Newsletter, N1 (9), 2005
ForewordThe recent changes in Georgia following the Rose Revolution have created a wave of immense hope and optimism among the population. The government of Georgia continues to go through the reform process in the sectors of education, child protection and health care in collaboration with international donors. However, the situation of women and children still remains challenging. Poverty rates as measured by the Official Poverty Line show that 50 percent of Georgian children currently live in families that are poor, or at risk of poverty resulting in increasing inequity.
Low awareness coupled with limited accessibility and affordability of the quality health services remains responsible for most of the maternal and child health related problems.
Residential care remains the child welfare system’s main response to poverty, family distress or disability, reflecting the absence of social safety nets. There are over 5,000 children in residential care, in an estimated 50 state and private institutions; 87 per cent of these children have at least one living parent. Official statistics show that 2,600 disabled children live in institutions, although it is estimated that the actual number is much higher, with many of them hidden by their families and thus deprived of services. There are an estimated 2,500 children working in the streets, some of whom sleep there.
UNICEF continues to assist the country in tackling these challenges. This issue of the newsletter “UNICEF in Georgia” highlights the recent interventions by the Government of Georgia and UNICEF in spheres of health, education, children in need of special protection, young people’s health and development and child rights.
The newsletter provides information about the major breakthroughs at the policy development level such as adoption of the national law banning import of non-iodized salt, waiving of the birth registration fee and creation of an inter-sectoral commission for de-institutionalisation policy development and coordination.
We have to acknowledge the decision of the Government of Georgia to procure 40% of vaccines needed for immunization of children less than 2 years of age and to make necessary allocations from the state budget. This is indeed a significant headway in terms of increasing further the sustainability of the immunisation programme.
The efforts to involve youth into the decision-making process and to assist them in expressing their concerns through various media, initiatives to promote youth healthy lifestyle through football are some of the highlights of this newsletter.
This year will also mark an important milestone for us. The Government of Georgia and United Nations’ agencies, within the framework of the UN Development Assistant Framework Programme, continue to prepare a new five-year country programme commencing from 2006. UNICEF in partnership with the Government will focus its interventions on where it can really make a difference. But one thing is clear: without having concrete mechanisms of social protection in place it would be difficult to provide better care for children. And the children in Georgia deserve a far better life.
I do believe that together, step by step, we will build a future where the rights of every child in Georgia will be a well-founded and undeniable reality.
Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed
Maya is 33 years old. She is a single mother with four children. Maya is from Sukhumi. Her husband, the father of her elder daughter, was killed during the war in Abkhazia. The girl, very young at that time, had to share the fate of many others in Abkhazia: together with her mother and grandmother she was forced to flee her home town.
Since 1994, their home has been a tiny room at one of sanatoria in Tskhvarichamia, where living conditions are daunting: no water and no sanitation.
Little Irakli, who is now 3 years old, was born in this room where the six of them live. This same room was the birthplace for two of his elder brothers. At the time of our visit, two younger boys had no birth certificate, while their elder siblings could not attend school.
There is no shortage of stories like this one in Georgia. Many children reach the school age without having a birth certificate, i.e. without being registered. Lack of accurate and reliable statistics creates a host of problems for the state, keeping the “non-existing” children from enjoying the rights spelled out in the Georgian legislation or international law. They have no access to healthcare or social welfare services.
To address this distressing situation, in 2003 a special working group was established at the Public Defender's Office focusing on issues related to birth registration. The working group brought together representatives of the National Security Council, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs, State Statistics Department, as well as different organisations active in protecting children’s rights…
According to the group, further work should be carried out along two main directions: cancellation of fees for the issuance of birth certificates, as well as streamlining and simplification of issuance procedure, and raising public awareness.
Concrete activities have already been conducted along these lines. The working group addressed a recommendation to the Ministry of Justice of Georgia proposing cancellation of fees for the issuance of birth certificates, and requested the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Issues to take into account proposals formulated by the working group when considering the relevant draft law.
As a result, the Law of Georgia on the State Tax was amended to include the following provision: “Fees for birth registration, child adoption and determination of paternity shall be cancelled, and the costs incurred in registration shall be covered by the state budget, from allocations made to the Ministry of Justice…”
According to Eter Kamarauli, Head of the Department of Citizenship, Civil Status Registration and Immigration of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia, starting from 2005 both interim and permanent birth certificates will be issued free of charge.
Members of the working group think that cancellation of birth certificate fees is in no way enough to address the problem, as the level of public awareness is fairly low. Many parents seem to be ignorant of the fact that without a birth certificate their children are kept from enjoying some of the basic rights such as the right to healthcare, education and social welfare, etc. Hence, the next step will be to raise public awareness of the importance and need of birth registration.
An important visitOn 14-16 April 2004, Mr. Kul Chandra Gautam, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF came to Georgia on an official visit, the first to Georgia by such a high-ranking UNICEF official.
The main purpose of the visit was to discuss, together with government representatives and donor organisations, the problems affecting children, and to identify factors hindering development of effective mechanisms of social protection for the most vulnerable segments of population.
During his stay in Georgia, Mr. Kul Gautam visited some of the projects implemented in Georgia with the UNICEF support, namely the Immunisation Centre and the Youth Centre in Gori. He also met with youth representatives involved in projects implemented with UNICEF support – the Children and Youth Parliament of Georgia, youth centres, Young People’s Media Network – and visited “Begurebi” shelter for street children in Tbilisi.
The high-ranking guest had extensive discussions on iodine deficiency problems. One of the highlights in the agenda was integration of UNICEF supported pilot projects on de-institutionalisation, street children rehabilitation, inclusive education of children with disabilities, implementation of active learning into the process of designing a unified national social policy. The main focus during the meeting with donors was the need to improve coordination of international assistance.
“Children being the most vulnerable part of the society, should be given priority attention,” said Mr. Kul Gautam. “We must do all we can to speed up the reforms called to ensure effective social policy and increased spending on social needs”.
‘’The expansion of the European Union has generated a new sense of optimism and opened minds across the whole of this region to issues of human rights, an opportunity we should seize to deliver on child rights obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The world has become a scary place for children and, in Europe and Central Asia, millions of children are falling through the cracks to be trafficked and traded, exploited and abused, excluded and alienated in ways that affront the intelligence, shame the conscience and break the heart,‘’ she said. ‘’We know how to prevent this from happening, so what exactly is holding us back?’’said Ms. Carol Bellamy, UNICEF Executive Director speaking in Sarajevo on 13 May at the Second Intergovernmental Conference of Ministers from across Europe and Central Asia.
Hosted by the Governments of Bosnia and Herzegovina and of Germany, this Second Intergovernmental Conference on Making Europe and Central Asia Fit for Children was held in Sarajevo on 13-15 May 2004. The conference addressed five broad themes: investing in children; children moving across borders; violence against children; social exclusion; and cities fit for children.
The conference was attended by government representatives from over 50 countries of Europe and Central Asia, as well as youth delegates, donors and civil society representatives. Vanessa Redgrave, a famous British actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, was one of central participants of the conference. She made a keynote address and visited one of schools in Sarajevo where Roma children study together with children from other ethnic groups.
Georgia was represented at the conferences by: Tamar Beruchashvili, former State Minister on European Integration Issues; Nino Okribelashvili, former Deputy Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs; Petre Metreveli, MP, Chairman of National Commission for UNESCO; Londa Esadze, President of the Independent Board of Advisors to the Parliament. Youth delegates from Georgia included Keti Arveladze, speaker of the Children and Youth Parliament, and Nino Dedalamazishvili, member of the Young People’s Media Network. Together with 26 children and young people from 14 countries, they took an active part in the discussions and deliberations at the conference.
Participants of the conference discussed institutional, socio-cultural and economic obstacles and barriers that stand on the way of the right of the child to development. Trafficking in children and illegal adoption, violence in homes, school and society, children barred from enjoying their right to participation – this is only an incomplete list of issues included in the conference agenda. The conference looked at the possible ways to address these problems, and prioritised action against them for each of the participating states.
‘’We must create a protective environment for and with children,‘’ said Carol Bellamy at the closing of the conference. ‘’We must ensure that the cracks that exist now are plugged with sound, inclusive policies and legislation; with a social service system that is accessible and friendly to all children irrespective of gender, ethnicity, religion or culture; and with a supportive family and community environment. It is not beyond our means or reach, for example, to make this the first region to eliminate child poverty,’’ she added. ’’What we need right now is more political will and leadership.’’
Georgia is part of a number of global initiatives, such as Poverty Reduction, Millennium Development Goals, or World Fit for Children programmes. Each of these initiatives comprises specific indicators used to monitor progress towards the programme goals. The same indicators are used to assess the situation over the past decade, evaluate the country’s potential to achieve the objectives pursued by each of the programmes, and to identify future priorities for the state.
Scarcity of statistics, as well as inadequate quality of the data represent a serious impediment on the way of implementation of these programmes, vitally important for the country’s development. Accurate statistics is indispensable for adequate evaluation of the situation in the country, and elaboration of action plans.
With this in mind, UNICEF offered the Georgian Government a new software application programme “DevInfo” that can be used to develop an updatable database both at the national and sub-regional levels.
“This software application is the best tool to put together social and economic indicators, compile charts and maps, collect and present relevant information,” says George Sakvarelidze, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Programme Officer at UNICEF Georgia. “It allows to breakdown the data not only at the country level, but also at the level of geographic regions, districts, etc.”
