By Andreea Anca, IFRC
For 20 years, more than a million Tajik families have been relying on income from loved ones who head to Russian and Kazakhstan for seasonal work.
With the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), National Societies in the region have launched a joint campaign to provide crucial health and legal information to men and women en route to work further west.
In June, three volunteers from the Tajikistan Red Crescent armed with information on the risks of tuberculosis (TB), hepatitis and sexually transmitted diseases, boarded the train in the country’s capital Dushanbe. The Train of Humanity initiative saw teams from the Kazakhstan Red Crescent board in the western Kazakh province of Atyrau followed by volunteers from the Russian Red Cross who joined the journey in the south-west city of Volgograd.
Right to live a healthy life
Tajikistan Red Crescent’s legal expert, Rano Saidova, was among the team on board the train. Its role was to provide first aid tips, basic information on most common infectious diseases and to let labour migrants know their rights, especially in relation to medical treatment.
“Many people are oblivious to their rights and unaware of their entitlement as legal migrant workers to basic healthcare,” she said.
The teams on board encouraged discussions with passengers about the treatment and prevention of diseases like TB that can be passed between people. As labour migrants usually work in construction sites and often live crowded accommodation, they can be at a higher risk of infection.
Passengers were able to ask questions, pick up an information brochure and get advice but many told the team that what mattered most was knowing that they were not alone.
Rano said: “It meant a lot to the people in the train that someone is thinking about them and understands their situation. People told us that they often feel isolated and alone. “
When the train pulled into Moscow, four days after its departure from the Tajik capital Dushanbe, a welcoming party from the Russian Red Cross and the IFRC was waiting to greet the volunteers and provided food for 250 of the trains passengers.
“This health promotion is a unique and timely. For the first time in history, representatives from National Societies of three countries, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Russia, have joined efforts to provide vital information to vulnerable migrants looking for work,” said Alexander Plaksin who boarded the train in Volgograd on behalf of the Russian Red Cross.
The initiative, called ´Train of Humanity – for the health of migrants`, is a cooperation between the Societies in Russia, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. It is part of the ´Programme to strengthen advocacy and TB prevention measures in economic migrant communities`, a global health initiative launched by IFRC in 2003 with support from the Eli Lilly Foundation and the Russian authorities to fight the growing threat of multi-drug resistant TB.
This regional initiative will continue as part of the effort of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement as a whole to strengthen the resilience of people seeking work abroad.