assistant for the Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Dushanbe, told IRIN on Tuesday.

With a population of some 800,000 people, Dushanbe was virtually crippled when harsh weather struck in early December, leaving fuel supplies at an all-time low, damaging pipes and causing chaos for the city's transport system. "It was a very difficult time, but we do expect these conditions during the winter," Muhamedov added.

Reacting to events, President Emomali Rahmonov reportedly sacked his deputy, Faridun Muhiddinov, and in mid-December strongly reprimanded a large number of government officials, including the mayor, for poor management of fuel and energy issues. Rahmonov also called for a review of transport services as a government order to buy extra fuel to sustain electricity and heating levels had not been carried out.

But according to Muhamedov, of greater concern were those living in remote areas of the impoverished Central Asian state. In the eastern Gorno-Badakhshan Province, local people were left without electricity and gas for long periods. Local media reported that electricity supplies were being rationed. "This region is completely cut off and suffers the most in winter," he said.

There was also concern for hundreds of people displaced in parts of northern Tajikistan by multiple land- and mud-slides early in 2002. Although the villagers had left the tents they were living in and were given shelter for the winter months, they were still living in very vulnerable conditions.

Muhamedov explained that although these villagers were used to being cut off from the rest of the country in the winter months, they were far worse off this time around as many were also out of work and unable to provide for themselves.

Some 216 displaced families in the district of Ayni in the northern Sughd Province, he said, had received help from the UN, NGOs and the government. However, they would continue to face an uphill task in struggling to get back on their feet, he added.

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