The software was presented to the Georgian Government for the first time in November 2003. By decision of the Ministry of Economic Development of Georgia, in July 2004 DevInfo was officially recognised as the most appropriate software application for monitoring social and economic indicators and developing a national database. Implementation of the programme was entrusted to the Statistics Department of the Ministry of Economic Development.
In 2004, UNICEF supported two workshops on database administration and use of the software application that provided for re-training of 60 specialists. The first workshop targeted the database administrators and aimed at providing additional information on the software use, as well as entry and processing of data. The workshop was attended by representatives from the Statistics Department, statistical centres of the Ministry of Education and Science, and the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs, as well as from UN Agencies.
The second workshop aimed at training the trainers in order to ensure further re-training of personnel not only in the centre, but also in the country’s regions, which is an important aspect, as in 2005 it is planned to extend the initiatives to the regional level.
According to George Sakvarelidze, the work on the first national database entitled “Georgia-Info” is expected to complete by late 2004 or early 2005, followed by extension of the initiative to 11 regions of Georgia, relevant trainings and, finally, practical application of the programme.
The new database will be entirely open to public. It will use CD-ROM format, with an explanatory brochure, and can be downloaded into PCs. CD will automatically download the installation programme to allow the viewing of the database.
“Every person familiar with Microsoft products can easily use this software,” says George Sakvarelidze – “official publications will use the disk format and be disseminated among public. In future, our plans are to post the database on websites of the Statistics Department or interested ministries, which will make it easily accessible for users. The programme can be provided free of charge to any interested parties.
Thus, one can expect that the ultimate goal, namely, to improve the quality of socio-economic data and their accessibility, and to build up skills, both among general public as well as executive or legislative bodies, necessary to analyse this type of information, will be achieved.
Government’s contribution to Immunisation Programme to increase
Since 1994, UNICEF has supported the Georgian Government in implementation of the National Immunisation Programme. Within the programme, UNICEF ensures non-interrupted provision of vaccines and syringes, provides cold-chain equipment to fight such dangerous diseases as tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis, measles, polio and tetanus, provides training for epidemiologists and immunisation programme managers, carries out information, education and communication campaigns for the general public on benefits of immunisation. The programme is implemented with the USAID financial support and aims to improve further the initially daunting situation in terms of disease incidence that resulted from the deterioration of health care and disruption of vaccine provision after the demise of the Soviet Union. The programme will enable the government to establish sustainable immunisation, with the ultimate objective of achieving financial sustainability not relying on external assistance.
The process has already started. Since 2004, the Government has undertaken to procure 40 per cent of vaccines needed for immunisation of children under 2 years of age and made necessary allocations from the state budget. The remaining 60% is supplied by UNICEF. The Government’s contribution already covers fully the provision of vaccine supplies for immunisation of children of 5 and 14 years of age. This is indeed a significant headway in terms of increasing further the sustainability of the immunisation programme.
“From 2007, the country may encounter certain problems with vaccination,’ says Levan Baidoshvili, Deputy Director of the National Centre for Disease Control. “Presently, international organisations contribute USD 8 million 600 thousand for the process, while the contribution from the national budget is GEL 1 million 750 thousand. In terms of the country’s budget, this is not a small amount but, obviously, without international support we would not be able to carry out the immunisation”.
With assistance of UNICEF and other partners, the Government has drawn up a plan to ensure financial sustainability of the immunisation programme for 2005-2012 that will shortly be presented to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation.
Is vaccine to be blamed?
Safety of vaccines remains a topical issue in Georgia. Occasionally, rumours circulate among the public that one or another vaccine is not fit for use. It is alleged that vaccines produced in some of developing countries are inferior in quality to those produced in industrially advanced countries, which supposedly can be damaging for child’s health. Parents are obviously misled into buying expensive vaccines, advertised as being safe and of high quality. Such unsubstantiated misconceptions jeopardise the immunisation programme performance.
Immunisation is among the most remarkable achievements in the history of humanity. Preventive inoculations protect children against specific diseases as they acquire immunity against them. Immunisation led to worldwide elimination of smallpox - one of the most serious contagious diseases.
According to WHO, nearly 12 million children under fourteen years of age die each year. About 9 million children die from infectious diseases of which 3 million – from easily preventable diseases. Each year immunisation protects 750 000 children from blindness, disability, mental retardation and other illnesses.
In Georgia, routine immunisation is carried out in accordance with the national immunization calendar approved by the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs.
Based on the immunisation schedule, with the support of UNICEF and other international organisations the state provides supplies of vaccines and necessary materials. Timely provision of the whole series of immunisation injections is essential, since otherwise their effectiveness will be lower.
Modern vaccines are safe, though all of them may have side effects or be associated with individual-specific adverse effects following immunisation. However, compared to the disease or disease-related aggravation of health status, the post-vaccination risk is so insignificant that it dispels any doubts in the necessity and effectiveness of vaccination.
Any vaccine brought into the country by UNICEF has an international quality certificate GMP, no matter where it is produced. Their quality is guaranteed by the World Health Organisation, and it is hardly possible to find a better guarantor for vaccine safety. The process of procurement of vaccine supplies is worthy of note, too. Relevant decisions are not taken at the national level. Over the year, UNICEF examines the quality of vaccines produced worldwide and only then does it open a global bidding. Vaccine acquisition is the responsibility of the UNICEF Procurement Office in Copenhagen.
UNICEF procures vaccines from qualified producers both in developing and developed countries. All vaccine producers are expected to adhere to international standards established by the World Health Organisation. For 30 years UNICEF has been involved in vaccine procurement, and in the past ten years vaccines have been purchased from qualified producers in developing countries, too.
A qualified supplier is selected through competitive bidding, its product is again evaluated for quality, and only after this procedure is completed the vaccine is brought into the country. Inside the country, the product becomes the property of the state. Vaccine supplies are stored at storage facilities of the National Centre for Disease Control. It is important that proper storage and distribution regimes be observed, and responsibility in this matter is assumed by the Government.
The Government of Georgia, supported by the international community (the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, USAID) is committed to achieve the goal set globally to eradicate measles by 2010. After the reinstatement of the National Immunisation Programme in the 1990s, interventions for measles prevention and control are successfully carried out within the framework of routine immunisation (for children of 1-5 years of age) and epidemiological surveillance programmes. To ensure measles prevention and effective epidemiological surveillance, routine vaccinations among high-risk groups (IDPs, refugees, communities affected by conflict where implementation of vaccination programmes is hindered) are attended with additional, mass immunisation campaigns.
As a result of joint efforts by UNICEF, USAID, Vishnevskaya-Rastropovich International Foundation and the Georgian Government, a mass vaccination campaign among children of 1-5 years of age was conducted in March-April 2004 in response to increased incidence of measles in the Pankisi Valley and the adjoining areas.
Three thousand doses of measles vaccine, as well as syringes and other materials needed for immunisation were brought into the region through instrumentality of UNICEF and US Government. A total of 2800 children living in the Pankisi Valley were inoculated. Apart from measles vaccination, 1722 children from local communities and 846 refugee children from Chechnya received Vitamin A supplies which for its part enhance immunity against measles. The information, education and communications campaign was conducted among communities in the Pankisi Valley.
Assistance and continued monitoring of the campaign were provided jointly by the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, National Centre for Disease Control, UNICEF, WHO and US Government, with coordination by UNHCR, MSF France and Akhmeta local branch of “Technical Assistance for Georgia”.
Shortly, the campaign demonstrated visible results – in July the incidence of measles stopped to grow.
“Not only does measles incidence stopped to increase, but it is definitely going down,” says Levan Baidoshvili, Deputy Director of the National Centre for Disease Control. “Cases of prevalence among groups – in families, schools, kindergartens, etc. are no longer found. Grave cases of measles have not been documented; however, 5-6 per cent of infected children were nevertheless hospitalised. In April-May, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccination was given to 18 thousand children in Tbilisi and Batumi, with not a single complication recorded. We only observed a few cases of normal temperature response. Such response is only too natural, and cannot be completely avoided”.
Changes made in 2004 in the national immunisation calendar led to the introduction of combined MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, which allows to protect the child from all the three diseases with one immunisation injection. Supplies of combined MMR vaccine were provided to Georgia by the Vishnevskaya-Rastropovich International Foundation.
MMR vaccination was carried out among children of 1, 5 and 13 years of age. Besides, the vaccination also covered children born in 1990, as in 1990s disruption of the immunisation process led to suspension of immunisation among children of that age, and today they represent a high-risk group.
“Similar projects are carried out by our Foundation in Russia, Azerbaijan, soon they will be extended to Armenia,” says George Gvinepadze, Executive Director of the Vishnevskaya-Rastropovich International Foundation. “Our priority is prevention of childhood diseases. Introduction of combined MMR vaccine is a change to the vaccination calendar applied until recently which envisaged separate inoculations mostly given on a fee-paying basis. Our cooperation will continue through 2007, during which period it is planned to vaccinate 500-600 thousand children.”
Application of combined MMR vaccine was a novelty for the Georgian healthcare workers. In September-October 2004, the National Centre for Disease Control, jointly with UNICEF, organised special workshops for 810 primary health care providers in 66 district centres of Georgia to make them familiar with vaccine content, inoculation rules, contraindications and possible adverse effects following immunisation (AEFI).
