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Newsletter, 1 (8), 2004

© UNICEF/GEO-2004/00501/Giacomo Pirozzi
Children at the Musical Boarding School, Kutaisi, Georgia. The place where most of the abandoned and orphan children in Kutaisi are placed


Georgia, the ancient and beautiful country with 4.4 million people, continues to cope with a number of challenges of the transitional period.

The recently conducted Situation Analysis of Women and Children in Georgia offers some telling statistics: at least 50 per cent of children live below the poverty line; yet, the public investment in social sectors remains one of the lowest in all CEE/CIS region with only 1.3% and 2.1% of GDP allocated to health and education sectors respectively.

Estimates of child and infant mortality vary greatly depending on the source used. According to 2002 data, infant mortality rate stands at 23.8 per 1000 live births while U5MR is estimated at 26 per 1000. Iodine deficiency, the primary cause of preventable mental retardation, still affects 38 per cent of Georgian children. This micronutrient deficiency therefore poses a substantial threat to the country’s prospects for development. At 46.2 per 100,000 live births, Georgia’s maternal mortality rate, though relatively low by international comparison, remains higher than its average for the years 1986-1990.

The gross enrolment rate is estimated at 89 per cent. Yet, the quality of education is suffering from the country’s economic crisis and from the allocation of only about 2 percent of GDP to education. The physical conditions of schools are so bad that full rehabilitation would cost more than ten times the annual state expenditure on education as a whole. Around 2500 children have turned to street and earn their livelihood either by begging or by prostitution. An estimated 4667 children live in institutions, where conditions are in no way fit either for their mental or physical development.

UNICEF is assisting 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 preparation of the National Plan of Action for Children, ongoing “Leave No Child Out” advocacy campaign, reform in the juvenile justice system, progress achieved in our parents’ school initiative, immunization and prevention of iodine deficiency and HIV/AIDS.

You will also find some interesting information about the commendable work done by our partners in early childhood development, life skills education, inclusive education spheres. New developments in implementation of the de-institutionalization programme, efforts to involve youth into the decision-making process, to assist youth in expressing themselves through various media, interesting initiatives to promote youth healthy lifestyle through football, new interventions in implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child are the main highlights of this newsletter.

This year marked an important milestone for us. In 2003 the Government of Georgia and UNICEF agreed upon to carry out the Mid-Term Review of the current country programme (2001-2005). This process allowed us to evaluate the progress achieved and to define concrete strategies on how to provide better services and protection for the women and children in Georgia.

The Mid-Term review process included evaluation of particular project components by working group of experts and a series of review meetings with the implementers and policy makers. Participation of children and young people, who conducted an evaluation of the youth participation programme, was one of the major characteristics of this process.

The major outcome of the process is that UNICEF in partnership with the Government will focus its interventions on where it can really make a difference. Another highlight is also the need to strengthen efforts at the policy development level in spheres of health, education, protection and participation. Without having concrete mechanisms of social protection in place it would be difficult to provide better care for children.

In implementation of the country programme UNICEF will fortify its partnership with other UN agencies within the ongoing UN reform process. The 2004 preparation of the Common Country Assessment/UN Development Assistance Framework, in which UNICEF is actively involved, will be crucial in enhancing joint UN response to the country needs.

There is a hope and tremendous expectations in people of Georgia after the “Rose Revolution” of November 2003 that the situation will start to improve. Many countries and people in the world are looking at the unique Georgian experience of peaceful leadership change with interest and envy. UNICEF is strongly committed to assist the new government but also to constantly remind the new leadership of the obligation to keep the issues faced by children and women high on the agenda.

I am convinced that UNICEF efforts with the new Government of Georgia will see the beginning of renewed support and understanding for the children and women in Georgia.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed
UNICEF Representative in Georgia

National Plan of Action for Children

Despite the relevant provisions present in the Constitution and effective legislation of Georgia, there still are recurrent facts of discrimination against children according to their social or economic status; incidence of disease and mortality rate among children remain high; healthy nutrition and safe environment are again beyond reach for many of them; budgetary constraints and financial problems overall pose a threat to their education and harmonious development, as many children are unable to attend sports or other groups; moreover, it is not infrequent that  school-age children, owing to financial predicaments, find themselves compelled to leave school to help their families earn a living. By expert estimates, 50 per cent of families with children live in conditions of poverty. Economic hardships cause many families to send their children to orphanages. Studies show that such "social orphans" account for 95% of institutionalised children in Georgia. Thus, it is for the state now to provide for the return of these children into families and promote family-based care for them. Besides, the state also confronts the problem of children in need of special protection - among them 42 000 IDP children, 9197 disabled children, 131 juveniles at conflict with law, around 2500 street children (including young prostitutes, narcotic drug users, alcohol abusers).

These problems are common for many countries in the world. With this in mind, the Special Session of the UN General Assembly held in New York in 2002 appealed to the State Parties to develop unified National Plans of Action for Children by 2005. UN guidelines emphasised that priority should be given to creating independent national programmes, rather than their integration in national programmes for poverty reduction. The Commission on the National Plan of Action chaired by the President was established in 2002, bringing together representatives of government agencies and NGOs, the Patriarchy, as well as independent experts. UNICEF was the only international organisation among the Commission's membership. The Plan of Action prepared with the co-operative effort draws on relevant international instruments, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the UN Millennium Development Goals, and the UN Special Assembly's Final Document "World Fit for Children".

One of the essential elements in preparing the plan was the children and youth participation. To this end, the working group travelled to almost every region in Georgia and extensively discussed each component of the plan with local children's and youth organisations. Their views and aspirations were incorporated in the final version of the document. On 11 June 2003, the National Plan of Action for Children was endorsed by the Government of Georgia, and on 8 August approved by the President.

The Plan of Action highlights six main priorities: the child's fundamental rights and freedoms; health, adequate nutrition and safe environment; education and harmonious development; social security, family-based environment and alternative care; protection of children in need of special protection; mobilisation of financial resources for the benefit of children.

The National Plan of Action for Children defines long-term objectives in providing support to children, and covers the period between 2003 and 2007. The Plan is to be seen as a manifestation of political will by the state to support children and statement of the government's strategy to promote care for their wellbeing. The plan gives an in-depth situation analysis of each thematic component and defines priorities, sets goals and maps out strategies to attain them. The document provides guidelines for the monitoring and evaluation of the plan's management, and reporting of the progress attained. It contains action plans for each of the components in the form of a chart, with the timelines and implementation mechanisms, implementing agencies and responsible bodies, indicators and financial costs specified for each of the activities.

The programme implementation calls for significant economic, financial and legal initiatives, as realisation of its main thrusts is closely allied to the course of economic reforms underway in the country.   Therefore, it should also be considered in the context of the poverty reduction strategy of the country.

The National Plan of Action for Children is a dynamic document, and in certain circumstances its timeline and scope of action can be fine-tuned to adapt to a current economic situation, available budgets and financial capacity of the subjects concerned at all levels.

The National Plan of Action for Children in Georgia was launched on October 6, 2003 in the Sheraton Metechi Palace. The launch was attended by: Ms. Shahnaz Kianian-Firouzgar, UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe, CIS and Baltic States, Mr. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, UNICEF Representative in Georgia, representatives of Governmental and non-governmental organisations as well as other guests. The document was highly appraised by all of the speakers. Mr. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed emphasised that Georgia was among the first countries to develop the plan.

"The fact that Georgia now has the National Plan of Action for Children is of paramount importance. It is a manifestation of political will on the part of the state to honour the commitments Georgia has undertaken under international agreements. It is hoped that sources of financial support for attaining the goals and objectives set out in the plan will be mobilised. Children are bearers of our future, and any investment in their development is a precondition for shaping our future," said Ms. Shahnaz Kianian-Firouzgar.

Children, too, are content. "We, the children, will monitor the implementation of the National Plan. There are many amongst us who are begging in the street or are in orphanages longing for family care and nurturing, or live with their families but cannot afford buying school textbooks. We want this to be changed. We hope that the Plan of Action will help us to solve these problems," said 17 year-old Ann Iaseshvili, member of the Young People's Media Network in Georgia.

The Regional Network for Children starts developing a joint strategy to protect children's rights

The Children in need of special protection are a number one priority for the NGO Regional Network for Children that takes action to improve conditions of children and protect their rights. The Network was set up at the meeting in Sarajevo held on 27-29 June 2002, and it is an association of non-governmental organisations from the former Soviet Union, including the Baltic States, as well as Eastern and Central Europe, all together 27 countries.

The Regional Network is already active in Georgia. In order to expand the Network's activity in the country, roundtable meetings with local NGOs were held in five regional centres of Georgia: Zugdidi, Kutaisi, Batumi, Telavi and Ozurgeti. The purpose of the meetings was to bring local NGOs into the Regional Network, and develop a plan for future interventions.

On 10-17 December 2003, Tbilisi hosted a regional workshop held under the aegis of the Regional Network for Children that discussed protection of children's rights and the role NGOs are called to play in this important cause. The workshop sponsored by EU, was one in the series of four regional meetings scheduled for the coming year. Apart from Georgian NGOs, the workshop was attended by non-governmental organisations from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Lithuania.

Together with foreign experts, the workshop was moderated by Georgian experts. The purpose was to train the trainers that will in future moderate similar training events in their own countries.  This is done in order to encourage among all members of the Network a shared vision to guide them in their work towards addressing the above problems. The work will be followed by concrete results: operation of a similar network in Europe has led to a dramatic reduction in mortality rates among children, with 3.5 million deaths a year less world-wide today than in the past.

Leave No Child Out

Research findings indicate that children living in institutions have a limited potential for fully-fledged development. Children lacking family-based care show retarded physical and mental development, speech inhibition. Today, 4667 institutionalised children in Georgia face such a threat. These children, as well as those not registered at birth (according to recent estimates, in Georgia they account for 5 per cent of children under five) are the main target groups for the "Leave No Child Out" advocacy campaign launched in Georgia.

The campaign aims to mobilise public attention towards marginalised children in need of special care and assistance. "Leave No Child Out" advocacy campaign was formally launched on 16 June 2003 in Istanbul. It is spearheaded by the Regional Network for Children in Central and Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltic States. "Leave No Child Out" campaign follows on the heels of and was born through the "Say Yes for Children" advocacy campaign conducted in 2001-2002". "Leave No Child Out" is identified as number one priority in our region. The campaign is actively supported by international organisations, such as UNICEF, SECRAN, EC, and World Vision, Save the Children, Every Child. 

"Leave No Child Out" aims to bring into the limelight of public attention problems faced by children from ethnic minorities, those living below the poverty line, physically and mentally disabled children, institutionalised, IDP and refugee children, gender discrimination, and the stigma of HIV-AIDS.

Within the campaign framework, each of the countries participating in the Regional Network for Children chose to identify the main focus, taking into account its own specific situation. In Georgia, the "Leave No Child Out" campaign aims to benefit institutionalised children and children not registered at birth. It seeks to mobilise public attention towards children in need of special care. The launch of the "Leave No Child Out" campaign in Georgia was held on 20 November 2003 in the Sheraton Metechi Palace.

The campaign will last till June 2004 and will advocate to effect real changes for marginalised children. Our goal is to remind the governments of the commitments they have made under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and we call on the whole society to give priority to children," said Ms. Ketevan Nemsadze, President of the Regional Network for Children speaking at the launch of the campaign.

"It is not coincidence that the launch of the campaign is held on 20 November, the 14th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Exclusion from basic services and a dignified start in life creates a vicious cycle of disadvantage, with harm passed from one generation to the next in a legacy of poverty, ill health, lack of education, and lack of prospects. It undermines stability and democracy and holds societies back economically," said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UNICEF Representative in Georgia.

"The main priorities of the "Leave No Child Out" campaign are particularly important for Georgia and they are fully consonant with EU guidelines. Protection of children's rights plays an increasingly important part in EU sponsored programmes world-wide," said Mr. Torben Holze, Head of EU Delegation in Georgia.

