UNICEF, partners join hands to launch “Every Child Needs a Family” campaign
By Ali Verdiyev
UNICEF, the Azerbaijani government, a public fund and a private sector company have come together to launch a nationwide public awareness campaign to help children in state care live better and happier in families.
The campaign “Every child needs a family”, initiated by UNICEF Azerbaijan, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and the country’s major mobile phone operator Azercell Telecom, aims to promote the right of about 17,000 Azerbaijani children dwelling in state care institutions to live in a family-like environment. It is also designed to assist the government in shaping the best possible model of social services for children as part of the ongoing child protection reform and encourage families to adopt or foster institutionalized children.
“The family is a child’s first line of protection. Being deprived of parental support can be devastating. Without this essential buffer, children are immediately more vulnerable to abuse of their most basic rights. The best way to help children is to prevent families from being disrupted in the first place. Children have a right to live in an environment that respects their rights and addresses their needs”, UNICEF representative in Azerbaijan, Mr Mohamed Bendriss Alami, said in his address at the ceremony to launch the campaign in Baku on 20 November.
“Reuniting, strengthening and protecting families and creating loving and supportive family environments for children are at the heart of what UNICEF does for children. The family is paramount not only to the healthy growth of children, but also to the successful development of society,” Mr Alami told the ceremony, which was hosted by famous Azerbaijani singer Zulfiyya Khanbabayeva.
“No child institution or boarding school, no matter how modern and well equipped it is, can ever replace a family or family care for children,” the president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, the first lady of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva said in her written address to the participants.
Attending the ceremony, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Protection Natig Mammadov, Deputy Minister of Education Irada Huseynova, the deputy chairperson of the State Committee on Family, Woman and Child Problems, Sadagat Gahramanova, and MP Ganira Pashayeva noted that most of the children living in institutions have at least one parent alive who can take care of them and called on the participants to actively join this new initiative.
Public service announcements promoting the right of children to grow in a family-like environment will be shown on TV channels nationwide as part of the campaign.
The public awareness campaign comes at a crucial moment when the country is reforming its child protection. It will focus on improving the awareness of the scope and reasons for the child protection reform across the country and increasing the number of potential adoptive or foster families. The fundamental idea of the reform is to integrate all the local agencies working for children into strong child social protection centres to provide effective support to vulnerable families for better protection of a child’s right to comprehensive and healthy development.
The ceremony to launch the campaign coincided with the 19th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, signifying the willingness of the partners to work shoulder to shoulder to improve the child protection system in Azerbaijan.
The campaign is expected to help the implementation of the State Programme on Deinstitutionalization and Alternative Care, signed by the Azerbaijani president on 29 March 2006, to help children out of state institutions and reform such residential institutions into care centres.