In September 2004, UNICEF, jointly with the Vishnevskaya-Rastropovich International Foundation and National Centre for Disease Control launched a two-week information, education and communication campaign with television and radio broadcasts of information concerning the new combined vaccine, and the printing of 215,000 information booklets, 12,000 posters and 120,000 immunisation cards for distribution throughout the country.
Each year 100 – 150 children with congenital hypothyroidism are born in Georgia’s endemic areas. Hence, each year 100-150 new citizens of Georgia are facing the risk of mental retardation and brain damage caused by iodine deficiency.
Georgia’s First Lady against iodine deficiency
Miscarriages, increased perinatal mortality, premature births, stillbirths, impaired ability of children to develop, neurological cretinism, mental and physical retardation, physical abnormalities, reproductive dysfunction, infertility – this is only an incomplete list of problems caused by iodine deficiency. The damage these disorders cause to the state is many-fold: decline in education level and labour productivity, decrease of national revenues and increased pressure on social services.
In Georgia, iodine deficiency disorders are endemic. They are caused by low iodine contents in water and soil, and hence, in the locally produced food products. In 1990, with the onset of the socio-economic crisis in Georgia, the system of iodised salt import and distribution was completely disrupted. The effects did not take long to materialise. A survey conducted in 1998 showed various degrees of iodine deficiency in 55-58 percent of the population. Presently, due to joint efforts of UNICEF and the Georgian Government, this figure has dropped to 38-39 percent.
However, Georgia’s international commitment is to achieve sustainable elimination of iodine deficiency disorders and ensure universal salt iodisation by 2005.
“Today, iodine deficiency is a major problem for Georgia. At the same time, it is an easily preventable one. Iodine deficiency disorders can be prevented with just iodised salt consumed on a regular basis. Use iodised salt, and we shall be able to save our children’s intellectual potential, ‘ said Ms. Sandra Elisabeth Roelofs, Georgia’s first lady and founder of SOCO Charity Foundation speaking at the conference “Strengthening Cooperation to Eliminate Iodine Deficiency in Georgia” held at the Sheraton Metechi Palace on 28 June 2004. Notably, Georgia’s first lady, a Goodwill Ambassador of her kind, actively cooperates with UNICEF in the fight against iodine deficiency in the country.
The Conference aimed to bring to the limelight of public attention the problem of iodine deficiency, mobilise local and international partners and enhance cooperation within the country to provide universal salt iodisation. The conference was attended by representatives of executive and legislative bodies, international organisations and private sector.
Seven countries in Europe and Central Asia have already eliminated IDD: Macedonia, Turkmenistan, Serbia – Montenegro, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Six countries plan to eliminate iodine deficiency by 2005.
“The aim of this conference is to determine as to what stands on the way of achieving universal salt iodisation by 2005 and to finalise the National Plan of Action for elimination of iodine deficiency disorders and universal salt iodisation for 2004-2005,” said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, UNICEF Representative in Georgia. “UNICEF has worked on this problem together with the Government of Georgia since 1996. Progress is evident. Goitre prevalence among children has decreased from 55 to 38 percent, imports of iodised salt have increased 16-fold, consumption of iodised salt has increased from 8.1 per cent of families in 1999 to 67 per cent in 2003. This is not a small achievement, however still more is to be done to achieve our ultimate goal”.
The conference finalised work on the National Plan of Action for 2004-2005 for Elimination of Iodine Deficiency Disorders and Universal Salt Iodisation. The main strands of the plan are: improvement of legislation, iodised salt quality control and quality assurance, monitoring and epidemiological surveillance, information support for action against iodine deficiency, interdepartmental cooperation, and enhancing the role of private sector.
One step to achieve the latter objective was taken at the conference itself and materialised into a declaration of importers adopted at the conference where private companies reaffirmed their readiness to import and to use in food production only quality iodised salt.
New law supports import of iodized salt in Georgia
In February 2005, the Parliament of Georgia made a major breakthrough in the fight against iodine deficiency, adopting new legislation to outlaw imports of non-iodized salt. The new law: “Prevention of Disorders Caused by Iodine, Micronutrients and Vitamins Deficiency” will come into force in six months. The law is the result of joint efforts by the Parliamentary Committee on Health and Social Issues and UNICEF.
“The law is a tremendous success for our country. Its implementation will only be possible through active collaboration with international organizations as well as through awareness raising campaigns and carrying out concrete actions by all parties involved” – declared Mr George Tsereteli, Head of the Parliamentary Committee on Health and Social Issues at a special press-conference organized on 24 March at the Parliament.
The Law will contribute to a National Policy on Food Fortification as well as setting standards for the import and production of iodized salt and other fortified food products. It also aims to strengthen State supervision and inter-agency coordination.
Measures will be put in place over the next six months to ensure that the legislation is effective once it comes into force. These include setting up reliable quality control mechanisms as well as ensuring easy access to iodized salt for the population.
“The commitment of the Government of Georgia in setting up quality monitoring mechanisms is evident and highly appreciated. The fact that the law lays the foundation for other food fortification programmes is also of paramount importance. Within the coming months we will be working with the Government to create a solid base for putting the law into practice”, declared Mr Sanjiv Kumar, UNICEF Regional Programme Officer on Health and Nutrition at the press-conference.
BreastfeedingThe Baby-Friendly Hospital is a maternity home where the whole team stands out for the special care for infants and strictly adheres to the "Ten Steps for Successful Breastfeeding".
Once more about benefits of breastfeeding – a seminar in Malaysia
A large body of research conducted over years has proved that breast milk is one of the major factors essential to the growth and development of a child. Research findings have led nutrition experts worldwide to state that, unless medically indicated, substitution of breast milk with infant formula is tantamount to a crime.
Judge by the facts:
Breast-milk substitute is obtained through the processing of cow’s milk; however, despite their best efforts producers have failed to secure the composition equivalent to breast-milk. Experts say that would be impossible as every mother’s milk is distinctly individual and it is impossible to obtain a formula that would fit all possible variations. Animal, in this case cow’s, milk is meant for an entirely different organism. Up to the age of 5-6 month, a newborn has no enzymes to assist in digestion, making adequate assimilation of breast-milk substitute difficult. Breast-milk, on the other hand, contains these enzymes itself.
Hence, weaning of the newborn child with no contraindications for breast-milk may result in physical and psychological problems at a later stage. Baby formula inhibits normal functioning of the baby’s internal organs, and even if consequences are not immediately visible in the early months of life, they will most probably be manifested at the age of 15, 20 or 30 years. As far as psychological factors are concerned, scientists have concluded that the newborn child necessitates frequent communication with mother, and breastfeeding is the best chance for the child to be with her. Hence, its denial appears stressful for the child.
This knowledge did not come overnight; it took time to be understood adequately. This understanding developed gradually, similarly to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, an international law governing matters related to breast-feeding and its substitution. The Code provides guidance for the countries joining the Convention on the Rights of the Child and hence, committing themselves to promote advantages of breastfeeding, in developing relevant national laws and regulations.
Around 100 – 120 countries have enacted special regulations concerning breastfeeding. However, many of the advanced countries have no law on breastfeeding, the reason being strong resistance by baby formula producers. In Georgia, due to joint efforts of UNICEF, as well as other governmental and non-governmental organisations, the relevant law was enacted in 2000. According to one of its authors Tamar Manjavidze, Head of Mother and Child Health Department at the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs, despite the workable law, it is always possible to find loopholes that formula producers will use to their benefit.
“To address this problem, IBFAN – International Baby Food Action Network, periodically conducts workshops to discuss problems related to breastfeeding, look closer at such loopholes, identify ways, both devised or used by producers to “bypass” the existing regulations, and take responsive action,” says Tamar Manjavidze. “This year IBFAN convened its workshop in Malaysia on 20-28 September. Participation of Georgian representatives was sponsored by UNICEF. One of the important factors was broad participation of governmental agencies whose level of awareness of these issues is viewed as essential for addressing the problems involved. The meeting was attended by representatives from 20 countries, as well as international organisations, including UNICEF. The meeting discussed a broad range of issues, including methods and techniques employed by formula producers in advertising, etc. All this will enable us to address the problem drawing on the international experience”.
As of 1 December 2004, the Communicable Pathology, AIDS and Clinical Immunology Centre has 614 cases of HIV/AIDS registered, among them 503 male and 111 female patients. Most of the patients are between 21 and 40 years of age. 193 patients developed AIDS, and 111 died.
The documented 614 cases are in no way reflective of the actual prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Georgia. According to WHO and local experts, the number of HIV/AIDS actual cases is thought to be 2500.
To prevent AIDS and stop the spread of the disease, the Global Fund for Fight against AIDS, TB and Malaria committed a grant of US $ 12 million to support Georgia’s five-year National Strategic Plan of Action. The agreement between the Georgian Government and the Global Fund was signed in summer 2003; however, the developments of the last year and difficult political situation delayed the disbursement of the first tranche. Implementation of the programme was further impeded by mechanisms present in the Georgian law on government procurement, but already in autumn 2004, namely on 15 September, the programme commenced.
“Our project has significantly benefited from the fact that the Programme Coordination Board is chaired by Ms. Sandra Roelofs, Georgia’s first lady,” says Keti Stvilia of the Georgian AIDS and Clinical Immunology Centre. ‘The board is made up of representatives of the ministries of health, justice, finance, economy, education and science, Georgian AIDS and Clinical Immunology Centre, Institute of Narcology, as well as of donor organisations, NGOs, and UN agencies. The project was developed within the framework of the National Strategic Plan of Action against HIV/AIDS that was elaborated with support of UNICEF. This Plan of Action underpinned the design of project components.”
