Child Development Centre in Tbilisi, Georgia aims to ensure every child’s right to health care
To mark the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF has been featuring a series of stories about this landmark international agreement on the basic human rights of all children – including progress made and challenges that remain. Here is one of those stories.TBILISI, Georgia, 23 November 2009 – A fine mist swirled around four-year-old Mariam's face as she breathed through a clear rubber mask during her nebulizer treatment. An asthma sufferer, Mariam was being treated free of charge at the new Child Development Centre in Tbilisi.
Mariam and her family have been displaced since the 2008 conflict in and around South Ossetia, Georgia, and access to such treatments has been a challenge for them. Now, though, the new centre is providing primary health care that Mariam's mother otherwise would not be able to afford.
Her mother’s decision to bring Mariam to the centre was a vital one, as doctors there also detected that the girl has a minor heart condition, which will require regular monitoring.
A holistic approach
Beyond assessing children’s physical health, the Child Development Centre also evaluates their psychological and behavioural development. With support from UNICEF, the Trieste Institute of Child Health and the Government of Lithuania, the centre is pioneering early child development (ECD) in Georgia.
"It's innovative for Georgia because mostly, in our centres, we were only assessing the child's health and we were neglecting the development and behaviour of the child," said the head of the Child Development Centre, Dr. Maya Kherkheulidze.
Infant mortality also remains a challenge in Georgia. Poor diagnosis of neurological impairment in newborn babies is still widespread. And health authorities lack sufficient data on child disabilities and learning disorders.
To help address these issues, the new centre is helping to create databases for nationwide monitoring, and UNICEF is confident the centre will promote a holistic approach to ECD.
We want to support the government in ensuring that every child has the best possible start in life. This means addressing the nutritional, health, developmental as well as learning issues," said UNICEF Deputy Representative in Georgia Benjamin Perks.
National early childhood strategy
The Child Development Centre in Tbilisi is the result of Georgia’s establishment of a national ECD strategy. Located in Iashvili Children's Hospital, the centre also serves as a research and training institution for health care professionals and medical students at Tbilisi's State Medical University.
"There is a lot of care and attention, and the clinic has very good professionals,” said Mariam's mother. She added that she would recommend the centre to other mothers.
Access to primary and preventive health care is an important right under the Convention on the Rights of the Child – including Article 24, which says children should have access to the best health care possible.