Tajikistan: Support Begins for Wheelchair Factory in Tajikistan

Although it is said that 70 thousand people in Tajikistan—1% of the population—require wheelchairs, virtually none are produced in the nation. The government imports and delivers wheelchairs to hopeful candidates, but the total number is only about 40 per year, while the waiting list is years long. In addition to such supply problems, the only wheelchairs offered are standard-issue products ill-suited to the varying disabilities and living environments of their recipients. To meet these needs, AAR JAPAN has begun to support the only wheelchair factory in Tajikistan, with the goals of increasing the number of wheelchairs in the country and promoting the ability of persons with disabilities to fully participate in society.

Improving the Quality of Life for Persons with Disabilities

March 6th, 2012 - Factory staff under training from wheelchair specialist Mr. Hiroyuki MINAMI (2nd from left). Yoshio NAKAGAWA (right), AAR JAPAN staff, assists with translation. 
The wheelchair factory is located in Vakash, a city in the southwest of the country. In 2000, the factory manager, Fakerob SADOR, a carpenter by trade, met an 8-year-old boy named Dilshod, whose legs were disabled. Mr. SADOR started producing wheelchairs in the hope of making Dilshod happy. Naming his factory “Dilshod”, he produced a large number of wheelchairs under the support of international organizations. However, between his inability to assess the specific needs of his recipients and the impossibility of providing follow-up service,  customers gradually left, and in time wheelchair production all but ceased.

AAR JAPAN first repaired the leaking roof of the aging factory building and provided equipment necessary for wheelchair production. Because Vakash City suffers from frequent power outages, we also installed an electric generator to prevent breaks in production.

Wheelchair Production Specialist from Japan

March 7th, 2012 – Wheelchair specialist Mr. MINAMI (right) works with factory staff. 
AAR JAPAN has dispatched Mr. Hiroyuki MINAMI, owner of a factory producing assistive devices in Takasu Town, Hokkaido, to provide technical training for factory staff. A specialist in wheelchair production, Mr. MINAMI is capable of designing and producing a wheelchair from scratch with his own hands. When he was in Tajikistan from December 2011 to January 2012, he explained to the factory staff how to assess users’ living environments and health conditions. When he went back in February 2012, he examined how to make vibration-resistant wheelchairs suitable for Tajikistan’s many dirt roads, as well as teaching factory staff the skills necessary to produce them.  He will go to Tajikistan 4 more times by October in order to enhance local capabilities, ultimately enabling staff to design, produce and maintain high-quality wheelchairs by themselves.

Mr. MINAMI told us, “I would like to train them in how to produce wheelchairs that will improve the quality life for persons with disabilities.” The first wheelchair will be produced in April. 

February 28th, 2012 - Dilshod (left), after whom the factory was named, is now 29 years old. Here he is seen working on a wheelchair at the factory. 

March 1st, 2012 - In front of the factory with Mr. MINAMI (2nd from left) and Ayumi YASUDA (2nd from right), AAR JAPAN staff.  

Mr. MINAMI and Mr. RAFUMONOF (right)
I have been learning a lot every day working with Mr. MINAMI. This is our first chance to learn from a specialist with practical experience. In the past, our wheelchairs were produced without any specialist knowledge, and I’ve found that our fundamental ideas and common practices were misguided. I was surprised to discover new things every day, and I continue to  learn many things.
Our new wheelchair designs show a great deal of improvement. As I made each part with Mr. MINAMI, I was thinking about why our past wheelchairs were not very comfortable, how we have improved, and how these chairs will be more comfortable for their users.
I’m looking forward to Mr. MINAMI’s continued tutelage. I want to produce wheelchairs that will satisfy both us and our customers.

                                                      Mr. Abdholic RAFUMONOF, Dilshod factory staff 

These efforts are being carried out with Grant Assistance for Japanese NGO Projects from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in addition to your thoughtful donations.

Yoshio NAKAGAWA, AAR JAPAN Tajikistan Office
Has been working in the Tajikistan Office since March 2011. After graduating university, worked at a humanitarian organization for 4 years. Joined AAR JAPAN out of a desire to work in the field on an international level.