The programme lot “Advocacy for the development of an enabling legal and legislative basis” is designed to provide for the review and streamlining of legislation concerning drug addiction, prostitution and other related issues, and its alignment with interventions to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS to be implemented in the course of the project;
The programme lot “HIV/AIDS prevention among IDUs” is carried out by the Open Society – Georgia Foundation and the Research Institute of Narcology, working to implement harm reduction principles through the pilot project focussing on needle exchange and Metadone substitution therapy;
The programme lot “HIV/AIDS among commercial sex workers, male homosexuals and their partners” is implemented by NGO “Tanadgoma” having extensive experience of such work, in collaboration with the Georgian AIDS and Clinical Immunology Centre, Institute of Skin and Venereal Diseases, and STD clinic. Within this program component, work is underway to establish an information and consultation centre in Zugdidi to provide free consultation, testing and treatment of STD patients. Besides, it is planned to carry out outreach work, namely trainings for high-risk groups, such as police and transit truck drivers.
The programme lot “HIV/AIDS prevention among youth” is implemented by the Georgian Child Federation, in collaboration with the Georgian AIDS and Clinical Immunology Centre, NGOs “Tanadgoma and “Benomi”, and the Children and Youth Parliament. The main focus is on establishing youth centres that will provide for consultations and testing on a voluntary basis. In partnership with the Institute of Teachers' Training and Retraining, the Federation plans to adapt the life-skills manual prepared with the UNICEF support for Grades 10 – 11. This lot also includes “Peer to Peer” programme envisioning training of trainers that, in turn, will educate their peers. It is planned to organise around 30 youth, sports and music events.
The program lot “Care and support for people personally affected by HIV/AIDS” seeks to address on of the most painful issues, that of treatment of HIV/AIDS registered patients. Regional HIV/AIDS treatment centres are being established in Poti and Batumi - cities with the largest numbers of cases. In addition, NGOs “Assistance Fund for AIDS Patients” and “Georgian Plus Group” will work to target stigma and discrimination. Special centres will be set up for HIV infected persons in Tbilisi, Batumi and Zugdidi. It is planned to launch seminars for journalists, politicians, public representatives to start the dialogue on exclusion of HIV/AIDS infected people.
The programme lot “Safety of blood and blood products” seeks to address the gap in financing the safe blood programme. The Global Fund’s grant enables testing of donor blood for hepatitis, AIDS, all severe infections. It is planned also to create an electronic information base to include data on rejected donors in order to avoid their re-examination.
The programme lot “Prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS” is implemented by the Association of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians in collaboration with the Georgian AIDS and Clinical Immunology Centre to identify HIV/AIDS cases among pregnant women, provide treatment for HIV infected mothers to prevent mother-to child transmission, and administer prophylactic treatment of newborns. High-risk women, i.e. those with previous blood transmissions, surgeries, or having IDU husbands, will be offered free-of-charge testing.
Says Akaki Lochoshvili, project manager at the Health and Social Protection Projects Coordination Centre: “The grant envisions extensive interventions to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. It is for the first time that such financing is given to a country with a limited number of registered HIV/AIDS cases. Although Georgia shows low HIV/AIDS prevalence, the Global Fund concluded that assistance now would help us to avert HIV/AIDS epidemic. Based on the lessons learnt by other countries, we are planning to structure preventive interventions in a manner to target segments with the highest risk of the spread of infection; intravenous drug users, commercial sex workers, male homosexuals, their partners, and also youth.
The grant is meant for five years; however the present agreement with the Global Fund covers only two years. Disbursement of the remaining grant money will depend on success during these two years. This is the Global Fund’s normal approach to long-term grants. The most essential thing is to do the quality work.”
The programme of development and care of children in early childhood provides for the support and assistance to pre-school age children and their families to enable the child's normal physical, emotional, social and cognitive development. The programme is versatile and envisions developing methods of care that promote the child's health and good nutrition, early development, and help parents to develop adequate skills to care for their children.
“It is delighting to be here together with other expectant mothers and talk about our common concerns. Also, we learn a lot of new things here. I have raised two children and thought I knew everything. Now it appears I was wrong. New things we learn here will certainly benefit us. Especially, in what concerns breastfeeding,” said Eliso Kavtaradze, a young mother who is now expecting her third baby, referring to the information and consultation centre set up at polyclinic No 10 in Tbilisi. The centre, established in September 2004, is frequently visited by mothers with children aged 0-3, as well as by expectant mothers. A cosy room where they can attend stimulating discussions is indeed a conducive environment for them to learn a multitude of new things.
Did you know that childbirth is found to have a profound impact on the child’s later development? Seeing the universe he is used to collapsing round him, the child makes a decision to move to a new world, and takes action helping his mother to give him birth. Children thus born have the sense of victory. This cycle of sensations – the decision, the action and the victory - accompany the child through life, as they are imprinted in his/her character. Children born through the Caesarean operation appear to lack these sensations and grow up less independent.
A manual for parents “This Amazing Early Age”, compiled by a group of experienced doctors, educators and psychologists and published with the support of UNICEF, contains a host of such interesting and entertaining stories. The manual is part of the information kit developed within the framework of the pilot project aimed to promote early childhood development.
The programme of early childhood development was launched in 2003. It is the result of cooperative efforts of the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs, and UNICEF Georgia. The programme encompasses two major directions of work. On the one hand, it aims to upgrade professional skills of healthcare providers, and on the other hand, to educate the public. The effectiveness of the programme relies on its multifaceted approach to a child, enabling to consider all his needs and possibilities in their totality. Ensuring healthy child development is an investment in a country’s future and capacity to thrive economically and as a society.
“In addition to the manual for parents, the programme provided for publication of a manual for specialists targeting medical professionals at women’s consultation clinics and children’s polyclinics, as well as nursery teachers; also information booklets and posters for parents,” says Tamar Manjavidze, Head of Mother and Child Health Department at the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs.
“Four information and consultation centres were established at polyclinics in Zestafoni, Telavi and Tbilisi. The centres are equipped with computers, copying machines, videos and TV sets to enable showing a film, of three parts, commissioned specially for this programme. We deliberately focus on polyclinics as part of primary healthcare. The knowledge concerning the childhood development at the age 0-3 is primarily related to the child’s health; hence information to mothers must primarily be given by healthcare professionals. Besides, polyclinics are the place most frequently visited by children of this age together with their parents.”
The information put together within the programme’s framework was not fully known even to healthcare personnel. It appeared necessary to conduct special trainings for medical workers, which was done with the support of UNICEF. The programme organised 8 workshops – four for educators, and four for healthcare professionals, attended by personnel of polyclinics, women’s consultation clinics, maternity homes and nurseries. In total, the trainings targeted 250 specialists. This is only the official number of participants. Interestingly, workshops in Telavi and Zestafoni were attended also by people who came without any formal invitation, to hear all the new and useful information they found important for them to know. Among workshop participants were healthcare workers from Tbilisi polyclinic No 10, whose information and consultation centre is open three days every week: on Tuesday and Thursday for expectant mothers, and on Wednesday for parents of children aged 0-3 years. The number of visitors exceeded 100 already in the initial months of the centre’s operation.
Says Mediko Zarnadze, head physician at polyclinic No 10: “In Georgia that has declared mother and child protection among its major priorities, and that faces serious demographic problems because of the low birth rate, the child’s health must be the matter of particular care. This is what the programme seeks to address. It provides for a good and reliable start as its main target are children between 0 and 3 years of age. During pregnancy, normal psychic, social and physical status of both the expectant mother and her child is of paramount importance. The programme is very stimulating. Parents are indeed happy and delighted. They are even more delighted when we give them these genuinely amazing books.”
“If mothers see the film and choose to follow the advice given in this manual, all our children will be healthy,” this is the common view that all those present at the workshop at polyclinic No 10 in Tbilisi shared with us.
Every Saturday from September 2004 till April 2005, Imedi TV Company brought people of different age and different backgrounds together at the TV screen to talk with them about children. These conversations had nothing in common with talks that people of older age remember from Soviet times – with false wisdom on speakers’ faces and equally false barriers between them and viewers. The experts invited to the programme were sitting among parents, physicians and educators, speaking of very interesting things, answering questions asked by those present in the studio. 26 talk show programmes called “The First Step” were prepared by Imedi TV Company with the support of UNICEF, within the framework of the early childhood development programme.
“The results surpassed all expectations,” said Tamar Manjavidze, Head of Mother and Child Health Department at the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs. “Already at the second TV broadcast, the number of questions went up from 10 to 30. People were asking of so many different things they were interested to know that we hardly managed to answer all of them. Initially the programme spanned 40 minutes, but then it was decided to make it 55 minutes long. By the time the third programme went on air, its rating among the TV audience was as high as that of “Courier” news programme. It seems that for parents with young children, the programme provided the best chance to get the information they needed.”
This is confirmed both by parents and experts who took part in the programme. “Issues raised, the way they are presented, the environment in the studio – everything is conducive to comprehension. The age between 0 and 3 years is indeed an amazing one. We learnt so many new things,” this view is shared by everyone involved in the programme. The programme format was meant to encourage everyone’s active involvement, which appeared to grow with every programme. Video materials presented in the programmes, either in the form of a film or questions from the public, also stimulated participants into active discussion.
