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WFP SBP Stories: Al-Mamun Azad, Emergency Response Officer in Tajikistan

Tajikistan, a vulnerable, low-income Central Asian country, faces heightened food insecurity exacerbated by climate change, economic challenges, and the Ukraine crisis. With a significant portion of the population below the poverty line, especially in high-risk areas, urgent measures, including direct food assistance and resilience-building, are proposed to address the imminent threat and strengthen food security for the most vulnerable.

In April 2023, Al-Mamun Azad, Emergency Response Officer, was seconded to the World Food Programme (WFP) in Tajikistan by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC).

Azad during a field mission with USAID in DRS, Tajikistan in August 2023. © WFP / Mayguna

Amidst different humanitarian crises, individuals may play an indispensable role in delivering aid to the most vulnerable populations across the world. Among those individuals, there is Al-Mamum Azad, a standby deployee from the Danish Refugee Council supporting the WFP’s operations in Tajikistan. With over 15 years of humanitarian experience, Azad’s journey has taken him from his home in Bangladesh to different places, including Sudan, South Sudan, Nepal, and now Tajikistan.


Azad’s introduction to the humanitarian sector was both unexpected and transformative. At the age of 17, his hometown in Bangladesh was ravaged by massive floods, forcing him and his family to seek refuge in a neighbourhood’s school rooftop. For over two weeks, Azad received support from humanitarian agencies, including from WFP. This situation - albeit traumatizing and tough – ignited Azad’s passion to one day become a humanitarian. “I was fascinated by WFP trucks arriving with bags of food to support all these people. I remember asking myself ‘Who are these organizations? How do they work? How can I also be part of it?’”.


After Cyclone Sidr hit Bangladesh in 2007 leaving 1.5 million people in need, Azad saw an opportunity to assist others as he was assisted a few years before. Despite having a comfortable government job, he decided to take a 1-month contract with WFP, marking the beginning of his humanitarian career. “I remember the excitement and the joy I the first time I helped organise a food distribution”, he recalls. Now, 16 years later he says he is as motivated and excited as he was in his first day as a humanitarian worker.


After serving several organizations, in 2016 he joined the Danish Refugee Council’s Standby Partnerships (SBP) roster. According to him, the SBP framework plays a central role in humanitarian operations. He adds that “while SBP can provide high quality and fast support during on-set emergencies, it also plays an essential role in supporting protected and forgotten humanitarian crisis. And I wanted to be a part of it”.

Azad in an emergency food distribution for people affected by floods in DRS, Tajikistan in August 2023. ©WFP / Bikash Paudel

In Tajikistan, Azad is part of the Country Office’s Emergency Response Team which is implementing the first large-scale emergency operation in the country in 20 years. WFP aims to support 33,000 families affected by the economic ripple effect of the conflict in Ukraine until the end of the year. After visiting most of the country, Azad notes how poverty levels are quite high while people, particularly in rural areas, would not have access to basic staple foods without WFP support. He also mentions that there is a “nutritional crisis is unfolding before our eyes” due to the scarcity of vegetables and fresh food for those in need.


Azad's journey from Bangladesh to Tajikistan symbolizes the resilience of the human spirit and the power of humanitarian work. His story, fuelled by a personal experience during a flood, highlights the life-changing impact of organizations like the WFP and the critical role played by the Danish Refugee Council and other standby partners in supporting these organizations. As Azad and WFP continue their mission in Tajikistan, he wishes that “people get inspired by his journey and also feel empowered to help others all around the world”.

 

Since 1991 the World Food Programme (WFP) collaborates with a vast network of Standby Partners consisting of public and private organizations complementing WFP’s operational capacity by providing staffing, equipment, and services. Standby Partnerships are activated in various job positions and provide crucial support to WFP operations in emergencies or when WFP needs specific technical expertise. In 2022, 205 experts supported 45 Country Offices, 4 Regional Bureaux, and Headquarters. To request and deploy expert Standby Partners please reach out to the WFP Standby Partnerships team in the Emergency Operations Division at: standbypartners@wfp.org.

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