Children by the numbers
There are about three million children in Azerbaijan. About one million IDPs/refugees live in the country, about 300,000 of them are children.
Every two hours a baby dies in Azerbaijan
In the Health area, there are problems of high mortality compared to the wealth of the country, especially among the very youngest babies – and especially for those from poor families. This is a system-wide issue, not all of which UNICEF can deal with, but we are working to improve quality of care in maternal-child health clinics by strengthening their technical capacity and also their supervision
Quarter of a million young children (two in five) are anaemic
There are also major problems with nutrition of children – as evidenced in a very high level of anaemia and stunting (height for age). Both of these affect children’s mental development and physical robustness to diseases.
One in four children is stunted
There are various causes for these problems, but we will be working both to fortify flour, and also to help parents (especially mothers) increase the nutrition their children receive (starting with breast-feeding).
About 10,000 children are in state run institutions
There are many issues for Child Protection. One of the most pressing issues that UNICEF has been working on for a while is the number of children who are in institutions. We term them “social orphans” because people think the institutions are orphanages, but in fact most of the children have one or two parents. We are working with Government to put in place community based services to support children and their families so that large-scale institutions will not be necessary
Around 400 juveniles in conflict with the law are registered each year in Azerbaijan
We are also working with the Government to put in place a system of justice for children to help not only children who are in conflict with the law (helping them to reform), but also victims and/or witnesses of crime, so they are not traumatized further by the interaction with police and court system. A new law on Juvenile Justice should be passed in the next session of Parliament.
Over one third of women under fifty was married as a child
One area which is of increasing concern is “child marriages” i.e. marriage of a person under the age of 18 – sometimes only 13 or 14. This is dangerous for the child (her health, her social life, her education) and for children she might bear (it is much more likely to have miscarriages and child deaths in that age group).
Only 1/4 children with disabilities is currently receiving any kind of education
In the 2009-10 academic year, 7,750 were being educated at home, 156 in general schools and 5925 in special schools. One of the cross-cutting themes in our programme is the problems faced by children living with disabilities. We are working to reduce their stigma (which is very strong), to increase their enrolment in school, and to help the health system improve early detection and prevention of conditions that can lead to disability.
4 out of 5 children score less than 300 on university entrance exam (the maximum score is 700)
In the education field, we have been working for a long while, and with some success, on improving the schooling system for primary-high school, with a “child friendly schools” concept, which includes school management, teacher training, new curriculum, Parent-Teacher Associations, and improved school environment. There is still a long way to go (education systems don’t ‘turn on a dime’) but the direction is positive.
Low awareness of young people on HIV
Low awareness of young people on HIV and healthy life style/life skills and as a result, there are widespread risky behaviour patterns, so we are working to provide young people with the knowledge they need to protect themselves, and also (in the longer term) for places they can go, be heard, be constructive, and channel that immense adolescent energy for good. Most HIV cases are among intravenous drug users, and a recent study showed that 96% of drug users do not practice safe sex, and 46% share syringes and needles. The epidemic threatens to bloom in Azerbaijan even while it is being brought under control in many other countries.
Breaking down barriers between young people
We are also working with young people to remove stigma and barriers between – for example – fully abled and disabled, IDPs and host communities, rich and poor. It is young people who can change the attitudes of the future, and who are most open to listen to different views and ideas.