It is interesting to hear what parents have to say.
Lika Chkhaberidze, the mother of a six-month old child: “All this is extremely interesting, as the programme provides complete information on the childhood development. Today, for instance, I learnt what toys are to be used at one or another age, how the mother has to play with her child to encourage mental development. All themes covered in earlier programmes are equally interesting. Unfortunately, I was not able to watch all of them and asked to give me the book, to read about things I could not follow on TV.”
Nino Nanikashvili, the mother of a two-year old girl: “I got full information about the environment the child needs to be surrounded with in order to develop her full potential. I learnt how to play with the child, how to educate her, how to read fairy tales to her. All this is extremely important for the child. I was delighted to follow and to take part in those dialogues.”
Liana Sikharulidze, the mother of a month-and-a-half old boy: “I like this programme a lot. I shall consider many of the things I learnt here. I did not follow these programmes from the beginning as I only learnt about them from other parents, and since then have not missed a single one. I am so thankful to everyone who gave us a chance to get this very useful information in such an exciting and entertaining form.”
With video questions, Imedi provided an opportunity for people living outside the capital to ask questions to experts. The questions were indeed many. Imedi covers not only Georgia, it broadcasts beyond its borders, too. In October, Imedi’s office had visitors from Saingilo who had watched “The First Step” and asked the authors of the programme to give them the book “This Amazing Early Age”.
“We prepared two cases with the books for them,” says Tamar Manjavidze. “In December, during the visit to Saingilo, representatives of our ministry delivered these books to people there. We had another interesting case in Lagodekhi. One man phoned us and said that despite power outages, they watched the programme. One of our neighbours has a power generator, he said, and we all go there to watch the programme. This part of the programme is aimed to inform the public, raise its level of awareness. The results obtained demonstrate that this objective has been achieved.”
Needless to say, the authors of the book and the programme do not have an illusion that one book and 26 TV programmes can cover all the issues in full detail, though neither do they deny that basic skills and the most essential information can be and are obtained through them.
Says Maya Kherkheulidze, coordinator of the Parents’ Education Programme on Early Childhood Development: “The programme appeared to be a success. We never expected that it would generate such a lively interest. The first thing that surprised us was the number of questions parents asked. This convinced us that they feel the need in such information and that they could not obtain it before. The questions are all-embracing. The state must work actively to educate parents, as their awareness and education are critical for the child’s development. It is an extremely important aspect. A large body of research shows that success is later life depends largely on early childhood development, stimulated first by games, later on by reading and singing. The first seven years of life lay the foundation for later success, and we must do all we can for this foundation to be solid and sound.”
The success of the programme is confirmed by the message addressed to UNICEF by Mr. Lado Chipashvili, Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia.
“The Programme launched by UNICEF has won high appraisal both from the Ministry and medical profession, and the public at large. The Ministry, its Mother and Child Health Department receive many letters of appreciation whose authors request to expand the programme to other regions of Georgia. It is important to know that the media component provided for dissemination of information about the programme not only throughout Georgia, but far beyond. The Ministry considers it important to replicate the successful model, introduced in pilot regions, throughout the country, which would contribute to educating professionals on issues of early childhood development on the one hand, and raising the public awareness, on the other.”
Basic life skills and healthy lifestyle – at last this discipline will take root in Georgia’s schools.
Back in 2000, to facilitate integration of a new course in the school curriculum, UNICEF invited to Georgia experts from the British NGO TACADA, Dr Alysoun Moon and Ms Helen Lee.
“In order to introduce a new discipline, it is essential to know about the relevant experience of other countries, however it should derive from the own experience of the country concerned, its traditions and ethnic culture,” said Alysoun Moon.
The work on the programme concept, syllabus and a course outline brought together Georgian experts: educators, medical professionals, and psychologists. An initiative group was set up to facilitate integration of the new discipline in schools, and its members were offered a special training course.
According to Tamar Meipariani, General Director of the Central Institute of Teachers' Training, life skills and healthy lifestyle represent an interdisciplinary subject meant to empower children with the skills every child, and more broadly, every citizen, needs to internalise.
The discipline has four basic strands: civic education, me and my sound body, emotions and relations, and healthy environment.
The project developed a syllabus for grades 1-9, and prepared 40 model lessons. Besides, a methodological manual and training modules designed within the project’s framework were used to train 270 teachers to facilitate integration of the new discipline in schools. Pilot lessons were held in 17 schools both in Tbilisi, and in other regions of Georgia (Telavi, Rustavi, Zestafoni).
We go to school
Anano is 11 years old. She came to the first grade of the Georgian-German school No 6 together with her peers, but later her illness prevented her from attending. Today, she is on the list of her class again, and although she cannot attend all lessons together with her classmates, she comes to school almost every day. Here, in a specially assigned working room, she has lessons with teachers and psychologists. Her friends often come here to see her. Her favourite subjects are geography, painting and modelling. Last year she took part in an exhibition together with her classmates. Her paintings are displayed in the school.
This school started introducing inclusive education in 2000. With the help of foreign organizations a special working room was equipped; later a special lift was installed. Today, 15 children with different disabilities study in this school.
Tamuna is in the third, and Eka is in the tenth grade. The girls attend school, like their peers. They are the favourites for their classmates. The girls study all subjects, like all other children.
Ana and Dachi are in the first grade. They are now doing some preparatory work with teachers and psychologists, to engage fully in the learning process.
German-Georgian School No 6 is part of the inclusive education programme, implemented with the support of UNICEF and World Food Programme. The programme is coordinated by NGO “Child and Environment”. According to Nana Iashvili, President of “Child and Environment”, this is a pilot project aiming to promote inclusive education for children with different disabilities.
The project runs a resource-centre at the premises of kindergarten No 16 of the Railway Department, where children with various health problems can learn with assistance of specialists in corrective pedagogy.
Besides, there is a special group for parents where they are trained to comprehend and cope with the problems they face, and be able to effectively assist their children. In the past, after leaving this kindergarten, children were usually unable to continue their schooling and get education at school, together with other children.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child makes a provision that "a disabled child has the right to special care and effective access to education and training in a manner conducive to the child's achieving the fullest possible social integration and individual development".
For the second year now, ten schools in all districts of Tbilisi have engaged in inclusive education. In 2004, 20 children (mostly, from kindergarten No 16) started attending regular comprehensive schools.
Introduction of inclusive education was not an easy process. It was necessary to train teachers accordingly, as well as the children, their classmates and parents. The schools were furnished with ramps, to enable children in wheel-chairs to enter.
“This is a complex and extensive programme envisioning a wide array of activities. We have already adapted the relevant UNESCO programme and prepared special additional programmes. The process is going on. It is necessary to develop standards, define what groups should benefit from inclusive education, adapt schools to the needs of children with disabilities, develop the necessary infrastructure,” says Nana Iashvili.
The project has established a coordinating board with participation of the Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs, as well as international organisations.
The Georgian Institute of Teachers' Training is now actively involved in the process of introducing inclusive education. The expert group prepared a teachers’ manual focussing on methods of teaching mathematics and Georgian to children with disabilities in the first grade. Similar manuals are being developed for teachers working with grades 2 and 3.
A special training on inclusive education was held for teachers that now work with children in need of special attention and approach. Unfortunately, so far it has not been possible to provide adequate pay for the teachers involved. Programme initiators believe that soon inclusive education will be introduced in other Georgian schools.
On 10-20 December 2004, Lani Florian and Martyn Rouse, experts from the University of Cambridge, were invited to Georgia to evaluate the UNICEF-supported project on inclusive education. The experts visited the educational institutions offering tuition to children with disabilities, met with representatives of governmental agencies and NGOs, and familiarized themselves with the course of the project. According to the experts, in general, the project on inclusive education can be considered a success, as it has established a reliable basis for further extension of the programme and wider introduction of inclusive education. To achieve this goal, it is essential for the government to follow some basic recommendations.
According to the experts, it is crucial for the Ministry of Education and Science to declare Education for All as one of its key priorities, and carry out relevant reforms, namely: the law on general education should be amended, to provide for the right of children with disabilities to have access to free-of-charge quality education; disabled children’s special needs should be duly taken into account in the process of school reform; the Ministry of Education should provide for professional re-training of teachers engaged in inclusive education, and support NGOs in the implementation of short-term initiatives.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child emphasises that "the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding".
Being together with mummies
Nana is sixteen. From Tbilisi Maternity Hospital No 2 where on 22 February she gave birth to a girl, she was transferred to the shelter for mothers. Her little daughter, Mariam, sleeps quietly in her bed. The young mother looks at the baby with some fear. The grandmother is now here, together with her daughter and granddaughter. She still feels nervous.
Last year Nana left one of the boarding schools in Tbilisi and started working as cleaner at the market, together with her mother. Her mother was unable to continue work because of illness and the girl was working alone. There, in the market she met Ghia, several years older than she.
“He used to come sometimes, when I worked, and spoke with me. There was one room in the market, and we were there together,” she struggles with herself to say that.
Ghia disappeared . . . The girl was left alone . . . She didn’t tell anyone . . . Who could think that . . .
In the autumn she started swelling, but she never guessed herself what it was. On one of New Year’s days her cousin’s wife did a test … Then her cousin went to the market to meet Ghia, but he was not there. No one knew what his family name was …
“Father stopped being on speaking terms with me. My uncle and cousins said they would not let me in with a baby,” says Nana.