In Georgia the campaign will aim at further strengthening state policy on de-institutionalisation, and reducing the number of children without birth registration. In the context of the campaign, it is planned to hold meetings between NGOs and state institutions to advocate for state policy on de-institutionalisation, carry out monitoring of the situation of children in institutions, launch information campaigns on de-institutionalisation through press conferences and public meetings, conduct monitoring of state policies pursued in this area, increase public awareness of de-institutionalisation, conduct surveys to identify concrete barriers in registering children at birth, launch advocacy for effecting necessary legislative changes to promote de-institutionalisation.

Rather than being just for children, the campaign will be conducted with children, with their active participation, especially those who come from groups facing discrimination or exclusion.

These children were in the forefront of attention at the launch held in the Sheraton Metechi Palace. After the formal part, children from the Tskneti Children's Institition, the "House of Future" shelter and other institutions were invited to attend a concert given specially for them by well-known performers Lizi Bagrationi, Nato Metonidze, Tatia Giorgobiani, and the Merry Clowns. After the concert, the children received presents. Organisers of the campaign hope that their initiative will enlist the support of business sector representatives.

Children should be protected by law

In 1994, the Parliament of Georgia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and thus committed itself to putting the Convention's provisions into effect through harmonising the current Georgian legislation with the Convention. In order to overcome legal glitches present in the Georgian law, initially it was planned to draft a special law on protection of the interests and rights of the child. However, later the Independent Board of Advisors at the Parliament of Georgia prepared a package of legislative changes and amendments flowing from the Convention's provisions. Legislative changes were developed on the basis of the research conducted by UNICEF in 2000 with the theme "Compliance of Georgian Legislation with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child".

Legislative changes and amendments were adopted by the Parliament in June 2003, with the following laws amended as a result: the Code of Administrative Offences, the Law on Education, the Law on Advertising, the Civil Code, the Code of Civil Procedures, the Law on Police, the Criminal Code.

What are these changes about? Ms. Londa Esadze, President of the Independent Board of Advisors explains that amendments made to the Code of Administrative Offences are meant to address violations of minors' labour rights. The Code prohibits employers from engaging persons under 18 years of age into overtime and night-shift  work, work on holidays, hard or harmful jobs, work in hazardous conditions and  underground works. Even if minors get engaged in harmful or unhealthy jobs at their own request or with their own consent, or those of their parents or other lawful representatives, this fact will not be accepted as an attenuating circumstance. In such cases, under Article 42 of the Code, the employer will be held liable and punishable with a fine equivalent to 200 minimum wages.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, currently there are 2000 registered cases of juveniles with explicitly antisocial behaviour, who spend most of their time in the street. Over the last three years, around 5000 children were expelled from school. The amended Law on Education prohibits expulsion from comprehensive school before basic education is completed. The Law puts school management under an obligation to maintain school discipline with methods not degrading students.

Recent years have seen growing numbers of children in conflict with the law. Article 8 of the Law on Police stipulates that police, together with other relevant authorities and public organisations, has an obligation to prevent vagrancy and homelessness among minors and take preventive action against juvenile delinquency.

Under the Convention, the State has an obligation to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. Amendments made in the Law on Advertising aim to protect minors from harmful influence. The law prohibits advertising of sex-related products by radio, TV or printed media, or using images of minors in any form for advertising sex-related products.  

The Civil Code of Georgia had no special provision to protect the child from violence, maltreatment or abuse while in the care of parents or any other caregivers.

Article 1198 of the Code stipulates that parents are the legal representatives of their minor children protecting their rights and interests in relation to third parties, including courts, without a special power of attorney.  The Article has been amended to include a new paragraph, under which the child is entitled to apply independently to a guardianship or tutorship agency, and from the age of 14 - to the court.

Under the Criminal Code, offence committed against a minor is considered as an aggravated offence. Georgian traditions and public mentality seemingly rule out any sexual exploitation or abuse against the child. However, the reality proves otherwise. The amended Article 171 of the Criminal Code stipulates that involvement or persuading of a minor to involve into prostitution is punishable by deprivation of liberty.

Changes and amendments made in the Code of Criminal Procedures are meant to humanise criminal law. Punishment imposed on minors at any stage of the process should not involve deprivation of liberty. The procedure of interrogation of minors will also be changed.

The Code of Criminal Procedures prescribes that minors' cases shall be examined in camera. It is necessary to establish the juvenile justice system in Georgia with its essential component - the juvenile courts. During transition, it seems relevant to prepare specialised judges to examine cases of juvenile defendants.

UNICEF and UN System Reform in Georgia

UNICEF is actively involved in ongoing UN reform processes in Georgia, which envisage the harmonization of the work of different UN agencies in a improving joint UN response to country needs and in enhancing the organizations’ capacity to implement their development mandates. The most important element of this process is the preparation of the Common Country Assessment/UN Development Assistance Framework.

The United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) intends to bring “greater coherence to the United Nations programmes of assistance at the country level … with common objectives and time frames in close consultation with governments”.  The core element of this process is the Common Country Assessment (CCA).  This is a country-based process for reviewing and analyzing the national development situation and identifying key issues as a basis for advocacy, policy dialogue and preparation for the UNDAF.

This CCA process is participatory, dynamic and continuous: it ensures learning from prior experience, brings in the UN system organizations' combined knowledge, know-how and new ideas, and advocates new approaches. The Common Country Assessment is undertaken by the United Nations system (UNS) with key partners. In particular, the CCA is undertaken with close involvement by the government.

At the request of the United Nations Country Team, the UNICEF Representative has been assigned to act as the focal point for the preparation of the CCA/UNDAF in Georgia which should be completed by 2004. In December 2003 three members of the UN Country Team (UNICEF Representative, UNFPA Asst Representative and the UN Coordination Officer) attended a special workshop in Bangkok for the 2004 roll-out countries which was organized by the UN Development Group. The UN Country Team is now in process of preparing a national CCA/UNDAF workshop with key partners from the government and civil society.

In addition, UNICEF was part of the working groups finalizing the Millennium Development Goals report (MDG), which is in the final stage. The Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Georgia recently conducted by UNICEF served as one the main background papers by the government for the preparation of the MDG report.

The CCA/UNDAF preparation process will be highlighted in more detail in the next edition of our Newsletter.

The First Lady of Georgia Visits UNICEF

On 23 January 2004, the First Lady of Georgia Ms. Sandra Elisabeth Roelofs paid a visit to UNICEF Georgia to discuss the main aspects of future collaboration. UNICEF made a presentation of its work in Georgia and identified a number of areas for possible collaboration.

The First Lady briefed UNICEF about the extensive work that has been undertaken by herself and the Charity Humanitarian Foundation Soco for the most vulnerable members of the society, including women and children. Ms. Roelofs welcomed the possibility for cooperation with UNICEF and stressed that in her capacity as First Lady of Georgia, she will continue to put children’s issues high on her agenda and bring the problems of those in need to the attention of the Government.

It was also agreed that the First Lady and UNICEF would closely collaborate on elimination of iodine deficiency, promotion of healthy lifestyles and addressing the needs of children in difficult circumstances. 

Dev-Info Training for counterparts

As part of the regional initiative on strengthening the national database of children and women related indicators, the ChildInfo/DevInfo initiative, a special software for maintaining and updating important indicators related to children, has been introduced in Georgia.

With the support from the Regional Office, three-day workshop was conducted in November 2003 for the State Agencies that are involved in the data collection and analysis at national and sub-national levels. Participants were introduced to the basic skills for operating the software on the user level and got the training on database administration. Evaluation report of the workshop showed that ChildInfo/DevInfo software was easily understood and highly appreciated. Almost all participants agreed that the software could be expanded nationwide and used for planning and evaluation purposes.

For the current year UNICEF, in collaboration with the Government, plans to establish a steering committee for the ChildInfo/DevInfo Initiative, which will have the coordination function for the State and UN agencies.  In order to strengthen the capacity of stakeholders, it is planned to conduct the number of trainings on database administration and monitoring of Millennium Development Goals. At the same time it is planned to release the first national database based on the set of indicators and objectives that are included in the National Plan of Action for Children and in other key documents.

Mother and Child Health Care

Trainings for medical personnel

The dire socio-economic conditions prevailing in Georgia over the past years have caused further deterioration of the demographic situation in the county. Perinatal and neonatal mortality rate tends to rise. Infant mortality stands at 23.8 per 1000 live births.

Our common future depends largely on the health and wellbeing of children. The harmonious development of children, both physical and mental, is the essential foundation of any healthy and strong society. Therefore, health care for children must be seen not only as a medical issue, but a social issue as well.  The Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, supported by UNICEF, is proceeding further with the training of medical professionals in resuscitation of new-borns, management of common diseases among newly born children and management of life-threatening obstetrical complications.

In May-June 2003, UNICEF sponsored 12 training seminars, three in Tbilisi and four in regions of Georgia, for medical staff of maternity homes and neonatal clinical wards. In selecting maternity homes to host training seminars, consideration was given to the still births' index and neonatal mortality. 

Seminar trainees were provided with manuals "Resuscitation of Newborns and Management of the Most Common Diseases" and "Management of Life-Threatening Obstetrical Complications". Prior to the seminars, organisers prepared a special evaluation form, pre-testing and post-testing questionnaires, and a test to assess practical skills. Four-day seminars (25 hours) comprised both lectures and practical workshops.

In each of the maternity homes selected, seminars were conducted by the project co-ordinator, three trainers and four lecturers. Trainees included obstetricians, neonatologists, midwives, nurses, district paediatricians and those working at paediatric wards in hospitals, anaesthetists, resuscitators, other medical professionals. Training was offered to 255 medical workers from 12 maternity hospitals.

The seminars were held in Mestia, Abastumani, Adigeni, Gurjaani, Gardabani, at Maternity Homes Nos. 1,2,3,4,5 in Tbilisi, Chachava Research Institute of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, the "Gyneka" maternity home. In Tbilisi, the seminars were attended by medical professionals from the paediatric clinic of Tbilisi State Medical University, M.Guramishvili paediatric clinic, the "Republic" general hospital (resuscitators, anaesthetists, and others). In regions, the seminars were attended by paediatricians working at hospitals and outpatients' clinics, and district nurses.

The average pre-testing performance ratio was only 38 per cent. In regions where the seminars were held for the first time, the performance ratio was as low as 17%. Pre-testing demonstrated that some staff members of maternity homes both in Tbilisi and in regions were not able to apply resuscitation techniques, and were unaware of new resuscitation procedures. Tests conducted after the seminars showed a steep increase in performance from 17 to 72 per cent in the regions, and from 38 to 88 % in Tbilisi.

Post-testing analysis also showed that by the end of the training seminars, many of trainees come to change their views concerning basic principles of resuscitation, the sequence of resuscitation procedures, and other issues. Trainees evaluate the seminars as effective and informative, as evidenced by anonymously completed questionnaires, and wish they could be continued. Seminar participants say that now they possess far greater means than before to save the lives of children and protect their health.

Parents' School for Georgian parents

Maternal and child mortality continues to present a serious problem for Georgia, with relevant figures remaining high. Experts say that proper management of pregnancy allows preventing not only numerous infections dangerous for infants, but also such serious diseases as cerebral palsy. Mothers well prepared both physically and emotionally, run far lower risks of perinatal and postnatal complications, which is reflected accordingly both on the foetus condition, and the newborn's health status. 

Georgia has already started work to educate parents. The project entitled "Parents' School", realised with UNICEF support since 2002, is the result of a co-operative effort between the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs and the NGO "Orthos". The project aims to develop a network of facilities oriented towards pregnant women and young families, increase pregnant women's awareness of their own condition and childcare; help them in psycho-emotional adaptation and preparation for childbirth; and train medical personnel.

The pilot project has been implemented at Tbilisi Chachava Research Institute of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Gori Maternity Home and Khulo Mother and Child Care Regional Centre.

