The first encounter with Anara Doolotova, the project
manager of MissionEast in Penjikent, was quite memorable. The humorous Kirgiz is very energetic, her remarks professional and precise. She studied in the US a few years ago to extend her experience in the health and sanitation sector. She managed
to establish the whole MissionEast project from scratch in less than four
months; her newly founded team is cooperating perfectly to accomplish around 20
individual projects in the surroundings of Penjikent.
After a very informative and diverting conversation, she was
introducing me to her team that I was going to join for a week. Mainly, MissionEast
focuses on health and sanitation projects in villages that cooperated
successfully with MissionEast earlier. The projects can be classified by energy
efficiency, clean water supply and education in hygiene and sanitation issues. The
improvement hygiene and sanitary standards helps to reduce child mortality and
water caused diseases, professional medical care is not available in rural Tajikistan.
MissionEast considers Training and education in health
issues to be the most important part in their work as transferred and accepted
knowledge is sustaining and, even more important, generates awareness for hygiene
and understanding for the necessity to conduct the technical part of the project.
“This is the most important part of our work as people need to understand why we
want them to dig trenches by hand and pay for the consumed water”, one of the
community mobilizators explained. “Besides, even the cleanest water becomes insanitary
if not handled properly.”
The community mobilizators are responsible for establishing
first contacts and doing negotiations with the villagers, including discussions
with the religious and secular heads of the communities. Fully convinced leaders
are essential to conduct the project successfully; the meetings also help to
estimate the community’s strength and its readiness for the project.
After the social and technical surveys have finished and a
decision is made upon whether supporting a village with clean drinking water is
possible or not, community mobilizators are initiate first steps of the actual
project. They select hygiene promoters in the villages who coordinate and supervise
the work of hygiene consultants. These hygiene consultants conduct the actual training
of the villagers, each responsible for a few families. The hygiene consultants
work voluntary and are trained in Penjikent by MissionEast.
women takes water for analysis
Currently, MissionEast works with 55 hygiene consultants,
who are, as well as the hygiene promoters, women. MissionEast helps them to
gain more authority and responsibility in their communities. Nargiza, a community
mobilizator I was traveling with, described the tremendous progress of these women,
“they’ve gained self-confidence and interact more self-confident with the
community”, still a rare sight in rural Tajikistan. After several levels of
sanitary training are passed by villagers and the Monitoring and Control Group has
verified the transferred knowledge, the construction of a water supply system starts.
MissionEast approaches the management of constructions in a
different manner than most other organizations, they do not conduct the
constructions themselves - they just monitor the progress and verify the result.
This ‘outsourcing’ allows MissionEast to minimize their technical staff, they
do not have problems to get the villagers to finish/continue the constructions
and they don’t need to acquire construction materials – both very
Currently the technical staff of MissionEast in Penjikent
consists only of two engineers; they analyze the initial situation of available
clean springs upstream a village and the feasibility of implementing the
distribution system. The technical concept is kept as simple as possible to
ensure long lasting operation and easy implementation. After the decision for
conducting the project in a village is taken, the engineers draw detailed plans
and make lists for required materials. The requirements of several villages are
merged and published in an open call for tender. Tajik construction companies
from Penjikent, Dushanbe and Ayni applied for recent tenders, initially being a
little surprised by the strict rules for accepting tenders that Anara Doolotova
introduced and followed very rigid.
Open Tender at MissionEast
The local companies deliver materials and are responsible
for conducting the constructions, usually with workforce from within the
village. If a construction company fails to encourage villagers to work, this
company has to cope with it solely. That allows MissionEast to extend their
activities on other important issues of their concept of universal health and
sanitation improvements: They offer concrete flooring for kitchens of families
with children under three. Laboratory workers demonstrate the good quality of spring
water and how it deteriorates if it is not stored properly. Rural medical
stations get equipped with a basic microscope to evaluate the quality of the
water, or to track bacterial contamination respectively. This is essential
during winter, when roads to the laboratory in Penjikent are blocked. Off-stream-sites
are introduced to reduce the risk of water defilement while watering animals.
For sustaining success in their projects, MissionEast sets
up water comities in the villages that will organize maintenance and repairs to
keep the distribution network running for at least 20 years.
So far, MissionEast was able to improve health and sanitation
standards in more than 5000 households in the Zerafshan Valley, helping 14000
people in Penjikent district and 12000 in Ayni District.
In summary my impression of MissionEast’s efforts in
Penjikent is a very positive example of how development assistance may improve
people’s harsh living conditions directly and sustainable in a very efficient, transparent