Nana’s parents are divorced. Her mother lives together with her elderly parents in a make-shift home in Saburtalo district of Tbilisi. Her living conditions are appalling; therefore all her three children live with their father.
Her mother learnt about the daughter’s pregnancy several days before the childbirth: “I didn’t know what to do. I even went to Kashveti church – I thought maybe my girl would be given shelter in the nunnery. They told me to come on Monday. On Sunday she felt pain in stomach. I had no money to call an ambulance. So we rushed to the first-aid post nearby. From there the ambulance took us to the maternity hospital.”
Nana gave birth to a girl.
“At first I was so frightened, and then too, when the baby started to cry. But the doctor said it was good that she cried,” says Nana.
Of course, they had no swaddling clothes for the baby, so they tore a sheet and swaddled her.
The girl scared by the threats from her family could have abandoned her baby, but doctors at the hospital told her about the shelter. Tsitso Gventsadze, social worker, persuaded the girl to change her mind.
That was in March 2004. The little mother met the Mother’s Day in the shelter.
“OK, now they are here, but where will they go afterwards? What will they be doing?” Nana’s mother used to say, her face in tears.
“Now we are OK. From the shelter I went to my father’s home. My father and my uncles made up with me,” said the girl eight months later. She had a quiet smile on her face.
Social workers helped her to find a job. She now works as a dish-washer in one of cafés in Tbilisi. Workmates say she is a brisk and lively girl.
While Nana is at work, her family and relatives take care of little Mariam.
From 2002 UNICEF, jointly with the World Vision International, Every Child, Ministry of Education and Science, and Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs has been engaged in the project for prevention of child abandonment and de-institutionalisation. As part of the project, Mother and Child Shelter was opened on the premises of Tbilisi Infant's Home in April 2003.
Since April 2003, social workers have identified 96 mothers at risk of child abandonment; 54 of them were placed at the shelter, whilst others maintained their children with the assistance of social workers.
Social workers work with the Infant’s Home’s inmates, too. They seek to have the children returned to their biological families, or fostered. The project helped to save 96 newborn babies from abandonment.
The problems mothers in special circumstances confront are met with responsiveness at the Mother and Child Shelter; social workers suggest how they could be addressed and give mothers every possible professional support. The shelter offers mothers and their babies a quiet and safe environment to live in and to develop. Mothers get advice and assistance from social workers so that in future they can be self-reliant. Social workers develop a plan for the mother to stimulate her to bring up the child in family environment.
12 children were returned to their biological families, and 30 placed in caring family environment.
The employment service set up with the shelter aims to assist mothers in coping with social and financial difficulties. Employment service manager and employment consultants identify the needs and technical skills of projects’ beneficiaries, to provide targeted assistance to them in upgrading skills or mastering a trade or knowledge to provide for their job-placement. The employment centre also runs a small grants and loans programme to support small business development.
Through the employment and small business support centre, 32 single mothers participating in the project on de-institutionalisation and prevention of child abandonment received grants to start their small businesses (in trade, baking, ethnographic crafts, cosmetology, hair-dressing, etc.). 12 single mothers were re-trained as confectioners, cosmetologists and stylists. 11 mothers got jobs and continue working. These interventions provided for financial self-reliance of the project beneficiaries.
The project has established a working group on de-institutionalisation tasked with developing a strategy towards securing children’s well-being. This strategy is expected to promote effective de-institutionalisation and put into effect the principles spelled out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
With the support of the working group on de-institutionalisation, on 1 June 2004, the International Day for Child’s Protection, the international NGO “Every Child” organised a national conference to discuss issues relevant to the protection of children. The conference emphasised that de-institutionalisation is recognised by the Georgian Government as one of its national priorities. Participants of the conference formulated concrete recommendations for the government. One of important outcomes of the conference was the establishment of an inter-sectoral commission for de-institutionalisation policy development and coordination. The commission will coordinate and monitor the implementation of the Action Plan on De-institutionalisation that was drawn up by the end of 2004 and aims to bring down the number of children in institutional care.
The process of de-institutionalisation continues… What is most important is that little girls and boys now live with their mothers.
Leave no child without a family
In 1999, the Georgian Parliament adopted the law on foster care for orphans and children deprived of parental care. Since then, the Ministry of Education of Georgia, UNICEF and the British NGO Every Child have implemented activities within the framework of the project “Support to the Child and the Family” to promote alternative methods to institutions such a foster care or direct family support.
The pilot project that initially covered 150 children in three regions of Georgia was successfully completed in spring 2002. The State committed to continue the funding of the project in Tbilisi, Telavi and Rustavi, while donor organisations expanded the project to launch de-institutionalisation in Western Georgia. From 2004, the State has committed to support the project in Batumi and Kutaisi, too.
“We managed to demonstrate that upbringing in the family environment is both cheaper and more effective. The state is committed to continue the project. It is important to note that allocations from the national budget to support the de-institutionalisation programme increase every year. Until recently, functions and responsibilities related to the provision of care for children were allocated between various ministries. Now, an integrated service will be established with the Prime-Minister’s Office to coordinate these activities. A strategy for reforming care institutions has been developed, and we hope its implementation will start soon,” says Eka Sioridze of the NGO Every Child.
By October 2004, 505 children benefited from the projects implemented by UNICEF and its partners (“Foster Care and Family Support”, “De-institutionalisation and Prevention of Child’s Abandonment”, “De-institutionalisation of Children with Disabilities”). Forty-two social workers work on the ground to implement the programme.
In Eastern Georgia, social workers prevented 152 children from being institutionalised. 72 children were returned to their families, and 92 placed with foster families.
In Western Georgia, in Kutaisi 11 children were returned to their families, 7 were transferred to foster families, 28 were prevented from being institutionalised; in Batumi the programme assisted 74 children, 14 of them returned to their parents, and 7 were transferred to foster care.
The programme also targets children with disabilities: in 2004, five children were transferred from institutional care to their own families, while fourteen children were placed with foster families.
Eka and Maka lived in Kutaisi with their parents and grandparents. The economic predicament prevailing in the country affected their family, too. Gradually, relations in the family became strained. Their parents divorced. Eka left with the mother, while Maka stayed with the father. Separation was a great distress to both sisters.
Mother placed Eka in the boarding school in Gumati, as she was unable to provide even for her food. The girl had to study by a special programme, as most of school’s inmates were children with mental handicaps.
Maka’s situation was difficult, too. Her father and grandparents moved to countryside. Father worked as a night watchman, but his pay was very low. Because of the scant family budget, the girl could not attend school.
Once, the boarding school was visited by social workers, Zeinab Gachava and Tamuna Kepuladze. Eka asked them to find a “good family” for her. The social workers worked intensively with the girl’s parents explaining that fostering of their daughter would not deprive them of parental rights.
Eka was fostered by an elderly woman with an adult daughter. She started attending school; soon she was able to catch up with her class. Her appearance changed, too. She gained weight, started smiling and humming. She got particularly used to her “elder sister”, but she missed her own sister a lot. Sometimes her mother and father came to visit her, but she missed her sister very much.
Eka’s foster family agreed to receive Maka, too. Her grandparents were old; they could give the girl adequate care. Neither could she attend school.
Not long ago, Maka joined her sister. The girls were beside themselves with joy. Now they go to school together, and are indeed very happy. Their father often comes to see them.
The girls’ foster mother promised to invite their grandparents for holiday.
Natasha is seventeen, Rima fourteen, and Misha eleven years old. In 1994 their family moved to Russia, to their mother’s home town. Parents hoped to improve their financial situation. Their father found a job in another town, their mother started drinking. Children were left without care. The girls were placed in a boarding school, while the boy stayed with his mother. She often hit the boy. Because of cruel treatment of the boy, the woman was deprived of motherhood and arrested. The boy was placed in the boarding school, together with his sisters.
The children’s father returned to Batumi. He addressed a request to the Adjara Commission on Minors’ Affairs to assist him in having his children returned. The commission contacted social workers. In 2003, all the three children returned to their home town. They were assisted by social workers. The elder sister received vocational training. The younger children go to school. The girls help their grandmother in household.
Humanitarian action for children from conflict-affected areas
“My name is Nino, and I am from the conflict zone in South Ossetia. I live in the village of Tamarasheni, and I hear shots and explosions every day. Several days ago my school was bombed, too, and since then I fear going to school. Now I am in Borjomi; I was brought here together with other children. My mother stayed behind, in our village. I like Borjomi a lot: there is no shooting here, I can play and rest, but still I miss home and my mother. I dream of the day when peace will again come to my village, and there will be no shooting,” says Nino.
In summer 2004, tensions built up in the territory of South Ossetia again, leading to renewed shootings, explosions, and victims. 2500 women and children from the conflict-affected area were temporarily transferred to hotels and sanatoria in six regions of Georgia.
On 24-27 August, UNICEF and the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia carried out MMR vaccination among 1600 displaced children of 1-15 years of age. Children were also given 1300 Vitamin A capsules.
“Immunisation is extremely important in order to prevent the spread of the disease, as the risk of epidemic is always present with large concentrations of children. In the period of tension, children are usually under stress, their immunity declines, and it is important to reinforce them with vitamins,” says Ingrid Kolb-Hindarmanto, UNICEF Programme Coordinator.
UNICEF provided for 500 children transferred to Samtskhe-Javakheti region from the conflict-affected area in Tskhinvali region school items and sports equipment, namely: 35 cases with schooling materials, 10 football kits, as well as information materials for parents and social workers.