Phase 1 of the Project envisioned development by experts of the initial version of a methodological manual "Speak to Future and Young Parents" for medical personnel. The manual offers basic information on many issues, such as family planning, pregnancy, care for the pregnant, newborn's hygiene and home care, social and medical guarantees for the pregnant, ethical issues (patient-and-doctor relationship), preparation for childbirth, childbirth, mother's care after childbirth, meeting the newborn, breastfeeding, immunisations, etc.

Parallel with these activities, special "Parents' School" rooms at the maternity homes involved in the project were fit with TV and video equipment and provided with relevant publications, video-materials and copying machines. Project's information support included posters, booklets, TV ad rolls, publications in the "Parents' School" magazine and other media.

Phase 2 of the Project envisioned training of maternity homes' medical personnel: 112 doctors and 35 nurses at Tbilisi Chachava Research Institute of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, 32 doctors and 17 nurses at Gori Maternity Home and 15 doctors and 6 nurses at Khulo Mother and Child Care Regional Centre.  The standard of training was evaluated through pre- and post-testing. Analysis of testing results suggested that the level of knowledge displayed by medical personnel increased on the average from 30 to 40 per cent. The effect of training was especially notable at Gori Maternity Home.

Phase 3 of the Project envisioned 10-day group consultations for pregnant women. They were receiving information about the child's psycho-emotional development in the period of pregnancy, changes the organism undergoes in pregnancy, possible complications during pregnancy and their prevention, social and medical guarantees for the pregnant, foetus development, diet during pregnancy, psychological aspects, physical and emotional changes after childbirth, home or hospital care for newborns, breast feeding, etc.

Effectiveness of the training was the main message maternity home representatives conveyed when speaking at the Final Conference held at Tori Hotel on 22 October 2003. Says Ia Davitaya, Head of Neonatology Department at Chachava Research Institute of Gynaecology and Obstetrics: "By our experience, the training has indeed achieved a great deal. It was very useful, particularly for nurses. Most often, it is nurses who communicate with mothers most actively. After consultations mothers, too, are much better prepared for childbirth, they can better bear pain, and care better for the child. Today we have 80 mothers on the list at the "Parents' School".  Says Manana Gigaya, Director of Gori Maternity Home: "All medical staff are involved in the "Parents' School", even nannies, to be able to care better" says Temur Gabaidze, Chief Doctor of Khulo Mother and Child Care Regional Centre. “Unfortunately, home delivery at home is not a rare fact. Our training sessions are attended not only by mothers, but fathers as well. We have around 700 childbirths a year, and if everyone could be educated properly, children would be healthier".

Evaluation of the pilot project led to recommendations concerning integration of the Parents' School model into the existing mother and child services. Analysis of infant mortality and disease incidence shows that educating parents on matters related to pregnancy and childbirth merits due attention, as their level of awareness is one of preconditions to ensure the child is healthy both in prenatal and postnatal periods.


Immunisation process continues

Immunisation of children is the most effective means to fight infectious diseases. It is regarded as one of the priority issues by the state.

Despite the daunting economic situation and scarcity of public revenues, Georgia fulfilled its obligation under the Agreement between the Government of Georgia and UNICEF, and purchased 20 per cent of vaccines needed for immunisation of children under two. UNICEF supplied the remaining 80 per cent. According to the agreed terms, the share of the national budget in covering the costs will increase every year, and by 2005, the costs will be shared on an equal basis. The purpose of this initiative is to create a sustainable system to support the National Immunisation Programme - one of the priorities in the National Health Strategy.

In 2003, the Government of Georgia made another step forward to enhance further the process of immunisation. On 4 June the Minister of Labour, Health and Social Welfare issued a new decree "On National Vaccination Calendar". Until then, the immunisation process followed the schedule approved in 1997. According to Levan Baidoshvili, Deputy Director of the National Centre for Disease Control, a need to modify the schedule stems from the Programme's new requirements and standards:

"Over the past several years, both WHO and UNICEF have placed particular emphasis not only on vaccination per se, but also on the safety and security of the process, which implies high product quality of vaccines, proper storage, transportation and distribution regimes, etc. It is essential to ensure high professional qualifications of the medical personnel involved, which is attained through continuous education. All these factors are taken into account in the new vaccination calendar based on a new, upgraded version of the management and information system used in the Immunisation Programme".

Until recently, public health district centres provided monthly reporting on vaccination interventions. Now, medical institutions will have to provide daily reporting on inoculations conducted vaccine quantities used and the remaining quantities. Experts at the National Centre for Disease Control believe that this will enable specialists to estimate vaccine losses in any specific district or settlement. Thus, it will be possible to elaborate a more accurate immunisation scheme and improve cost-effectiveness of the Programme.

Curatio International and UNICEF assisted in developing new monitoring and reporting forms. In view of large volumes of information expected, it is essential to ensure an adequate technical capacity to process the incoming information. Within the framework of technical assistance provided with the support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in 2004 UNICEF will donate to public health services in 53 districts of Georgia computers, provide for installation of specialised software applications for immunisation and epidemiological supervision management, and training of technical personnel.

"This will be a serious support for public health departments, as most of them cannot even afford a typewriter. Considering that these departments are responsible for other public health programmes, as well as for municipal programmes, the significance of contribution is even greater. With computers, they will be able to obtain, process and disseminate information, and do all that very quickly," -said Levan Baidoshvili.

The new vaccination calendar envisages a modified vaccination scheme for hepatitis B. Until recently, the first hepatitis B vaccination was given at the age of two months followed by vaccination at three and eight months. Now, the first vaccination is given at the maternity home within 12 hours of birth, followed by vaccination at two and four months. This means that a four-month old child will be fully immunised against hepatitis B.

Despite the progress achieved, educating parents and medical personnel on importance of timely vaccination remains a problem. Only a complete and timely course of vaccination can guarantee immunity to such serious diseases as diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, measles, TB and polio. Timely vaccination should be ensured, among other things, through retraining medical personnel on such issues as contra-indications for vaccination, including so-called false contra-indications. More often than not, these latter cause postponements and delays in vaccinations, both unjustified and risky for the child's health.

A study on the status of hepatitis B vaccination and related problems conducted by WHO experts has demonstrated convincingly a need to retrain medical personnel to ensure an adequate understanding of contra-indications for vaccination, and the so-called false contra-indications. The hepatitis B immunisation coverage of children under 1 year improved from 33 per cent in 2001 to 50 per cent in 2002. However, experts think that despite this improvement, the coverage is not yet fully satisfactory. To reach more children, it is necessary to increase the parents' and medical personnel's awareness of the need to provide full and timely vaccination.

Quick diagnosis and inexpensive treatment

According to the UNDP Human Development Report for Georgia, illness can send a Georgian family down a spiral of poverty.  An overwhelming proportion of the local population cannot visit the doctor even when it is really needed because they cannot afford to pay. The situation is no better for those who locate the resources necessary to pay for a visit to a doctor, as many of them then lack the money needed to pay for medicines. This has an impact upon both adults and children.

For the third consecutive year, the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Welfare of Georgia has been running the Programme of Integrated Management of Childhood Diseases for children aged two months to five years. The Programme, supported by UNICEF and WHO, is being implemented in co-operation with consultants of the NGO "Claritas". The added value of the programme is that it allows minimising the use of medications and managing the disease without medicines, wherever possible.

The Interim Report prepared by WHO experts gives positive evaluation of the progress attained in the course of the Programme in Georgia. Together with UNICEF, Stage three of the Programme is being implemented in conjunction with other international partners, among them Care, IMC and ADRA. Assistance provided by those organisations was instrumental in training medical personnel of 78 village medical stations. The programme covers Ozurgeti district, children's outpatients' clinics and 16 village medical stations in Zugdidi district, village medical stations in Ambrolauri and Tskhinvali districts.

"The most important thing is that for now the Programme covers Tskhinvali. We engaged into the programme medical personnel from almost all of medical stations in Tskhinvali district. As of today, 273 medical workers have received training within the Programme framework. It is an impressive figure for such a short period of time. It should be emphasised that medical workers show keen interest towards the Programme. It is safe to say that Phase three of the Programme of Integrated Management of Childhood Diseases - the expansion phase - is developing at a good pace" - says Keti Sharangia, Programme Co-ordinator.

The Programme has proved important for patients, too. During the training in Zugdidi, an IDP child was referred to the outpatients' clinic. She was diagnosed with infantile pellagra, an edema caused by protein deficiency as a result of malnutrition. It was necessary to hospitalise the patient and administer protein transfusion. However, the girl's family lacked the money needed to buy the required albumin preparation. Programme participants addressed Ms. Mzevinar Gamsakhurdia, head doctor of IDP and refugee outpatients' hospital in Zugdidi, who procured funds to buy the protein mixture needed. The girl's life was saved.

Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD)

Every year, 100-150 children with infantile hypothyroidism are born in Georgia's highly endemic zones. Hence, every year 100-150 new citizens of Georgia are facing the risk of mental retardation and brain disorders caused by iodine deficiency. The Government of Georgia in conjunction with UNICEF carries on fight against this serious disorder.

Quadripartite Memorandum on Salt Iodization

The Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Welfare of Georgia, the Ministry of Health of Ajara Autonomous Republic, UNICEF and "Graali" signed a Memorandum that envisions assembling and commissioning of a salt iodization line in Batumi.  UNICEF assisted Georgia in importing technical assistance components in line with the Memorandum, and putting up a required stock of potassium iodate. Currently, the governments of Georgia and Ukraine are negotiating terms and conditions of an agreement that will provide for an uninterrupted supply of salt for the line. It is planned to retrain local personnel to enable line assemblage and its operation.

Household survey findings

In parallel with the household survey, the State Statistics Department conducted an opinion survey with the support of UNICEF to study iodized salt consumption and the related habits among Georgian population. According to George Sakvarelidze, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Programme Officer at UNICEF Georgia, the survey findings suggest a significant progress - compared to 1999 when only 8 per cent of households were buying iodized salt, in 2003 the figure rose to 67.4 per cent.

"The progress achieved is the result of interventions and communication campaigns carried out by UNICEF and the Government of Georgia to advocate iodized salt," says George Sakvarelidze. "Notably, in the period between 1999 and 2003, imports of iodized salt increased 16-fold. If in 1999 Georgia only imported 2017 tonnes of iodized salt, in 2002 imports rose to 32 742 tonnes. Over the last two years there has been an increase in imports of relatively inexpensive, yet well-iodized salt from Ukraine.  This led to saturation of the market, with iodized salt becoming an item of mass consumption. An important conducive factor was the Government's decision of 1997 to exempt iodized salt imports from customs duty".

The household survey included salt sampling for iodine content. It was found that 90 per cent of iodized salt imported into Georgia is enriched with potassium iodate, a highly effective additive.  The main goal is to have 95 per cent of the population consuming iodized salt, the best means to fight iodine deficiency.

What do we know about iodine deficiency?

Alongside with the study of iodine quality, UNICEF sponsored an opinion poll to evaluate the level of awareness among the public concerning iodine deficiency.  The survey showed that 76.8 per cent of population were aware of iodine deficiency disorders. Around 90 per cent knew that iodine deficiency disorders can be prevented through the use of quality iodized salt. It was also found that considerable proportions of population learnt about iodine deficiency through electronic media.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

"Public awareness and a considerable growth in iodized salt consumption led to a reduction of IDD prevalence. Compared to 1997, IDD prevalence dropped from 57 to 38 per cent among the general population, and from 54 to 38 per cent among children," says Mariam Jashi, UNICEF Health Programme Officer. "Significant proportions of the population still face the risk of iodine deficiency, but the results attained are nevertheless impressive. It is to be hoped that the draft Law on Prevention of Disorders Caused by Iodine, Micronutrients and Vitamins Deficiency approved by the Government of Georgia in August 2003 will soon be adopted, thus creating a powerful legal and administrative lever to fight iodine deficiency". 

