Carçı Newsletter #9/2020
CARÇI (Herald ) is an UNICEF Azerbaijan newsletter
For most people in Azerbaijan, the last few months have been unsettling and challenging, as families adjusted to a new way of life in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic. While staff at UNICEF Azerbaijan have been working from home since mid-March, our work for children and parents has not stopped. In public information, education, health and nutrition, protection for vulnerable children and families, youth development and monitoring, we have turned our focus to tackling the coronavirus outbreak, determined to do all we can to support families adjusting to life under quarantine, the necessary closure of schools and kindergartens, and restrictions on social and recreational activities that are so critical to the growth and development of children and young people.
The impact of COVID-19 extends beyond just public health, affecting early childhood development, education, household vulnerability and mental wellbeing of families. Our commitment is to provide every support possible to as many families as we can, adapting our existing programmes to the “new normal” and introducing new initiatives in response to the pandemic. I take this opportunity to thank my staff, our implementing partners – including many young volunteers who have been willing to work in their communities despite the risks – and our financial supporters for their shared commitment to our work.
We are reaching thousands of families every day with vital information on preventing the transmission of the virus, practical advice and guidance to parents on childcare during prolonged quarantine periods, material support to vulnerable families, and professional counselling and welfare support to those at greatest risk. Looking forward, we are already working on initiatives to help children transition out of the pandemic, and to strengthen key services ahead of a possible new wave of the virus in the future.
I hope you will the details of just some of these activities to be of interest, and I hope that you and your loved ones remain healthy and well these difficult days.
UNICEF Representative to Azerbaijan
Inside this issue:
Strengthening capacities and practices for e-learning in the education system.
Within UNICEF’s Inclusive Education initiative, funded by the European Union, a joint project with the Ministry of Education enhanced the knowledge and skills of 6,000 primary school teachers in inclusive classes in seven pilot districts across the country. The goals is to reach 10,000 primary school teachers by the end of August 2020, and the school closures and movement restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic led the partners to deliver training sessions through distance education platforms. The online teacher training sessions began in May 2020 through an online collaborative platform supported by the Ministry of Education.
A project to support early education in Azerbaijan during pandemic
UNICEF, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and the Institute of Education, has started a project to further strengthen capacities and practices for e-learning in the education system. This involves a review and analysis of the Ministry’s policies and actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, development of accessible and age-appropriate learning resources including video classes, online learning materials, and other tools supporting distance learning for preschool age children between 3 and 5 years old and children with disabilities and other learning difficulties. The project also provides training for local educational authority` staff including school principals and teachers to adapt to the “new normal” working environment. Currently a new system is being developed to address the main challenges in student learning, teacher support, operations, health and safety emerged as a consequence of the pandemic.
New educational television programmes to support distant learning for preschool children
UNICEF is also working with the Ministry of Education and the Institute of Education to produce 24 educational television programmes for preschool children on two national channels. The programmes enable pre-school age children to continue their early education and development at home and are accessible for children and families all over the country, including those from vulnerable groups. An estimated 200,000 children have been reached so far through the virtual preschool classes which were launched in April. UNICEF has also supported families and children through a parenting education portal www.ilk5il.az and a mobile application that provides improved early childhood education and development opportunities for children at home, including play ideas, stories for reading, useful tips for parents on how to support children at home, hygiene skills, and stress management.
Visit our YouTube page to explore more.
Support to vulnerable families during pandemic
Together with the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Population and the ASAN Volunteers organization, with the financial support of the European Union, UNICEF has provided material support to children previously without parental care who were returned to their homes from residential institutions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This support basic food, hygiene supplies and risk communication materials for approximately 1,000 families over an initial two-month period.
Social services initiative for distribution of risk communication materials
UNICEF’s existing integrated social services initiative in Agjabedy, Shirvan and Ganja has become a key channel for risk communication information to more than 1,700 people including children, parents in vulnerable families and care workers. Vital information such as good hygiene practices, psychological support and early childhood development during the pandemic have been shared through digital channels and platforms as well as the official website of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Population, including a package designed by UNICEF containing practical information for parents on positive parenting during the pandemic.
Research to shed a light on impacts of the pandemic
UNICEF Azerbaijan is working with two research companies to generate weekly data on public awareness, perceptions and behaviours in relation to COVID-19. The results have helped identify preferred and trusted channels of communication, as well as providing initial insights to some of the impacts of the outbreak on health, mental health, nutrition, education, child protection and the economic situation of families. The initiative also includes real-time monitoring of social media to inform risk communication, community engagement and programme responses.