Assistance to residents of Liakhvi Valley, South Ossetia
On 4 October 2004, UNICEF representatives delivered presents to residents of 23 remote villages of Kurta, Eredvi and Tigi communities in Liakhvi Valley. UNICEF truck travelled across difficult mountain terrain to deliver critically needed items to 5000 persons living in stressful conditions. UNICEF’s aid included medications, schooling and sport items, and information kits.
Local healthcare facilities received 46 cases of medicines and medical materials, while children received 41 school kits and sports equipment.
Humanitarian aid was delivered to the Liakhvi Valley by Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UNICEF Representative in Georgia, who personally handed the cargoes over to local population. He was accompanied by Mikheil Kareli, President’s Representative in Shida Kartli Region of Georgia.
“This is another regular phase in UNICEF’s humanitarian assistance to the conflict zone in South Ossetia. One month ago we delivered similar presents to children from this area accommodated in different regions of Georgia. Fortunately, hostilities stopped, so women and children could return to their homes. We will continue assisting the population of conflict-affected areas that are in extremely difficult situations,” said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.
Summer camps for children affected by mines
According to experts, it will take thousand years to clear the earth from all mines now present, save new mines are not laid. Mines create great danger for people. Mine accidents have already affected many people in Georgia.
On 2-21 August 2004, UNICEF jointly with DFID, HALO Trust and “Rainbow” Rehabilitation Centre from Sukhumi organised a summer camp in Sukhumi for 16 children injured with mines and their families.
A similar initiative, though on a smaller scale, was implemented last year, too. The summer camp organised in summer 2003 received 6 victims, 4 mothers and 4 brothers and sisters of children injured with mines.
The project was seen as success, and this year the programme was expanded with the UNICEF support.
The aim of the project is to create a safe and enabling environment for children and teenagers injured with mines. The programme contemplates assistance to affected children and their family members in order to facilitate their rehabilitation, social integration and adequate psycho-social development.
The programme envisions supporting the development of life skills in mine-affected children, such as trust, communication, interpersonal relations, group formation, creative thinking, physical rehabilitation and psycho-social cooperation.
The work in the summer camp was structured accordingly. In addition, children were involved in game playing, interactive and informal education. Within the framework of education campaign, school note-books and colouring books with information about mines were published and distributed among schools in Sukhumi.
Children get used to parliamentary work
On 29 October 2004, the Parliament of Georgia hosted a session of the new, second, Children and Youth Parliament of Georgia. The Parliament elected in spring 2003 has 150 members from all regions of Georgia.
At the opening session, members of the Parliament approved the agenda, and heard reports from the speaker, the Bureau, committees and commissions.
The main issues discussed by young parliamentarians included prevention of HIV/AIDS among youth, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and amendments to be introduced in the document, protection of children’s rights in Georgia, and the situation of juvenile delinquents.
The session had a particularly heated discussion on the education reform, and not surprisingly, as most of the parliamentarians are involved in the learning process themselves: they are either school or university students.
Participants of the session were joined by invited representatives of the Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs, members of the Georgian Parliament, and the Public Defender. Apart from official meetings, the session included satellite educational seminars and cultural functions.
How do young parliamentarians evaluate their work?
Christine Svimonia, student of the University of Culture and Arts, Chairman of the Public Affairs Commission of the Children and Youth Parliament: “My faculty dean, Oleg Alavidze, gave me a reference for the Parliament. In my electoral programme the main emphasis was on culture, which is logical with my profession. When I was elected to the Parliament, I worked along these lines at first. We organised an exhibition of the Academy of Arts students at Karvasla, another one - at the International Arts Centre, with students’ works from J.Nikoladze Arts College. Besides, we had a photo exhibition, with new faces in the Georgian art of photography.
The work at the Public Relations Service of our Parliament has been very interesting. We prepared press releases, invited journalists to various activities. All our activities were covered in press and television. I am planning to take a course of study in public relations.
Soon, my term in the Parliament will expire. It may be that not all our plans have been carried out, but one of the main principles emphasised in the Convention on the Rights of the Child is participation”.
George Adamyants, 15, student of the machine-building college: “I was not then in the Parliament, when once representatives of the Children’s Federation asked me to speak in Metechi Hotel at the conference on the problems of institutionalised children. Indeed, those children face a host of problems. After the institution, many of them may find themselves in street. For instance, 15 children at Digomi orphanage have nowhere to go. Many of them have no homes; many are unable to continue studying. I hope, soon it will be possible to address their problems. In the Parliament, I work in the Commission for Sports and Military Affairs. I have found many new friends here”.
George Giorgadze, 20, student of the Military Academy: “One seat in the Parliament was reserved for the Military Academy, and we held a competition focussing on knowledge of the Georgian history, general education, and electoral programme. Why I came to the Parliament? I want very much to help my colleagues, the military, to make their voice heard at this forum”.
Salome Garuchava, 10th grade pupil: “I want to help my friends, children with disabilities. We constantly face problems; most buildings have no ramps to enable entering in wheel-chairs. Many of us are deprived of a possibility to study. Last year, there were six of us studying at school No 10. I do not know who funded the project, but it was so important for us to be able to go to school. This year we cannot attend school; there is no transport, neither do teachers get paid. They promise us that the problem will be solved. We’ll see…”
Levan Khundadze, 13, member of the Parliament’s staff: “It is so interesting to be working at the Parliament. We often have meetings at the Children’s Federation, we learn about our rights. Recently, we held an action against AIDS. What I want to be? I want to become a doctor. Medicine is a very good profession, necessary for people”.
In February 2005 the Children and Youth Parliament held its last session. But young parliamentarians, now members of the newly established NGO, continue their active work.
Football is more than a game
On 29 October 2004, young people with spreaders headed with exclamations to the city stadium in Chiatura. There were no seats left there.
“This stadium has not seen so many spectators for a long time, not even for matches where our local team plays,” said Levan Gaprindashvili, Chairman of the District Sports Committee. “Over the last 15-20 years sport has been of little concern in Georgia, all the more so, children’s sport. Like the stadium, Chiatura sports centre is in a difficult position, too, but despite such conditions, some sections are quite successful in their work”.
That day, Chiatura hosted the finals of the district children and youth football championship. The championship started on 1 October. The qualifying round lasted for one month, with participation of 25 football teams from 20 schools, including 5 girls’ teams.
The championship was held on the initiative of UNICEF, SOCO Foundation and Chiatura Municipality, under the patronage of Ms Sandra Roelofs, Georgia’s First Lady.
The final tournament started with a match between girls’ football teams from schools of Kvatsikhe and Nigozeti. The girls were all excited, like their coaches.
Otar Jaoshvili, coach of Nigozeti team gave final instructions to the girls: “Try to play well,” “Don’t forget about throwing passes,” “Pin your hair, it will disturb you during the game.”
“Is it difficult to work with girls?”
However, the girls met their coach’s expectations better than the boys, although they lost a championship to the team from Kvatsikhe.
The girls were cheered enthusiastically by their fans.
It is more entertaining to follow the girls’ game,” said Dato Gavtadze.
Kakha Saralidze thinks boys play better.
Children from Kvatsikhe took the lead from the outset, and the final game ended in their victory. We spoke to some of the players.
Madona Gotsadze, captain of Kvatsikhe team: “We were very excited, but we knew we would win.”
Tiniko Gvaladze, from Kvatsikhe: “We hoped from the very outset we would win. When I scored the goal I knew we would be champions.”
“Is it difficult for a girl to play football?”
Winners got flowers, while girls from Nigozeti were leaving the pitch with tears.
Jenny Rodonaya, from Nigozeti: “This failure makes me feel bad, that is why I am crying. I play football every day, and my parents never stand in my way. Mummy even told me not to come back if I lose”.
Marine Khvedelidze, from Nigozeti: “I want to be a football player and play with number 6, as I do now”.
In the boys’ tournament two teams, one from school No 1 and the other from school No 5 in Chiatura, met for the final game. The team from school No 5 gained an advantage from the outset, and scored two goals in the first half period. In the second time, their opponents only scored one goal. The team from Chiatura school No 5 won the championship.
Zura Khvedelidze showed the best game; he became the top goal-scorer of the tournament, scoring 9 goals in 8 games.
“I have played football since I remember myself. I think I will become a football player,” said Zurab.
“It’s a pity we lost, but what can we do about it; the ball is round. I have been playing for 6 years, I want to be a footballer and play in Milano,” says Shalva Modebadze, author of the only goal scored by the team from school No 1.
At the end, schoolchildren from Chiatura offered the guests and sportsmen an amateur performance.
“There are no losers here, everyone is a winner. Sports and football are more than a mere game, they help children in their learning. Sport is a good way to disseminate information about the healthy lifestyle that is so critical to the youth. Participants of this event follow the healthy lifestyle themselves,” said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UNICEF Representative in Georgia, after the game.
Within the programme’s framework, the participating schools received T-shirts and football boots for children, balls, special uniforms for judges, and other items.
The participating teams and winners received football kits, chess and badminton.
The First Lady had a pleasant surprise for players, too. She took the winning teams to Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park for an excursion.