Law to combat iodine deficiency

In considering the role of the Law on Prevention of Disorders Caused by Iodine, Micronutrients and Vitamins Deficiency, Mr. Zurab Sekhniashvili, Chairman of the National Centre for Nutrition and Co-ordinator of the State Iodine Deficiency Prevention Programme quotes China as an illustration:

"China has achieved tremendous success in fighting iodine deficiency. Over years already, 87-92 per cent of China's population consume iodized salt. China would have never been able to attain its current technological progress without having addressed the problem of iodine deficiency. In China 50 thousand policemen were involved in special operations to fight smuggling of non-iodized salt. Thus, the law already approved by the Government of Georgia assumes utmost importance. Now it is for the Parliament to ratify it".

The Law on Prevention of Disorders Caused by Iodine, Micronutrients and Vitamins Deficiency prohibits the import of non-iodised salt, unless exceptions are authorised by the Government. This is the main argument opponents of the Law put forward in criticising it. They insist that WTO will not support such a ban on imports. In this connection, Zurab Sekhniashvili offers his argument. "A ban on imports of non-iodized salt has not created any problem for any state. Similar laws exist in Switzerland, Poland, Hungary, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan. Armenia, for a long time already, consumes only iodized salt".

Meeting in Beijing on iodine deficiency

On 15-17 October 2003 Beijing hosted an international conference on iodine deficiency disorders. The meeting brought together 250 delegates from 33 nations, mostly countries of Central and Southeast Asia, the CIS, USA, etc. A delegation from Georgia attended the meeting owing to the UNICEF support and was represented by Dr. Ramaz Urushadze, Head of the Public Health Department at the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affiars, and Dr. Zurab Sekhniashvili, Chairman of the National Centre for Nutrition and Co-ordinator of the State Iodine Deficiency Prevention Programme.
Participants of the Conference were welcomed by Prof. Glenn Maberly, Director of Nutrition Centre at Emory University; actor Roger Moore, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador; and Anatoly Karpov, former world chess champion, Goodwill Ambassador on iodine deficiency in the region. The Conference addressed a number of issues, focussing in particular on the role of the state in combating iodine deficiency. Each of the participating states was invited to present its own experience of fighting IDD. Georgia's experience generated interest of all participants. It was pointed out that Georgia scored tremendous success in combating iodine deficiency.

Deliberations at the Conference confirmed a need for Georgia to have a special law to empower it in fight against iodine deficiency.  Participants of the Conference signed a Memorandum, in which they pledged to maximise efforts to eliminate iodine deficiency disorders in their respective countries by 2005. On agreement with UNICEF, Georgia is planning to convene a National Conference on elimination of iodine deficiency disorders and universal salt iodization in February-March 2004.

Men use the hot line too

The process of childcare gives rise to many questions, and correct answers determine to a large measure the child's health. For the fourth year, the hot telephone line operated by the NGO "Claritas" with UNICEF support has been providing competent answers to the questions asked.

Initially, the emphasis was on breastfeeding, as specialists engaged in the hot line programme were offering advice on problems related to breastfeeding. The project has proved a success as the number of incoming telephone calls increases every year, as does the number of themes addressed in questions.

Today, the hot line (822) 9277 (11) answers all questions concerning child care, nutrition and health, child's growth and development, breastfeeding, immunisation, iodine deficiency, most common childhood diseases, state guarantees, the right to medical care, safe maternity, women's health, institutions to refer to for specialist assistance.

In 2003, the hot line was used by 5000 respondents of reproductive age (18-40 years). Of these, 29 per cent were men.


The 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".

Two more Baby-Friendly Hospitals

According to recent estimates, only 40 per cent of Georgian mothers breast-feed their babies during 6 months after birth. Research findings demonstrate that breast-fed children display better health and mental development. With this in mind, UNICEF in co-operation with the WHO Liaison Office in Georgia continues to provide support for the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.

The Initiative was launched in Georgia in 1997. At present, the number of Baby-Friendly Hospitals reached 18, as two more hospitals - the "Republic" general hospital in Zugdidi and "Bibida" maternity home in Tbilisi -  have received the title and joined the Baby-Friendly Hospitals community.

With the UNICEF support, in 2003 the programme provided training to 720 medical workers - neonatologists, obstetricians, and gynaecologists from 18 maternity hospitals. Training sessions were mostly held in regions of Georgia. In Tbilisi, training was offered to the Railway Maternity Hospital. It is to be noted that the programme for 2003 included such a relevant issue as prevention of HIV mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. 

Since the inception of the programme, medical personnel of 61 maternity hospitals in Georgia have received training within the framework of Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. The final goal of the programme is to have "Ten Steps for Successful Breastfeeding" introduced in all maternity hospitals by 2005, and the hospitals certified accordingly.


US $12 million from the Global Fund

As of 1 December 2003, the Communicable Pathology, AIDS and Clinical Immunology Centre has 467 cases of HIV infection registered, among them 393 male and 74 female patients. Most of the patients are between 21 and 40 years of age. 145 patients developed AIDS, 75 died. The documented 467 HIV cases in no way reflect the real prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Georgia. According to WHO and local experts, today Georgia has around 2000 HIV/AIDS patients. Three of AIDS patients are minors, and they were infected by their mothers.

In this context, financial support of US $ 12 million committed by the Global Fund for Fight against AIDS, TB and Malaria is of paramount importance, as it fully covers the gap Georgia had in funding the 5-year National Strategic Plan of Action for Fight against HIV/AIDS.

The main factor that determined a positive response from the Global Fund was the Strategic Plan itself. In developing the Plan, experts relied on the data of the AIDS and Clinical Immunology Centre, and support provided by UNICEF and UNAIDS. The National Strategic Plan of Action for Fight against HIV/AIDS draws on the Situation Analysis on HIV/AIDS in Georgia and Analysis of HIV/AIDS Response prepared with the support of UNICEF and UNAIDS.  The budget for 2003-2007 National Strategic Plan of Action for Fight against HIV/AIDS is US $ 16 million. Allocations from the national budget, and contributions from local and international organisations total US $ 4 million, while the remaining part will be covered from the funds provided by the Global Fund for Fight against AIDS, TB and Malaria.

Request for Funding submitted by Georgia to the Global Fund management was met with approval. Thus, Georgia appeared to be among 92 countries that have received considerable assistance from the Global Fund for Fight against AIDS. The funds committed for the National Plan will be used for interventions among HIV/AIDS high-risk groups (intravenous drug users, commercial sex workers, etc.), prevention of HIV/AIDS mother-to-child transmission, treatment of and support for HIV infected and AIDS patients, educating youth on HIV/AIDS, integrating life skills into school curricula and establishing youth consultation centres.  All interventions are envisioned by the 5-year National Strategic Plan of Action.

Live and Let Others Live!

"Live and Let Others Live!" is the motto of global campaign against AIDS that targets the stigma of HIV/AIDS and exclusion and discrimination of HIV/AIDS patients. The campaign seeks to protect rights of all those who are affected in one form or the other by AIDS epidemics. To halt AIDS epidemics we need to fight HIV/AIDS epidemics, not HIV/AIDS patients.

The main problem faced by AIDS patients is the attitude of other people. Alienation and exclusion make their plight even worse.

With a view to building the capacity of HIV/AIDS patients' organisations, regional branches of the NGOs – AIDS Patients’ Support Foundation and the Georgian Plus Group - were set up in Poti and Batumi with the support of UNICEF. It is planned to establish a network that will empower HIV/AIDS patients enabling them to communicate and co-operate with each other.

UNICEF donated computer equipment to the newly established regional branches, and assisted the Georgian Plus Group in publishing 2 journals dealing with HIV infection management, care for HIV patients, medical assistance and protection of their social rights. In July 2003 UNICEF and other UN agencies sponsored a meeting that brought together, for the first time in the South Caucasus, organisations of HIV/AIDS patients. Meetings, common problems and discussions not only bring people closer together, but are instrumental in defining priority issues and recommendations that call for greater support and attention from the state.

"There was a case when two HIV infected patients met each other and got married," says Iza Bedokia, Director of the AIDS Patients’ Support Foundation.  "Our goal is to help people establish relations of warmth so that they do not feel excluded from society". 

With a football ball against AIDS

"Let's Stop AIDS Together" was the motto of the present regular round of the Georgian Children and Youth Football Championship for the President's Cup, which was conducted with the support of UNAIDS and UN Theme Group on HIV/AIDS in Georgia. The tournament enlisted participation of around 45 thousand children (aged 12-15) from over 2000 in all regions of Georgia.

The Football Championship for the President's Cup among young people was launched in 2001 through co-operative effort of UNICEF, I. Noneshvili International Children's Fund, the Georgian Football Federation and the State Chancellery of Georgia. The five-year tournament initiative aims to promote the healthy lifestyle and prevent harmful habits among young people.

Sports help to prevent smoking, alcohol and drug abuse. The 2003 tournament started in schools in spring. Within the framework of the championship, the UNAIDS team conducted an awareness campaign for young players and their supporters. A special mobile team mobilised by the HIV/AIDS Patients Support Foundation travelled to all parts of Georgia where regional tournaments were held. The team included popular performers Neka Sebiskveradze, Ia Chantladze, Tatia Giorgobiani and  "Kuchis Bichebi" (Street Boys) band, who were meeting young players and spoke to them about healthy lifestyle. Concurrently with the championship, amusement quizzes were organised with a focus on AIDS-related themes and winners received special awards. All players participating in the championship regional tournaments received T-shirts with "Let's Stop AIDS Together" written on them. Volunteers in special vests from the HIV/AIDS Patients Support Foundation were distributing information sheets and newsletters on HIV/AIDS problems. 12 000 booklets and 500 posters were printed. Around 25 000 young people got information about HIV/AIDS during the regional football tournament.

The final game was held at the Tbilisi Sports Palace on 22 October 2003 within the framework of UN Week in Georgia. Two teams, one from School No 169 in Tbilisi and another from School No 3 in Dusheti, met for the final game that ended in the victory of the team from Tbilisi. This time the President's Cup was awarded to the football team of School No 169.

"We fought for victory from the outset, and we knew we would win," said Levan Sharikadze, member of the team, after the game.

The award-giving ceremony was attended by Mr. Lance Clark, UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Co-ordinator in Georgia, representatives of the government of Georgia, and well-known sportsmen.

"Let's Stop AIDS Together" was the motto of the championship in which young football players and their supporters received extensive knowledge about AIDS and how to fight it.

"AIDS is infection caused by virus. At present there is no effective drug against it,"  answered children in the quiz held in between half-periods.

"Have we stopped AIDS? Well, the most important thing is that we started fighting it," says Zviad Todua.

"We'll stop it," says Revaz Jishiashvili with confidence.

"AIDS can be stopped with sport," thinks Roland Kiziria.

UN Learning Strategy on HIV/AIDS

In April 2003 the Committee of UNAIDS co-sponsor agencies approved the UN Learning Strategy on HIV/AIDS to foster development of knowledge and competence of UN staff on HIV/AIDS. The strategy envisages UN competence building vis a vis how best to support national responses to HIV/AIDS and to ensure that all UN staff members and their families are able to make informed decisions to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS. This includes ensuring that staff members fully understand UN workplace policies on HIV and eliminate stigma and discrimination against people personally affected by HIV/AIDS.

The UN Theme Group in Georgia nominated Mariam Jashi, APO Health for UNICEF as the country facilitator for UN Learning Strategy on HIV/AIDS. In this role, Mariam attended the first CEE/CIS Training of Facilitators on UN HIV/AIDS Learning Strategy held in fall 2003 in Moscow, Russia. The training, facilitated by UN strategy advisors from UNICEF, UNAIDS and UNFPA, aimed to ensure that all country teams have resource persons knowledgeable in learning strategies, globally adopted standards and know how to assist country teams in planning, implementing and evaluating HIV/AIDS learning activities specifically tailored to country conditions.

