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UNICEF fears influx of children into Central Asian, Azerbaijani, Turkish institutions

Azerbaijani delegation due to take part in Child Protection Forum in Bishkek, 12 -14 May 2009

Geneva, May 8, 2009 - UNICEF experts warn the global economic crisis means even more children in Central Asia face abandonment in state-run institutions and maternity hospitals.

UNICEF Central and Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States Regional Director, Steven Allen, said: “Too many children are being placed in residential homes, when cost-effective solutions that support biological families and prevent separation of children should be the priority.”

“In some countries there are high rates of new-born babies being abandoned in maternity hospitals, simply because their parents cannot cope or are stigmatised because they are young, or unmarried. It is important that governments invest in social services to support families, especially during times of economic crisis. If and when a child cannot stay in their biological family, family based alternative care, such as foster care and guardianship care should be developed.” 

Compared with six years previously, research shows that in 2006 more children, aged between 0 and 17, were placed in residential care in Central Asia. The rate increased from 608 to 660 children per 100,000, meaning around 150,000 children are growing up in Central Asian institutions.[1] Children with disabilities are the most likely to be placed in institutional care.

In Azerbaijan there are about 14,500 children living in state care institutions and their unification with biological or foster families is a big challenge for the country as part of the State Programme on Deinstitutionalization and Alternative Care approved by the Azerbaijani president in 2006.

Government ministers and high-level officials from Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan will address how to make progress on childcare reform at a Child Protection Forum, hosted by the Government of Kyrgyzstan, with UNICEF-support in Bishkek, May 12 -14.

The Azerbaijani delegation to the Forum includes the deputy chairperson of the State Committee on Family, Woman and Children Affairs, officials from the Cabinet of Ministers, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, the Ministry of Health, representatives of civil society and the media together with UNICEF Azerbaijan staff members. Azerbaijani government officials are expected to make presentations at the Forum and give a news conference once they return to Baku.

Before the current global economic crisis unfolded, many Central Asian countries were developing alternative childcare, but progress was slow. Experience in the region from the 1990s suggests when times are hard more families, in the absence of strong social protection and other social services, use residential care for their children as a coping mechanism.

UNICEF promotes developing a range of social services, such as day care, counselling and social work to support families with children. Alternatives to institutions that provide family-based care, such as fostering, and short-term protection shelters for children at risk are also supported. UNICEF advises that local level governments monitor cases more effectively and continuously reviews the needs of children ‘at risk’ to prevent inappropriate placements. These steps should be taken in conjunction with efforts to transform and close residential care homes. Budgets can be redirected to the more cost-effective new services.

[1] UNICEF  TransMONEE database.

For more information contact

UNICEF CEE/CIS Communication Officer Mervyn Fletcher on +41 229095433 or

UNICEF Azerbaijan Social Policy and Planning Manager Siraj Mahmudov on + 994 12 492 30 13 or



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