The tournament in Chiatura was part of an initiative launched as a response to an alliance between FIFA and UNICEF that aims to promote the healthy lifestyle among young people. Football is more than a mere game; it is the embodiment of the healthy lifestyle, a means for children to be healthy and sound, to grow with self-esteem and to believe in themselves. And, what is most important, it is the realisation of the right to play, spelled out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Young People's Media Network in Georgia
“Our Express”, or Kids’ “Crossroads”
“Children are our future” was the motto of TV spot of the programme “Our Express” put on the air by the Georgian Public Television in January 2005. The programme’s main focus is on young people. This is only too natural, as the project involves teenagers from Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
“Our Express” is a teenager modification of the TV programme “Crossroads”, already familiar to TV audience in the South Caucasus. The idea of the programme was born out of cooperation between UNICEF and Internews. Differently from the “adult” “Crossroads” broadcast in the Russian language, “Our Express” is broadcast in three languages: Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani, one in each of the countries.
The project is implemented by InterNews with the financial support of USAID and UNICEF.
In May 2004, a selection round launched in the three countries selected sixteen teenagers in each.
“We had to demonstrate our general education level, journalist skills, and knowledge of Russian, as we mostly communicate with our Armenian and Azerbaijani friends in the Russian language,” says Tako Kobakhidze. She is a bit older than others in the group, so she was elected a team leader.
In June, the selected young journalists took part in a one-week training organised by InterNews and UNICEF and facilitated by a well-know Georgian journalist Koka Kandiashvili.
As a result of the training, six teenagers were selected to represent Georgia in the project: Nino Maisuradze, Nana Kalandarishvili, Nika Kvrivishvili, Nika Garsenishvili, Nata Tabidze and Natia Akhalaia.
From 20 July to 10 August, 18 teenagers from the three countries participated in the summer school for future TV journalists held in Ureki.
“This was a very interesting school for all of us. Adults treated us as if we were their peers. We, too, discovered a lot of new things in ourselves. We had trainings, where we learnt both theory and practice. Being at the seaside, we had almost no time to swim,” says Nana Kalandarishvili.
“Come on! We could swim and have a nice time,” says Nino Maisuradze.
The girls say that the most important thing about the summer school was a special friendship that developed between the teenagers.
“Ela and Stefan Mitin from Moscow, a director and a producer who worked with us, did all they could for us to learn more and to become friends. We did not want to leave Ureki. We continue to communicate,” says Nana Kalandarishvili.
Tako Kobakhidze said several TV stories were prepared in Ureki – news, advertisement, a talk show.
From September, members of the team became frequent visitors to the “Crossroads” TV room. Filming started, too. By December, materials were ready for the first programme.
“Our programme will have a news format, and we will have stories from all the three countries. The programmes will feature news, advertisements, and discussions on the most relevant issues. We exchange stories in Russian, and then have them translated into our respective languages,” says Nino Maisuradze.
“It is so interesting to work with teenagers. I learn a lot from them,” says Irakli Berulava.
Besides, UNICEF launched a competition among teenagers aged 14-17 for the best film script for one minute videos. Films about the healthy lifestyle, the rights of the child and other themes were made by the selected scripts. It is planned to show these videos in “Our Express” on Channel 1 of the Georgian Public Television.
On 5-9 July 2004, Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, hosted a regional workshop on one-minute videos for young TV journalists. The motto of the workshop organised by UNICEF, the Young People's Media Network, the European Cultural Foundation and the Sandberg Institute was fight against AIDS and drugs.
“Our journey started with a funny incident. The flight from Baku was postponed and we reached Bishkek with a three-day delay. I want to thank representatives of UNICEF Azerbaijan who created wonderful conditions for our stay in Baku,” says Nino Gogadze, director of youth programmes at the Georgian TV and Radio Broadcasting Company. She was the only adult among the four Georgians. In general, most of the workshop participants were boys, while the Georgian delegation only had girls. Georgia was represented at the workshop by members of the Young People’s Media Network: Mari Shengelia, Tamuna Khubashvili and Thea Mkheidze. They were selected by the organising committee through competition.
Despite their young age (15-16), Mari and Tamuna are not novices in film-making. Last year they took part in one-minute video festival, and with success. For Thea, Bishkek meant new experience. She shot her first film there.
“I am not dangerous”, read the spreader that Mary carried through the streets in Bishkek. Tamuna wrote a script where she wanted to show the attitude the society has to AIDS patients. Bektur from Kyrgyzstan and Arpin from Armenia played parts in Mari’s film. Thea’s film was about discrimination against children.
“Even though the teenagers were competitors, the atmosphere at the festival was that of healthy competition. The children helped each other, gave each other advice, played parts in each other’s films,” says Nino.
The festival’s motto was known to its participants in advance, so everyone came to Bishkek with ready ideas for a film. However, those ideas and scripts appeared to undergo fairly serious transformation. Films were made at the workshop from beginning to end.
“We hardly slept during ten days, such was our work rhythm,” says Tamuna.
“The festival was a very good school for us, too, for adults. The children made genuinely good films,” says Nino.
The workshop was facilitated by David Jinjikhashvili and Allard Zoetman from the European Cultural Foundation and the Sandberg Institute and Chris Schuepp from Young People’s Media Network. They worked individually with each of the participants, gave them advice, helped in filming and editing.
The festival resulted in 22 one-minute videos, 22 films that teenagers made to add their voiced to fight against AIDS and drugs.
On 18-23 November 2004, the traditional International Festival of One-Minute Videos was held in Amsterdam. The Initiative to institute One Minute Jr. director’s nomination is the result of joint endeavours of UNICEF, the European Cultural Foundation and the Sandberg Institute.
The festival was preceded by One Minute Jr. workshops, aiming to present information about one minute video production and develop in young journalists the necessary skills.
George Baramidze from Georgia, a 16-year old student of the Arts College, took part in the Festival. Last year his film "Leave No Child Out" won the award in directors' nomination for the video and the main prize - a SONY video camera. Last year George failed to obtain a visa on time, and could not attend the festival.
The Festival’s organisers did everything to make it a memorable experience for young filmmakers. Films were demonstrated on seven screens simultaneously. Participants say it was a magnificent show, crowned with an equally magnificent award-giving ceremony.
Apart from film shows, the festival traditionally features master-classes led by renowned film directors. This year, the master-class for young filmmakers was led by Ferentz Moldovan, film director from Hungary.
“The festival gave me an opportunity to meet my peers. Some want to be film directors; others are not going to follow this profession. I saw films made by teenagers… Some simply make filming, some try to find beautiful frames; others focus on the concept… I liked the master-class. I was really impressed by Amsterdam. It is a beautiful city,” said George.
This year the young director will graduate from the college. “I am going to get enrolled in the Institute of Theatre and Cinema, I want to be a film director,” he says.
Tata Sakhelashvili, coordinator of journalists’ programmes at Tbilisi Youth House, accompanied George Baramidze on his trip to Amsterdam. “A festival like this one is a wonderful opportunity for children from any country … Any film is reflective of the culture of the country the children come from. At the same time, films made by children show the world as seen by them, the world that is so different…” says Tata.
PRIX JEUNESSE Suitcase in Tbilisi
This story started in June 2004, when Tamar Skhvitaridze, children’s TV producer at the Georgian Public Television, travelled to Germany with the support of UNICEF to take part in the PRIX JEUNESSE Festival in Munich.
PRIX JEUNESSE is the Children’s and Youth TV Programmes Festival that started 40 years ago, and is attended by major TV companies worldwide. The Festival features shows of children’s TV programmes from different countries, exchange of information, experience sharing, interesting meetings. Before that, Georgia never took part in the Festival.
Though Georgia presented no film of its own in Munich (Tamar Skhvitaridze brought to Germany the programmes of “Basti-Bubu” Children’s Studio), the Festival opened up interesting prospects for future cooperation.
“The Festival was very interesting, with films shows from morning to evening in three categories: for children aged 3-6, 7-12 and 12-14. There is no official jury at the Festival; appraisal is given by each one viewer. Children, too, appraise the films. They can see films in the respective age category. I saw many interesting works there and got plenty of information,” says Tamar Skhvitaridze.
The idea to bring the PRIX JEUNESSE Suitcase (i.e. films demonstrated at the Festival) to Georgia was born in Germany.
“I work as children’s TV producer at the Public Television, so I found that would be a very exciting project. At the Georgian television, children’s programmes are made by 30 persons, which will definitely be not enough in future. We have already started working with students of psychology, journalism, drama that are going to take up this career. They can work in our studio, learn how to write fiction scripts, prepare a programme. They meet with the children from “Basti-Bubu”, they can see what the children are interested in,” says Tamar Skhvitaridze.
On 27 October 2004, the Goethe-Institute hosted the Georgian PRIX JEUNESSE mini-festival, where films were presented in two categories – fiction and non-fiction - for three age groups: 3-6, 7-11, 12-15. The films were complemented by “how to” workshops on different aspects of producing children’s TV programmes. Participants of the festival could take part in workshops on preparing small budget programmes, writing fiction scripts and developing concepts for different age groups. The workshops and film shows were mediated by Irene Wellershoff, children’s producer at ZDF, one of major German TV companies, who has a broad experience of mediating such workshops. Irene Wellershoff visited the Georgian Television to see the work of her colleagues.
According to Tamar Skhvitaridze, 80 percent of children’s programmes abroad are made up of animation, while conditions present in Georgia today keep us from such extensive use of animation. We have good professionals, but our technical facilities cannot support development of animation. “The change of TV from state to public broadcaster and joining of the large European family opens up new and exciting prospects,” she said.