Following-up on the Moscow training, Ms. Jashi in collaboration with the UN Theme Group developed an HIV/AIDS Learning Plan for the UN system in Georgia. The UN Resident Coordinator and UN Heads of Agencies articulated a high commitment to secure resources for the HIV/AIDS Learning Plan. The plan seeks to reach all UN staff and their families through training activities on global standards for HIV/AIDS learning within the UN.

Early Childhood Development

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.

Hello, I have come!

Early childhood is the most effective and important phase in the development of a child.  This time forms the basis for and defines the person's emotional, psychological, social, cognitive character, basic skills and personality development. Scientists believe that care and attention a child receives in his/her early years is vital as it impacts the later life. Scientific evidence shows that children would develop and learn better and faster, if together with healthy food and medical care, from their very early days they receive positive stimuli from human warmth and love bestowed on them.

Obviously, Georgia lacks up-to-date information concerning early childhood development. Childcare institutions rely on fairly outdated specialist literature and methodology; social conditions are inadequate; pre- and post-natal care is not fully satisfactory; disease incidence and mortality among children are high; children do not always receive adequate care and not infrequently suffer from deficit of attention; there is obvious scarcity of information on the child's physical or mental development parameters.

On account of these factors, representatives of UNICEF Georgia, Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Welfare, and Ministry of Education collaborated to work out the National Concept for Support of Early Childhood Development that was put into effect from 2003. Stage 1 of the Concept envisions implementation of the Programme “Video-Based Parent Education on Early Child Care and Development”.

Interviews conducted by the team members in Telavi, Zestafoni and Tbilisi demonstrated that parents' knowledge and awareness is limited to such issues as the child's feeding and immunisation. The level of knowledge is particularly low in rural areas. The survey showed that all 100 per cent of respondents are willing to have information on issues concerning the child's development. All of the respondents are willing to see a special video film. A specialised seminar was attended by 83.3 per cent of respondents. Literature on children of 0-3 years of age is only available to 29.4 per cent of respondents, while literature concerning the child's development, care and nutrition - to 19.7 per cent of respondents.

The programme of development and care of children in early childhood contemplates assisting pre-school age (0-7 years) children and their families to enable the child's normal physical, emotional, social and cognitive development. The programme is a multifaceted one 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.

The Concept, and the relevant video and printed materials were prepared with the assistance of international experts by a multidisciplinary team made up of representatives of the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Education. The team was established on the premises of the Public Health Department of the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Welfare of Georgia.

With a view to awareness raising among parents, primary healthcare personnel and nursery teachers, the working team prepared a programme for educating parents based on video materials, and commissioned a full length film (one hour and 20 minutes long) covering all major phases in the child's growth and development from antenatal period up to the age of three.  Apart from parents - the child's main caregivers and educators, the target audience for the film includes primary healthcare personnel and nursery school teachers, whose professional duty it is to give care to a child and inform parents about the way the child develops.

The programme of early childhood development provided a manual for specialists and an information kit for parents: the book "The Amazing Early Age", five kinds of booklets and three types of posters. The book covers such themes as the child's nutrition, immunisations, care for the child's mental, physical and social development, safe environment and protection, AIDS. In addition to the work done, the Programme “Video-Based Parent Education on Early Child Care and Development” intends to prepare TV and radio programmes and conduct specialised trainings.

With the Programme, parents now have access to necessary information on child development. This, in turn, is a precondition for children to be born healthy - like those in the video film prepared within the Programme. The children with happy smiles on their faces from the very early months of their life and a greeting of joy beaming from their eyes - Hello, I have come!

Life Skills - Schools to teach a new discipline

Education during the soviet time was exclusively oriented towards the transfer of information, giving little or no regard to the need for children to acquire skills, no less important than informative knowledge.

Establishment of a democratic, law-governed state and development of a civil society calls for bringing up a free and independent person capable to work and be competitive in a fast-changing environment typical of globalisation.

To this end, secondary general schools in Georgia start integrating into their curricula the teaching of life skills and healthy lifestyle.

An initiative group to facilitate integration of a new discipline in schools was set up in 2000 and brought together medical professionals and educators. The group developed a programme concept, syllabus and a course outline, and selected specific themes.

Safety and security, personal hygiene, appropriate sex education, self-organisation, consumer skills, rights and responsibilities, communication and co-operation, bad habits, stress and stress management, emotions management, conflicts and conflict management, freedom, choice, independence and sense of responsibility, law and justice, environmental awareness, anticipation of action, problem solving, violence, etiquette, healthy nutrition, disease and disease management, tolerance, natural cataclysms, me and my body, love and recognition - these are the themes children need to internalise while at school.

Tamar Meipariani who is co-ordinating the project believes that integration of the new discipline in schools should lead to a transformation of a school into a social institution enabling every child to demonstrate unique and inimitable personality. However, in order for this to happen, first it is necessary to prepare teachers accordingly.

A workshop to train the trainers was held at the Central Institute of Teachers' Training and Retraining on 26-31 October 2003. The course was attended by 27 teachers. First the trainees are expected to integrate the new programme in their own schools, and then they will conduct trainings for other teachers in various regions of Georgia.

What do the training participants think?

Maia Bliadze, teacher: "It is necessary to introduce these themes into the school curriculum. When teaching geography, I have to deal with other themes, such as environmental protection. However, some of the themes seem difficult to teach".

David Gogelidze, teacher: "It is indeed timely to start talking of these themes at school to empower children to face problems. Though I think that a lot of effort will be needed to translate this idea into reality and introduce the discipline at school. Only enthusiasm will do nothing".

Darejan Lortkipanidze, teacher: "New approaches to teaching imply not only transfer of knowledge, but also help to develop life skills and adequate worldview. Today it is both timely and necessary to empower teachers with this programme, so that while teaching their respective disciplines they could equip students with requisite life skills".

It is planned to pilot the new programme at seven schools in Tbilisi. By 2005, the teaching of life skills at schools will be introduced nation-wide.

From Kindergarten to School - Georgia Introduces Inclusive Education

Today, there are 9197 children in Georgia registered as disabled. Many of them do not go to school, some have hardly ever left their homes. 

According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child a disabled child should enjoy a full and decent life, which ensure dignity and promote self-reliance. . . 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 (Article 23).

Salome is eight years old and lives with microcephaly – a rare neurological disorder. She has trouble speaking. The girl's mother says she was born very weak. The diagnosis came later. Up until recently she had stayed at home most of the time. In September she started going to the kindergarten. "Unfortunately, I heard about this kindergarten only recently. So far, it is difficult to speak of any appreciable progress, as it is only one month since we started attending. The girl has already got used to it," says Salome's mother.

The girl goes to a special group at Kindergarten No 16 of the Railway Department. The group of 20 children between 3 and 8 years of age was established in 1998 to help disabled children to integrate with their peers. At present, the project is run by the NGO "Child and Environment" with UNICEF support.

Like their peers, Salome and Tamazi, formerly attending the group, now go to school. They are first form pupils at Tbilisi school No 166.

"I have already learnt A, C and T," - says Salome and writes the letters on the blackboard. Then she recites a poem she learned at school.

"I really feared as I did not know how children at school would receive her. Now I have no worries. My daughter's classmates care for her and give her every support," says Marina Esebua, Salome's mother, and adds that the girl likes school but she often asks mother to take her to the kindergarten - the place she likes best.

Child Protection

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.

"No one will be able to separate us - me from my child"
Can a mother imagine abandoning her baby  . . .

Their eyes look unusually sad for their age. When these babies cry, they can hardly be heard.  It seems they don't expect anyone to come, kiss and caress them, sing a lullaby to them or rock their cradle.

Today Tbilisi Infant's Home has 115 residents: 38 of them have both parents, 67 were abandoned by their single mothers, and 10 brought in by police . . .

"If I had done as some were telling me to and got rid of the baby, I would not be here, but then I would not have her either," says Eka. She is only 22 and the youngest of the shelter's inmates. Her daughter, Ann, is less than a month old, she is lying quietly with her mother and sucking contentedly. Eka will stay at the shelter until she settles things with her family.

The project for prevention of children's abandonment and de-institutionalisation started with co-operation among the World Vision International, Every Child, UNICEF, UNFPA, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Welfare of Georgia.

Mother and Child Shelter was opened on one of the premises of Tbilisi Infant's House on 18 April 2003.

The purpose for establishing the shelter was to assist mothers in coping with social and financial difficulties that may cause them to abandon their children. The problems mothers in special circumstances confront are actively acknowledged, social workers suggest how problems could be addressed and give mothers every possible 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. Here, in quiet and light rooms of the shelter the mother and the child are together. Conditions are good, with a kitchen, bathroom, and entertainment room.

By early November the shelter was home to seven mothers: Eka, Eka, Eka, Marine, Sofiko, Lia and Irina. Their babies: Ana, Datuna, Nika, Saba, Mariam, Mariam, Ana and Mariam (Irine has twin daughters) could have been placed in the Infant's Home, but, fortunately, today they are with their mothers. Their parents already look with hope into the future.

Marine Menteshashavili, manager of the shelter, says that since April, the shelter helped to prevent 28 placements into the Infant's Home. Fourteen mothers applied for shelter, eight of them have already left. Twelve mothers received assistance other than shelter. Three babies were returned from the Infant's Home to their families, 11 were sent to foster families. At present the shelter is home to six mothers and seven babies.

Several snapshots give an idea of the mothers' private life:

Tsira's husband left her with her two children when she was expecting a third baby. When she gave up hope that her husband would return, she decided to leave the child at the Infant's Home. Project's social workers met Tsira at the Infant's Home and persuaded her not to abandon the child. But now she faced another trouble. The child was found to be handicapped. Social workers advised her to apply to the Mother and Child's Shelter. There she realised that she could not live without her baby. "Today my baby lives with me and I have no fears. I wish every mother could feel as happy as I do," says Tsira.

"Everyone in my family was opposed to my having an illegitimate child. They were saying it is a disgrace, and what would people say, and so on. They were telling me to leave the child at the Infant's Home. I had all documents prepared when I met social workers. At the last moment I changed my mind and said: No way. My son must be with me. Now George is three months old and I can't imagine living without him. The Project will help me to start a small business, and I will be able to support my son. And I hope I will make it up with my family," says Lali.

When Maya gave birth to George, she was 19. She was very shy and had no confidence in herself. Maya had no job, and she could not imagine how to support him. She placed her son at the Infant's Home, though she often visited him there. The Project's social workers offered Maya assistance. The Shelter's employment service established to assist mothers in coping with economic problems sent her to cosmeticians' course.  Maya completed the course successfully, got a certificate and now works at one of beauty salons in Tbilisi.  She can now support both her little son and herself. And she also reconciled with her family. When Maya came to the Infants' Home to take her son away, she was no longer shy and unconfident. Now she has confidence in herself and she can care for her child.

Others' stories are fairly similar. Most of the Shelter's inmates managed to start working or started their small businesses; two women who returned to their villages were given money to buy cows or to open a bakery, one woman bought an apartment and opened a small shop, another one started working in the market.

Mothers are busy, and what is most important - they have their children living together with them.

Foster care starts in Kutaisi and Batumi

Forty-nine institutions, i.e. boarding schools and orphanages, in Georgia are home to 4667 children, 95% of these children have either one or both parents.

Georgia initiated a pilot project "Support to the Child and the Family" in 1999 to promote alternative methods to institutions such a foster care or direct family support. The pilot project was successfully completed in some cities of Eastern Georgia - Tbilisi, Telavi and Rustavi. The State, namely, the Ministry of Education, committed to continue the funding of the project in Eastern Georgia, while donor organisations have expanded the project to launch de-institutionalisation in Western Georgia.

Since 15 April 2002, the project "Support to the Child and the Family" has been realised in Western Georgia with the support of UNICEF and the British NGO Every Child. The project promotes de-institutionalisation, i.e. transfer of children to families, either their own or to foster families. The project envisions direct financial support to a family for a certain period of time.

Within the initial stage of the Project, before giving assistance to children, specially selected specialists were trained as social workers.

