Beginnings: A Brief History of Operation Mercy’s work in Tajikistan, 1993 – 2020

The Swedish Celebration of St Lucia and the Power of Light over Darkness  
December 4, 2020
Projects: A Brief History of Operation Mercy’s Work in Tajikistan, 1993 – 2020
January 18, 2021

Beginnings: A Brief History of Operation Mercy’s work in Tajikistan, 1993 – 2020

In January 1993, Operation Mercy signed an memoradum of understanding with a nonprofit in Tajikistan, Payvand.

Our then country director said to the director of Payvand: “We're not going to build a new runway ... but there’s this thing called email coming and the internet, have you heard about it?”

By 1995 we had launched the 1st internet and email service for the whole country of Tajikistan. We set up free email centers in every major city. We gave away about a hundred modems and in the end hundreds of computers and then connected everybody just as quickly as we could to the internet.

Eventually we had the president, embassies, universities, hospitals ... all hooked up with email.

Operation Mercy in Tajikistan was first called the Central Asian Development Agency (CADA). It was registered on May 4th, 1993, while there was still civil war in Tajikistan.

Over the next 10 years CADA projects included:

  • The Tajik Relief Project
  • The English Language Center
  • Information Technology Project
  • CADA email Subnodes
  • Community Development Project - with a Handicraft Project component
  • In October 2001 CADA began relief work in North East Afghanistan - which included building almost 500km of roads. We then had a regional office overseeing Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

    After the major earthquake in Bam, Iran, on December 26, 2003, Operation Mercy distributed emergency kits and co-operated in a housing project for earthquake affected families as the earthquake left 20,000+ deceased and 20,000 wounded.

    Operation Mercy sent team members from Tajikistan and Afghanistan to start relief work which grew to feeding 2000 affected people each month for two years.

    In March 2010, the health minister and other healthcare leaders sat in our Operation Mercy office in Dushanbe as we faced a polio outbreak in a nearby district. He pleaded, “Please help us - we need services in the villages where the kids are, it’s too much for a centralized approach – we want to try this thing you keep talking about: Community Based Rehabilitation.” 

    Our International Director, Andrea Vogt, said of the polio outbreak in Tajikistan: "It was totally unexpected, the virus had been eradicated, it hit the local health system and us all like a train. But quickly a great partnership with the Ministry of Health, UNICEF, and Handicap International was established, later joined by WHO. Together we adapted the CBR concept for an emergency response, training people all over the country.”

    During the polio outbreak in Tajikistan in 2010, videos were produced as part of a National TV campaign. The campaign aimed to mobilize people for immunization as well as to communicate that life does not end if you have a disability!

    Operation Mercy took part in the first national conference on Community Based Rehabilitation in Tajikistan entitled “Reaching the unreached” on 2 December 2014. 

    It was encouraging to hear the health minister speak about how the country needs more Community Based Rehabilitation and more active, modern methods of physiotherapy. 

    There is still a long way to go in the country, but this is what we have worked for: changed society at all levels, including government stakeholders who adjust their ideas and advocate for change in their own system. 

    “Children with disabilities have the right to receive an education and be included in their home communities.” Operation Mercy has partnered to improve the lives of children with disabilities and their families within the existing community setting. 

    In 2013 Operation Mercy celebrated 20 years of partnering to build hope, capacity, and community in Tajikistan!

    “This celebration was a mountain top experience for all of us! We were greatly honoured by the Tajik government and by the community. And we had tremendous fun celebrating with the community," said Andrea Vogt.

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    Operation Mercy is a member in good standing with Svensk Insamlingskontroll, (the Swedish Foundation for fundraising control), who ensures quality control of donation management for Swedish based charities.