Health and Nutrition
Partners joined forces to support families on child development
Together with the Public Health Reform Centre, UNICEF launched a short campaign to support parents during quarantine by sharing key messages concerning child development through social networks, webpages, local markets and health facilities between April and June. Several live sessions were held on social media platforms, and parents were informed about topics including immunization, health and nutrition during the pandemic. Additionally, vital information on breastfeeding, child nutrition, health and development, stress management, the importance of timely vaccination during the pandemic tips on proper diet, physical activity and development activities at home for young and school-aged children was shared with parents through information materials and social media posts. UNICEF jointly with the Regional Development Public Union (RDPU) and experts from the Azerbaijan Medical University and Medical College prepared a series of informative social media posts targeting parents of young children on similar topics. The initiative started in April and provided parent counselling support through online platforms.
A new project to strengthen capacities of district-level facilities
With a grant from USAID, UNICEF is also leading a new health sector programme to strengthen capacities in district-level facilities to prepare for future outbreaks of COVID-19. Using specialist training teams, frontline health workers will receive skills development support in areas including COVID-19 awareness, Infection Prevention and Control, basic and advanced life support, and case management, and basic hand and respiratory hygiene. The programme, know as PROACT, will be rolled out in up to 20 districts, reaching a potential 2,000 health professionals as well as schools and community groups, using mobile health trucks, each equipped with a simulated hospital room, anatomical models, masks, and other supplies for training. The initiative is due to begin operations by the end of the summer.
Youth and Adolescent Development
“I am satisfied with the online trainings and I think this initiative is heartwarming and motivating.”
- Leman Asgarli, participant of online Basic Life Skills course
Young people continue skills improvement through online platforms
Due to constraints on the operations of the national network of Youth Houses, services normally offered to young people in the facilities were transferred to ae virtual environment. The UNICEF-supported Basic Life Skills courses continued as a series of interactive webinars (“BLS Remote”) following the same structure as the traditional face-to-face regular 16-lesson curriculum. Topics covered by the webinars included empathy, coping with stress,and active listening, and reached more than 10, 000 young people and their family members through social media and messaging platforms. One benefit of the online programme was the ability to include a wider audience of young people, including participants from Vocational Education Schools from all over the country. Under the initiative of the UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, the same sessions were also successfully repeated in Russian for a joint group of adolescents and youth from Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia.
A new public information campaign to support young people during pandemic
UNICEF joined forces with the Azerbaijan Youth Foundation to share useful information with young people on everyday activities, preventive measures and psychological coping during the pandemic. Celebrities and influencers also supported the initiative by encouraging young people to be responsible and follow the quarantine measures. Several videos were produced to help young people stay active and creative during quarantine. Videos on traditional Azerbaijani dance, sport at home, painting and dance challenges were especially popular with audiences.
Visit our YouTube page to explore more.
Volunteers support distribution of risk communication materials among vulnerable population
Also with the support of USAID, UNICEF developed a number of printed risk communication materials which were distributed with the support of volunteers from the Regional Development Public Union (RDPU) among vulnerable families in the districts of Azerbaijan. Eight different sets of information materials were prepared to support families and children providing parenting tips, advice on psychological coping during quarantine, prevention information for elderly and people in high-risk groups, and how to talk to young children about COVID-19.
#LearningAtHome campaign launched to support parents with home-based activity ideas
UNICEF launched the #LearningAtHome campaign on its social media channels in April when the a rigourous quarantine regime was introduced across the country. The campaign has been supporting parents staying at home with their children through sharing a series of game ideas that can be easily replicated at home. The campaign caught the attention of a number of public influencers whojoined the challenge and shared their videos featuring their own activities at home.
Some of the activities from our #LearningAtHome campaign:
Many supported our campaign with their activity ideas:
"Let`s overcome this together" campaign launched to support public information efforts
With financial support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), UNICEF launched a risk communication campaign “Let`s overcome it together” (Birlikdə üstün gələk) on its social media platforms. The materials produced within the campaign included animations, videos, digital applications and graphic illustrations and focused on a wide range of issues, including social distancing, symptom reporting, precautionary measures, recommendations for child development activities at home, information on COVID-19 for young children and the promotion of healthy lifestyles including good hygiene practices.