According to Maguli Shagashvili, local technical advisor, 94 children have been direct beneficiaries of the programme since it’s launch in November 2003.

In Batumi, the Programme assisted 57 children, seven of them were fostered; in Kutaisi - 37 children; 20 families received direct support before they sent the child to the institution, 10 children were returned to their biological families, and seven transferred to foster families.

A seven-year old girl spent four months in Tbilisi Hospital No 5. She suffers from cerebral palsy. After hospital treatment, the girl was transferred to Senaki Nursing Home. The girl has a mother, but she is often away from the country, as she has to support a large family, and thus is unable to provide adequate care for her daughter. For six months social worker Tamuna Kepuladze was looking for a foster family for the girl. At last, she found a woman with adequate experience who fostered the girl. The girl's mother says she will always communicate with her daughter and the foster family.

A shabby rented apartment in Kutaisi, with cracked walls and collapsing ceiling, is home to a large family. The only person in the family who is able to work is a woman, still quite young. She has to support her parents - disabled pensioners, two minor children of her own and her sister’s two children - both schizophrenia patients.  One of her children is seriously ill. Obviously, the woman cannot work The only income the family had was her parents' pensions. The grandmother was bringing her charity dinner home, to share it with grandchildren.

The support provided by the Programme to the disabled child has enabled the family to sigh with relief.

The World Is Our Home

Street children, juvenile delinquents, young beggars - most children in this category cannot read and write, not even at the age of 11 or 12, to say nothing of general education. When sent to school, these children face certain, not minor, difficulties in learning.

On 18 July, the street children shelter "Begurebi" (Sparrows) hosted an unusual number of visitors who came for a book launch. The launch event was attended by the UNICEF Representative in Georgia Mr. Ismail Ould Chekh Ahmed, Deputy Minister of Education Ms. Rusudan Gorgiladze, representatives of NGOs and international organisations, and children - those for whom the children's shelter is home.

"The World Is Our Home" is the title of encyclopaedia for children prepared with the UNICEF support by the NGO Child and Environment and the Central Institute of Teachers' Training.

The book is intended for children that for various reasons have been unable to get a minimum level of knowledge at school.

At the same time, the encyclopaedia will be an interesting reading for everyone. It relates in simple and easy-to-understand language lots of interesting stories about the world that surrounds us. The book is meant to arouse children's interest in reading.

A human, our city, our motherland, the Earth, rights and responsibilities - these are the main themes covered in the book.

"Begurebi" inmates like the book very much.
"This is our book," says Sofo.
"Our teachers wrote this book," says Zura proudly.
"There is my picture in the book," says Tiko.
"I want this book to be translated into other languages," dreams Nika.

"The World Is Our Home" is well illustrated and it will be a delightful and rewarding reading for school children, too. 

A step into the 21st century

In the 21st century with its unprecedented advance in technologies, when computers are becoming part and parcel of life, many Georgian children have no chance to use them. The reason is very simple - lack of money. Neither can children from poor families, especially from IDP families, afford attending any educational groups or art studios. 

The "Okros Satsmisi" (Golden Fleece) Cultural and Educational Centre for IDP and unaccompanied children works to fill this gap. The centre was established 10 years ago, in 1993, by Ia Esvanjia, an art critic from Tbilisi living in Iveria Hotel, and her friends. "When we saw how talented, and at the same time how abandoned the children living there were, the idea came itself," says Ia. "We went to every room on all of the 16 floors and selected children. Some were good at painting, others could sing well, or embroider, or do something else. We try to open the door for them into the world of folklore, classic music, painting, tapestry . . .We teach them free of charge. Our centre is Georgia in miniature; we have children from Abkhazia, and Samachablo, and Tbilisi."

Now the children at the Centre can learn computer graphics, computer processing of phonograms, and use Internet. UNICEF has donated to the Centre 4 computers, a printer, a copying machine, tables, chairs, a blackboard, a bookcase and 2 electric heaters, and invited an IT specialist to teach the children. Over 40 children have already completed a computer graphics course at the Centre, and the results are so impressive that Ia Esvanjia is planning to display the images they created.

The children are really happy. Those who have been here for some time are sharing what they know with the newcomers - and these are not just empty words - they can already work with four computer programmes.

Juvenile delinquents are victims themselves

Law enforcement officers trained

The Children's Colony in Avchala now has a new name - the Juvenile Rehabilitation Institution. However, despite the change of the name and certain interventions towards reforming the institution, a lot remains the way it was in the past. As of 20 November 2003, the institution had 18 juvenile offenders of 14 to 17 years of age.

The most progressive modern legal theory and correctional practice appear to regard juvenile delinquents - children at conflict with law, as victims rather than offenders: they are in need of protection, care and reintegration. International legal instruments emphasise the need to establish a separate system of juvenile justice and special juvenile courts.

The relevant Georgian legislation has been amended, but in order for provisions of the Convention to be put into effect, it is imperative for law enforcers to know well the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other relevant international legal instruments.

International legal instruments and new practices in dealing with juvenile delinquents was the theme of the training on administration of juvenile justice held with the UNICEF support by the Independent Board of Advisors to the Parliament on 27-31 May 2003 for members of law-enforcement bodies.

What does administration of juvenile justice imply? The notion covers prevention of offence among juveniles, preliminary inquiry and investigation stages, courts, delinquent's deprivation of liberty, reintegration into society.

25 members of law-enforcement bodies, courts, higher educational institutions and child's rights organisations attended this training for trainers workshop and will in future conduct similar trainings for their colleagues. The workshop was moderated by Londa Esadze, Chairman of the Independent Board of Advisors to the Parliament; Eka Kemularia, staff member of the parliamentary Human Rights Committee; Zurab Zhividze, staff member of the parliamentary Legal Committee, and psychiatrist David Zurabashvili.

"Our objective was to familiarise law enforcement officers with international legal instruments, international experience and Georgian legislation," says Londa Esadze.

The training was structured to include specially prepared modules, each comprising presentation of informative material to participants, and working exercises - hypothetical cases, questionnaires and tests. Training participants received handouts with extensive support materials prepared by the Board of Advisors.

Law enforcers will share with their colleagues the knowledge and information they received during the workshop.

Juvenile delinquents - reality and prospects

About 25 juvenile delinquents are serving their sentence at the Juvenile Rehabilitation Institution of the Ministry of Justice's Department of Execution of Punishment.  Most of these juveniles come from vulnerable families. They have many problems to cope with. However, the most important problem is to prepare them for adaptation to and reintegration into normal life. Today, compared to 2001, young offenders have a better and more comfortable environment to live in, and conditions for learning are created too. Two years ago everything was different.

In May 2001, it was decided to transfer the juvenile institution of the Department of Execution of Punishment to Khoni. Juvenile offenders, obviously in need of special attention, found themselves even more isolated and abandoned by society, outside any control by the state.

In December 2001, a visit of representatives of the Tbilisi Municipality's City Centre for Child's Rights to the juvenile institution transferred to Khoni revealed serious problems. 24 juvenile inmates serving their sentences for different offences (theft, robbery, murder, rape) lived in appalling conditions; hygienic and sanitary norms were grossly abused; there was no kitchen, no medical aid or medicines, no educational materials or textbooks; no conditions for labour rehabilitation; there was no programme or human resources for psychological and ethical rehabilitation of young offenders. Concern over young delinquents' situation was expressed by a number of human rights organisations. Transfer of juveniles to normal conditions was recognised as an imperative need. On the initiative of the Tbilisi Municipality's City Centre for Child's Rights supported by the Ministry of Justice's Department of Execution of Punishment, a building was selected to house the juvenile rehabilitation institution.

Repair and development work in the selected territory started in spring 2002, with the funding of GEL 200 000 provided by the Ministry of Justice.

The Tbilisi Municipality's City Centre for Child's Rights worked consistently to highlight the problem. At numerous briefings, roundtables and consultative meetings convened at the Centre's initiative, representatives of the Georgian Parliament, the Ministry of Justice, Tbilisi Municipality and City Council, UNICEF, other international foundations active in Georgia provided analysis of the situation and worked to map out ways to address the existing problems.

In June 2002, the Juvenile Rehabilitation Institution moved to a newly refurbished building in Avchala. With social conditions improved, it was now necessary to address the problems related to educational work and psychological rehabilitation of young offenders. 

The project "Juvenile Delinquents and Education" was the first step towards promoting adaptation of juvenile delinquents to society. The project implemented by the Tbilisi Municipality's City Centre for Child's Rights of and the association "School, Family, Society" received financial support from the Open Society - Georgia Foundation and relied on materials and assistance provided by UNICEF.

The project "Juvenile Delinquents and Education" led to a humanisation of the learning and rehabilitation process at the juvenile institution, improvement of educational work and streamlining of psychological rehabilitation and correctional work among juveniles.

Stage 1 of the Project included retraining and professional development of teachers and educators of the Juvenile Rehabilitation Institution, their reorientation with regards to juveniles' rights, as well as to goals, objectives and the process of instruction.  Stage 2 of the Project provided for psychosocial rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents and interventions aimed to facilitate their adaptation to society.

On 10 December 2002, representatives of governmental agencies and NGOs attended a round-table meeting held at the Juvenile Rehabilitation Institution within the framework of the project. The meeting discussed problems of education and psychological rehabilitation and correction of young offenders as an important precondition for their reintegration into society. Speaking at the meeting Mr. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, UNICEF Representative in Georgia said that all children are innocent and the fault lies with society that has failed to secure their wellbeing.

The project "Juvenile Delinquents and Education" contributed towards refurbishment of the school library at the juvenile institution and acquisition of necessary publications, school textbooks, computers and videos. A number of educational and cultural meetings were organised at the institution in the course of the project.

Obviously, the results achieved are important, but unless educational, correctional and psychological work with juvenile offenders is continued, what has been achieved will be lost.

This material has been made available by the Tbilisi Municipality's City Centre for Child's Rights.

UNICEF efforts for juvenile detainees

Prison No 5 of the Department of Execution of Punishment of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia currently has 49 juvenile inmates. It should be noted that the prison is overcrowded as instead of its normal capacity of 1200, the prison has 1800 inmates. 49 juvenile inmates are accommodated in two wards, while according to international requirements a ward can be shared at most by four to six persons. There are no provisions made to protect juveniles from adult prison inmates. The right of children to physical and mental health is impaired.

The City Centre for Child rights regularly carries out monitoring of conditions of detention of juveniles. It is found that inmates are held in grossly insanitary conditions. The children are not provided with mattresses, blankets or bedding. They lack warm clothing, and in winter their health is often at risk.

UNICEF responded to the request of the Centre for Child's Rights and purchased for juvenile prison inmates 50 mattresses, blankets and necessary bedding. UNICEF staff association collected money to buy warm clothes - jumpers, trousers and socks for juveniles. These donations were handed over to juvenile inmates of Prison No 5 by UNICEF Representative in December 2003. The visit also appeared to be an opportunity for an advocacy with the presence of representatives from Save the Children, Tbilisi Municipality and media.

It is hoped that this modest donation will help them to cope with difficulties winter brings about. The State for its part is obliged to honour its commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and provide in places of detention adequate conditions for juvenile offenders to develop normally.

Not a single child without a birth certificate

According to survey conducted by UNICEF in 2000, five percent of children in Georgia are not registered at birth. Some children reach school age without a birth certificate, i.e. without being registered. Birth registration has wide implications. Apart from being the first legal acknowledgement of a child’s existence, registration of births is fundamental to the realization of a number of rights. Records of birth are essential to ensure that children enrol in school at the right age, secure the child’s right to a nationality, protect children who are trafficked, ensure that children in conflict with the law are given special protection, and not treated as adults, enforce laws relating to minimum age for employment, a measure to prevent child labour, ensure that every child has medical support.

Disparity in figures between the State Statistics Department and Medical Statistics and Information Centre often stands as high as 20-25%. Data of the State Statistics Department are based on the data of registration offices; however, it is not infrequent that parents do not approach registration offices for birth certificates that are not free.

