UNICEF in Azerbaijan
UNICEF in Azerbaijan
UNICEF came to Azerbaijan in 1993, facing an army of refugees and internally displaced people in the wake of the Karabakh conflict and the collapsed economy of the transition period. Its first programmes were devised not only to address national development priorities, but also deal with immediate humanitarian needs. UNICEF’s first country programme for 1995-1999 focused on such urgent needs as immunisation, health, rehabilitation, nutrition, education and child protection.
Further on, with UNICEF advocacy and support, the Government worked to improve the health care system and implement healthcare reform. National commitment to the financing of Extended Programme of Immunisation (EPI) over the long term was achieved through the Vaccine Independence Initiative, and Government committed to take over the responsibility for the procurement of EPI vaccines starting in 2003. The Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses (IMCI) package was adopted and training for trainers in IMCI undertaken.
Important achievements towards combating micro nutrient deficiencies include the introduction of salt legislation, equipment provision to salt factories, the conduct of a Vitamin A survey and advocacy for food fortification towards eliminating iron deficiency anaemia.
One of the most notable achievements of the past years was rates in excess of 95% immunization for all vaccines and Azerbaijan was officially certified polio free in June 2002.
Through the education reform process, Early Child Care and Development (ECCD) approaches were integrated into pilot formal pre-schools. UNICEF supported curriculum improvement and the empowerment of parents, families, teachers and care givers in health, nutrition, psycho-social care, early learning and child protection. In addition a network of Active Learning schools was established to introduce interactive learning methodologies and practices.
Another significant achievement is the empowerment and participation of young people, including IDP/refugee youth in cultural, educational, health and political arenas. Young people have always been involved in country programmes. Other achievements include the collection and analysis of data and the use of this data to design communication and outreach activities for young people to improve their life skills and to empower them to adopt healthy life styles.
The promotion of incorporation of children’s rights into national planning and policy processes in a cross-sectoral manner is another important achievement. National partners have been assisted to develop national databases on important child rights issues and to use this data for policy development and monitoring. Importantly, child concerns and UNICEF-assisted priorities for children and women and related issues towards the realization of child and women’s rights were addressed in the State Programme on Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development (SPPRSD), the country’s first ever multi-year socio economic development strategy.
UNICEF Country Programme for 2005-2009 was strongly aligned to national priorities and programmes such as the SPPRSD, the State Programme on De-institutionalisation and Alternative Care, , the Education Sector Reforms, the Health Sector Reforms, the State Programme on Reproductive Health, with a special focus on the safe motherhood and newborn care component, the National HIV/AIDS strategy and the National Youth Policy.
In early 2006, three million children and young people were immunized against measles and rubella. With support from UNICEF and its partners, government programmes routinely provide vitamin A supplements to new mothers and children under age six. In addition, a grant of $6 million from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has been used to fund the nation’s first comprehensive plan to address HIV/AIDS.
In the private sector partnership UNICEF teamed up with Procter & Gamble to improve the childcare skills of 36,000 new mothers. UNICEF and its partners such as Statoil have provided essential drugs, supplies and training to hospitals and clinics in impoverished districts, improving the management of common childhood illnesses. Progress toward universal salt iodization is close to eliminating iodine deficiency disorders.
The Country Programme has stepped up support to strategic information systems to track trends in the situation of children and women as the country grows economically and socially. A key role of the Country Programme is, together with other UN agencies including the World Bank, to analyse the impact of poverty reduction efforts on children, and monitor trends in disparities by age, region and gender. Major social transfer programmes such as Targeted Social Assistance will be measured for their impact on vulnerable children and their families. UNICEF is also engaging the Azerbaijani parliament in jointly analyzing budgetary allocations to critical programmes and services for children.
The Government of Azerbaijan adopted the State Programme on Deinstitutionalisation and Alternative Care, providing the framework for comprehensive reforms of the Child Protection System (CPS). The role of the Country Programme in the reform process was focused on securing global state-of-the art technical knowledge to a wide range of CPS reform components, from the analysis of the CPS to the preparation of the State Programme by the national inter-ministerial Task Force. Assistance continues in supporting the new pilot districts for community-based child care systems which are the necessary counterpart to removing children from institutions.
Another focus area for UNICEF is juvenile justice. The Ministry of the Interior and UNICEF worked together to strengthen the skills of all juvenile police inspectors in international juvenile justice standards. Also, the Ministry of Justice, the MoI, UNICEF, OSCE, the Children’s Legal Centre (University of Essex), the British Embassy and the NGO Alliance for Child Rights are cooperating to promote a new system to divert children from custodial pre-trial into alternatives that are in line with international standards. UNICEF and its partners are working closely with the Milli Maclis to support the introduction of a law on Juvenile Justice.
The Avian Influenza Task Force, chaired by UNICEF and with wide membership of major partners (including embassies, WHO, FAO, UNDP, USAID, JICA, ADB, and CSOs) and the highest-level staff in key government ministries, became the main forum for coordination of Government’s avian influenza contingency planning and outbreak control.
Youth participation efforts culminated with the inauguration of the country’s first Child Parliament on 1 June 2007 with 80 young deputies ready to tackle the problems of children and young people in the country. In another milestone a top-level national conference to discuss Azerbaijan’s achievement on the World Fit for Children was held on 6 July 2007 to review the country’s progress towards a world truly fit for children.
Despite the progress made, the crucial challenges lying ahead are in reducing infant and child malnutrition and mortality rates, improving quality of schools and pre-schools, improving knowledge of HIV/AIDS and reducing the risk of HIV infection, strengthening the child protection system including protection of children living with disabilities and children at risk of early marriage, directing the energies of adolescents and young people in constructive ways, and generally working with the Azerbaijani government with the involvement of other international organizations and civil society actors to build a better and better country for its children.