Data of the Medical Statistics and Information Centre rely on the statistics provided by maternity hospitals. However, these data are not fully accurate either as residents of high-mountainous areas often choose to give birth at home, while residents in borderline areas refer to maternity hospitals across the border, as medical care in neighbouring countries is much cheaper.

On 3 June 2003, the Public Defender's Office hosted the Forum for Child's Rights - Leave No Child Out that discussed the problems of birth registration in Georgia. Participants of the meeting included the Public Defender of Georgia, representatives of the Centre for the Rights of the Child at the Public Defender's Office, UNICEF, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Welfare, State Statistics Department, and non-governmental organisations.

Participants of the meeting agreed on the need to develop a unified strategy of birth registration in the country, and prepare proposals and recommendations for legislature and executive bodies.

"The work has started, and it is a step forward. People are applying to the Public Defender's Office with concrete requests," says Tamta Tsutsunava, Head of the Centre for the Rights of the Child at the Public Defender's Office.

Children's Participation

Listen to children - voices come from all over Georgia

Children should be involved more actively in the decision-making process on problems affecting their lives. This in turn helps children to develop such skills that will prepare them for life of meaning and of purpose. Where children have no chance to participate in decision-making, they fail to develop very essential skills, such as self-expression, negotiating and communication skills, and ability to assume responsibility.

On 24-26 October 2003, the Palace of Youth hosted the First Session of the new, second, Children and Youth Parliament of Georgia. The Children and Youth Parliament is one vivid example of children's and youth participation in the decision-making process. The Project is being realised by the State Department of Youth Affairs and Children's Federation, with the support of UNICEF.

Elections to the Children and Youth Parliament were held in September-October 2003. Children and young people from all regions of Georgia elected their representatives. The new Parliament's term of office will be two years, and it will complete its work in December 2004.

The Parliament has two chambers - the Chamber of Children and the Chamber of Youth.  132 children and young people from all over Georgia came to Tbilisi to discuss issues of relevance for them.

The Children and Youth Parliament started its work in 2000. According to Maya Kurtsikidze, UNICEF Communications Officer, this is an educational project that helps to develop in young children essential skills.

The first session approved the agenda and regulations, elected speakers and vice-speakers.

"You were elected by your peers to represent their interests at this important youth forum, express freely their ideas, thoughts and wishes on what needs to be changed. It is a great responsibility," wrote Ms. Shahnaz Kianian-Firouzgar, UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe, CIS and Baltic States in her letter of welcome addressed to members of the Georgian Children and Youth Parliament.

Educational seminars held together with the sessions familiarised members of the Parliament with the Georgian Constitution, Convention on the Rights of the Child, other legal instruments. Cultural activities included visits to the "Gold Repository" at the State Museum of Georgia, and to the theatre.

What are young people planning to do in their Parliament?

Nato Manjavidze (Tbilisi): "Parliament is the best place for young people to meet and make friends. It is interesting for me to co-operate with people coming from other countries. I hope I will be able to visit historical monuments and take part in their restoration. It is worth to participate in all those stages of elections to get elected".

Giorgi Kevlishvili (Lagodekhi): "I would like to work on youth's problems, advocate for the Convention on the Rights of the Child".

Nino Abulashvili (Kareli): "I believe each of us will be able to get education and pursue a career, including in politics".

Eka Tsivtsivadze (Sukhumi): "For me human rights is the priority, and I will be working in the Parliament to uphold them".

Giorgi Giorgadze (Terjola): "I study at the National Defence Academy, and for me it is important to have the situation in the army improved and soldiers living in normal conditions".

Ana Tsurtsumia (Abkhazia): "I come from Abkhazia, and for me the priority concern is IDP children. I think it is necessary to promote contacts between Abkhaz and Georgian children".

Araksia Skhnichian (Ninotsminda): "In our region it is important to promote the learning of the state language, so that people there could feel as fully fledged citizens".

Beso Bregvadze (Kutaisi): "I want to work towards making medical care accessible for vulnerable children".

Giorgi Kobakhidze, speaker of the Parliament: "We will definitely carry on and sustain what our forerunners in the previous parliament started. "

Keti Arveladze, speaker of the Chamber of Children (Tbilisi): "For me it is important to see that children's views are considered in the reform of education. I wish Children's Ombudsman office is established".

Young parliamentarians already engaged in active work. In November-December they organised the Week of the Child's Rights that included: mini-football matches with children from Tbilisi children's institutions and members of the Youth Parliament participating, competitions and quizzes at children's institutions. Young parliamentarians helped to organise for children living at children's institutions visits to cultural and educational institutions in Tbilisi. The Children's Federation hosted a painting competition with the theme "Life". Winners were awarded with special certificates.

The Week was closed with a selling exhibition of children's works from orphanages and a concert at the cinema hall of the Georgian Children's Federation with children from children's homes and members of the Children and Youth Parliament participating.

Youth Centre in Guria

Most young people in Georgia, particularly in provinces, are lacking the chance to participate in the decision-making process. Ozurgeti is no exception.

Ozurgeti is the centre of Guria, one of the most beautiful parts of Georgia. Once it was a wealthy town. Today life there, like in many other parts of Georgia, is very difficult. Tea-growing farms are abandoned and tea factories are stopped, and these were the source of livelihood for most residents of Ozurgeti.

On 30 January 2003, the Youth Participation and Development Project was launched in Ozurgeti under the auspices of UNICEF. The NGO "Guria Youth Resource Centre" is implementing the project.

The project envisioned establishing a youth centre in Ozurgeti to promote engagement of youth in local decision-making process.

The centre has a library and a computer centre. It holds training workshops on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, youth mobilisation and volunteerism, AIDS and various immunity deficiency induced disorders.  Resource Centre leaders Zviad Eradze and Tamar Glonti help children organise school councils and meetings with interesting people.

The Centre is always teeming with young people. They have established an exciting meetings' club, they publish booklets, newspapers, prepare TV programmes.

Tamta Totibadze is an eighth form pupil at School No 2, Dodo Gogokhia studies in the 11th form of School No 3. Both are members of the Youth Centre club. When we visited the centre, the girls were busy mastering a computer literacy course with the help of their teacher Inga Sanikidze. Pikria Lomjaria and Nana Totibadze were using another computer.

"We heard about this centre in spring and decided to join it. Now we have new friends. In the Centre we learn about each other's rights, use the library, we participate in the mobile club on child's rights," says Tamta.

"We are both going to become journalists, and we have gained quite a lot of experience. We have complete freedom in work, as our older friends do not restrict us in any way. It was very interesting to work on a booklet, we wrote articles, and prepared several TV programmes," adds Dodo Gakhokia.

Young People's Media Network Launched in Georgia

Development of free media in Central and Eastern Europe, the CIS and Central Asia has opened up new opportunities for young people's media. Many young people have to cope with serious obstacles to gain a footing in the media landscape. Mostly under-funded and poorly equipped, youth media projects face with serious impediment in fulfilling their potential.
Young People's Regional Media Network helps them to overcome those obstacles. It unites young people's various media projects active in the region. A lot can be achieved through common effort. Besides, mass media is one of the most effective outlets for people to make their opinions known. 

Young People's Regional Media Network is aimed to assist young people active in mass media to fully develop their creativity potential. The programme works along different lines, namely, to organise media trainings and internships with established media institutions, promote information exchange among peers in different countries. The Network strives to attract resources to assist young people media projects, develops partnerships with established media institutions, private sector and international institutions to support youth media initiatives.

Young People's Media Network which united all the children and youth studios engaged in different kinds of media (TV, radio, printed media) was launched in Georgia with UNICEF support. 
"There is an enormous potential of skilled and very talented young people in Georgia already engaged in different kinds of media. They have already become members of the network. Active participation of young journalists and reporters, their ideas, creativity and dedication give us hope that their voice will be heard strongly in the democratic and independent media, their further development," said Mr. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UNICEF Representative in Georgia, who welcomed the participants of the official launch of the Network at Sheraton Metechi Palace on 17 April 2003.

"Our potential is not fully appreciated in Georgia. We, young people can do a lot. What we lack is experience. We believe that the Young People's Media Network will assist us in our professional development and full realisation of our potential. The Network will enable us to establish contacts with our peers in other countries, get to know what they do, what they dream about and what they think," says Tamar Kobakhidze from "Dro" radio studio, member of Young People's Media Network.

The regional network has already mobilised the support of such important international organisations and media institutions as UNICEF, BBC, Internews, International Federation of Journalists, CNN, Soros Foundation, European Media Institute, European Cultural Foundation, Inter-Media. The secretariat of the network is now located in Budapest, Hungary.

Young People's Media Network in Georgia has already become active. The network has been operational since November 2002 and unites 14 children's studios. The Journalists' Studio of Tbilisi Youth House, National Youth Palace, Pionerfilm Studio, ADC Studio, Media and TV Art College, Georgian Television Channel 1, TV programmes "Metro", Big Rest", "Stories about us", youth journalism studio of the Art Hall Union, Film and TV Journalism Faculty of Rustaveli Theatre and Cinema State Institute, Children and Youth Literature and Press Association - this is an incomplete list of members of the Young People's Media Network. It is planned to reach out Georgian regions, to involve in the network children's and youth studios active in different parts of Georgia.

The official launch of the Network was held on 17 April 2003 at Sheraton Metechi Palace, where children's studios showed their works. Representatives of government agencies, NGOs, international organisations and media could see one-minute videos produced by the Network's members. Notably, in June 2003, one minute videos produced by young journalists were shown at the Festival "Leave No Child Out" held in Istanbul, and sent to an international festival held in November in Amsterdam.

Young journalists meet regularly to exchange information and plan future activities. On their own initiative in June they visited one of orphanages in Tbilisi. "We want to be friends with you," young journalists told the children they met. Common language was found very quickly, and they discussed many themes and even planned concrete joint activities.

On 7-10 July 2003, a regional workshop on one-minute videos for young TV journalists was held in Tbilisi. The workshop organised by UNICEF, the Young People's Media Network, the European Cultural Foundation and the Sandberg Institute brought together young participants from Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, and countries of Central Asia. One-minute videos produced within the workshop entered the competition for the annual One Minute Jr. Festival, held in Amsterdam in November 2003.

George Baramidze from Georgia Wins the One Minute Jr. Award in Amsterdam

International Festival of one-minute videos was held in Amsterdam on 16 November 2003. George Baramidze, member of the Young People Media Network in Georgia, won the award for the video "Leave No Child Out" and the main prize - a SONY video camera. The camera was handed over to him at a special ceremony organised by UNICEF Georgia in December 2003.

Serbian filmmaker and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Emir Kusturica, announcing the results at the awards ceremony in Amsterdam, praised the creativity and uniqueness of all the entries and added: “I finally nominated those who have best managed to tell a big story in a OneMinute format”.

George, due to his creativeness and sense of humour, managed to tell his story in a one minute. The film depicts one of the major problems faced by young people – neglect. The film is a tragicomic presentation of a mother too busy with her social life to even notice that her son cannot get into their apartment.

“We often think that the abuse of the rights of a child happens outside a family. But often we are left out in our own families and have no possibility to express ourselves on the issues that concern us” said George afterwards, commenting on his film. 

Among 12 finalists of the Festival was a one-minute video "The State Must Protect Children From Exploitation" produced by Lela Ninoshvili and Tamar Khubashvili, members of journalists' studio at Tbilisi Youth House.

The Initiative to institute One Minute Jr. nomination is the result of joint endeavours of UNICEF, the European Cultural Foundation and the Sandberg Institute. In 2003 the Young People's Media Network organised One Minute Jr. workshops in Hungary (Budapest), Georgia (Tbilisi), Northern Ireland (Derry), Morocco (Casablanca), and Germany (Berlin). The workshops aimed to present information about one minute video production and develop necessary skills. Workshops trained 100 youth media representatives from 30 countries.

Child's Rights

Adults get to know the rights of the child

In order for the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to be put fully into effect, they must be understood and respected by people working with children.

To this end, in May 2002 UNICEF initiated the project "Training of Educational, Health and Law Enforcement Officers on the Convention on the Rights of the Child". The training is one of the components of the EU financed project "Advocacy and Promotion of the Convention on the Rights of the Child".

According to Levan Mnatobishvili, the project co-ordinator, the project aims to create an atmosphere of respect for the principles of the Convention at institutions working with children (schools, kindergartens, outpatients' clinics, hospitals, non-school children's institutions). 

In 2001-2003, trainings were conducted for groups of teachers, representatives of law enforcement bodies and medical doctors. Selected trainees then shared experiences with their colleagues.

The project trained 1809 specialists in 60 differentiated groups on the principles and provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, among them 1035 educators from 300 schools and pre-school institutions in 12 cities, towns and districts; 568 medical professionals from around 50 children's health institutions in 5 cities; and 206 representatives of law enforcement bodies and lawyers.

The project envisaged monitoring of its progress. 1628 out of 1809 participants  (89.7%) responded the questionnaire; 1536 of these respondents (94.6%) knew little or nothing about provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and only 87 respondents (5.45 per cent) were familiar with the principles of the Convention, as envisaged by the school curriculum.

Analytical reading and critical evaluation of the Convention led to a changed understanding of children's problems by project participants.

According to the project co-ordinator, there are positive changes in institutions, too. A new discipline has been introduced into school curriculum - the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Seniors' attitude to children has become more constructive, children can now express their views and ideas, children are treated as personalities, and some schools established special premises for the rights of the child and even introduced special hymns.

The Merry Wagon in Guria

According to the Convention, children must be aware of their rights. In this regard, the situation in Georgia's provinces is quite difficult. Neither children, nor adults know much about their rights.

"I want to get there too," said a little boy, his eyes full of tears, when he was told the near wagon with painted fairy tale characters, that the second form pupils should come the next day . . .

Everyone wanted to get into the wagon, but there was not enough room to seat everyone. It is difficult to attend to many children together, but as long as there was enough room, everyone was let in.

"My name is Ilo Chkhikvadze," says a six-year old boy.
"I am Tatia Shubitidze".
"And I am Dato Intskirveli".
"My name is Ana Laghidze".
"And I am Ilo Ianikov".
"I am Data Glonti," amazed children go on to introduce themselves.

They study in a secondary school in Natanebi. Several days ago an odd wagon stopped by their school. The wagon is the mobile club on child's rights.

After a tour of Gori district and Imereti, the merry wagon-club moved to Guria. It has already been to Ozurgeti, Bakhmaro, Ureki. The club will reach out 2100 children.

The Project "Children Must Know About Their Rights" started in Guria in May 2003. The project is implemented by the Guria Youth Resource Centre with the UNICEF financial support.

"Children, do you know what rights you have?" ask Keti and Tamuna. They work at the Resource Centre and moderate the club discussions.

"To study . . . to read . . . to write . . . to play," children list their rights. Then they  watch animated films. Each of the films is about one of the rights.

These are little children. Those who are older, write essays:

"I am a child. I have a future. My future wellbeing depends largely on my education. Everything seems OK, but . . . There were only a few children in class on the 1st of September. Some had no books, some - clothes to come to school . . . Outside, in the street we saw children of our age begging, with their hand held out. But are we better than they? Children are children . . . People in power! We have the right to study, but give us this chance! Children! Let us protect our rights!" writes Mari Kvachadze from Bakhvi.

"Every child has the right to life, health care and education. However, many children are left alone in the street. They need food, shelter and warmth. Children should enjoy social protection and assistance from children's institutions," says Nino Nakashidze.

"Every child has the right to express his/her views on any issue related to them, but no attention is given to the child's views. I think, only 20 out of every 100 children are protected adequately," thinks Ia Burchuladze, a fifth-form pupil.

The Fairy-Tale Convention

Although Georgia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994 and amended the relevant legislation accordingly, the situation with observance of the child's rights remains fairly problematic. The rights of the child are impaired almost in any sphere often through insufficient knowledge of the rights both by children themselves, and by adults.

UNICEF makes the public familiar with the Convention through several programmes. This year a new project supplemented the ones already in action, that of teaching the rights of the child through interactive theatrical performance. The project was realised by the Tbilisi Fairy Tale Theatre from June through November 2003. 

The project aimed at advocating the Convention on the Rights of the Child among children themselves, whilst integrating and developing an effective innovative method of teaching (interactive theatrical lesson).

The project not only helped children to gain the knowledge of their rights, but promoted in children the ability to protect their own and others' rights as well as communication and discussion skills, as during the theatrical lessons the children not only viewed the performance but actively participated in it themselves.

"It was very interesting to work with children," says Michael Antadze, director of the theatre. "Children like fairy tales and they can better internalise any material through tales. We produced a special performance for this project entitled "The Fairy-Tale Convention". Our permanent characters: Cinderella, Snow-white, Natsarkekia and others are asked by the Tale-teller to stage the tale "A Bow". This is the tale that won the story contest for the Convention, although we only borrowed the characters that help children to understand better their rights. Our characters take masks out of the bag, and try to solve very concrete problems".

The problems really differed: a giraffe felt sick after eating a frog and he wanted to have his right to health respected; a parrot was kidnapped and she became victim of trafficking; a mouse stole a nut, found himself in a mouse-trap, after being released, he required rehabilitation; a little pussycat wanted to get married, but her parents explained that she was a little kitten and it was a bit too early for her to get married, etc. From time to time, the characters ask the children present at the performance for advice in solving one or another problem. In developing the interactive theatrical method, the theatre company was assisted by Michael Mindadze, an educational specialist.

With the UNICEF assistance we managed to make new costumes and masks and prepare new phonograms for songs. UNICEF financed honoraria for performers, staging and travelling costs," says Michael Antidze. The performance was shown almost everywhere in Georgia, in 31 districts: Zugdidi, Tsalenjikha, Martvili, Vani, Lagodekhi, Sagarejo, Kvareli, to mention only a few; also in Tbilisi with the adjoining districts. In Gori the performance was such a success that the acting company visited there twice. One performance was staged under the open sky in front of a huge audience. The Fairy Tale Theatre showed the performance in Pankisi, too. "The Fairy-Tale Convention" story became known to 25 thousand children in Georgia, aged 8 to 12.

"The idea of theatrical lessons to familiarise children with their rights is a very interesting and innovative initiative," says Mr. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, UNICEF Representative in Georgia. "With the theatre, they enjoy learning about their rights. Besides, this form helps to popularise theatre itself. Georgia has great traditions of theatre, and it is no coincidence that the theatre has undertaken this educational role to tell children about their rights."

Evaluation of the Project "Advocacy and Monitoring of the Convention on the Rights of the Child"

The Project "Advocacy and Monitoring of the Convention on the Rights of the Child" funded by the European Union was realised in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2000-2002.

The project comprised four main components: harmonisation of legislation with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, with the special study prepared and concrete changes introduced into respective legislations; programme of training that trained 1809 specialists in education, healthcare and law enforcement sectors; the Convention advocacy programme with special radio and TV programmes prepared and various activities implemented, such as imitated court trials for children, nation-wide contest for the best story on child's Rights, theatrical lessons and intellectual games on the Convention, a puppet shows  and the mobile club for child's rights; establishing independent institutions for the child's rights, such as the Centre for Rights of the Child established at the Public Defender's Office.

The project evaluation undertaken in 2003 demonstrated a significant improvement in the level of public awareness of the child's rights; namely, knowledge on the child's rights increased from 23 per cent in 2001 to 65 per cent among children, and to 72 per cent among adults.

Letters to the Ombudsman

A survey conducted in Tbilisi in 2001 showed that 52% of respondents (400 children) said that human rights in Georgia are not respected at all, 45 per cent believed that the state gives no care to children, and 76% stated that schools in Tbilisi differentiate between children according to their mental abilities.

Children state that most frequently teachers apply such methods of punishment as giving undeservedly a bad mark, sending children out of the classroom, summoning parents.

The survey demonstrated a need to introduce the Children's Ombudsman office in Georgia. The Centre for Rights of the Child was established in April 2001 at the Public Defender's Office in Georgia. The Centre receives material assistance and financial aid from UNICEF.

According to Tamta Tsutsunava, programme director at the Centre,  the Centre for the Rights of the Child aims to enhance co-ordination and co-operation between government agencies and civil society organisations working for children's rights, assist the government in elaborating a unified strategy, disseminate and advocate for the Convention, engage children and young people in various activities, debates, and the problem-solving process.

The Centre is a place where government and NGO representatives working for children's rights meet. They try to take stock of the problems facing children. Special attention is given to such categories as: homeless children, IDP children, disabled children, victims of violence, families with many children, especially gifted children, juvenile delinquents.

The Centre takes part in the law-making activity, i.e. in drafting and expert examination of laws.

On the initiative of the Centre for the Rights of the Child and Public Defender's regional offices, meetings with governmental and non-governmental organisations concerned with children's problems were held in a number of Georgian cities.

Two booklets with information on the Centre's work were published with the support of UNICEF, and a series of radio programmes "Children's Rights" were broadcast by Georgian Radio.

Since the establishment of the Centre, 43 cases of abuse of the rights of the child were reported in Tbilisi, and 30 in Georgia's provinces. The most frequent violations include: prevailing cases under civil law on housing questions, children's pensions, inheritance, and fewer cases under criminal law (13 cases) - kidnapping, concealment, illegal adoption, rape, physical or psychological assault.

Starting in February 2002, the Centre operates the "Hot-Line" aiming to provide psychological assistance and legal aid, take stock of prevailing problems and respond to them. Since the start of the "hot line", about 400 persons received assistance, of these 356 children, 38 parents and 6 teachers.

It is found that children confront problems in relations with their parents, teachers and peers.

Parents are concerned over poor academic performance of their children, drastic changes in their character, boy's uncontrollable behaviour, influence of the street. Teachers are mostly concerned about emergence of conflict situations in the class and aggression displayed by children.

In 40 cases, the Centre addressed recommendations to relevant agencies with a view to responding adequately to the impairment of children's rights. Legal proceedings were initiated in 73 cases.

On UNICEF initiative, 100 boxes were installed in 98 schools, the Avchala Juvenile Rehabilitation Institution and Juveniles Reception and Orientation Centre of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Children can now inform the Public Defender about their problems and facts of violation of their rights.

The Centre employs a lawyer, a psychologist and a sociologist working to analyse these letters from their respective perspective. Analysis shows that children's rights are impaired at school, in the family and in society.

There is a lot for the Children's Ombudsman to do in this country.

To the seaside - for the first time

 The ethnic conflict led to many serious problems for South Ossetia.  Collapse of the economic infrastructure, absence of jobs, rationed water and electricity, increasing numbers of orphans or children with single parents, prevailing proportions of families with no means to send their children for summer holidays

With the support of UNICEF, UNHCR and OSCE, 20 children from South Ossetia involved in the education programme on human rights, that were selected by the organisation  "Journalists for Human Rights" through a contest entitled "My Rights" were sent to a summer school in Gonio on the seaside from 13 to 27 July. Many of them saw the sea for the first time in their lives.

Fourteen days appeared to fly very quickly.   Children were trained on peace issues, human rights, and the rights of the child. Special sessions were organised for children traumatised by combat operations, with music, dancing and talks about peace, and contests.

The summer camp was visited by the Minister of Education of Adjara, Ms. Nana Gugunava, who donated books in the Georgian and Russian languages.

In trainings, children were educated on issues pertaining to conflict cycles, transformation, and settlement, the role of negotiations, and other matters. They internalised their rights, too. This was confirmed by the content of a letterbox, where children were asked to drop letters with stories about cases of violations of children's rights known to them.

After children returned from the summer school, they gather every week in the "Journalists for Human Rights" office, as agreed when in Gonio, and make toys. On the Day of Peace they are going to give these toys to children in Java boarding school.

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