Children by the numbers
The situation of children in Azerbaijan has improved considerably in recent years. One of the reasons for this progress has been the country’s economic growth which contributed to a sharp drop in poverty rates. While in 2001 almost half of the population (49.6%) lived below the poverty line, only one in twenty people (5%), and even less children, lived in poverty in 2013. As a result, today, more children have better opportunities to realise their rights.
Some good examples of important improvements regarding the situation of children and child rights in Azerbaijan are the facts that more children and mothers survive after birth and less children are deprived of family care and placed in institutions. In addition, more children are receiving financial benefits that help them to escape poverty and access services.
Quarter of a million young children (two in five) are anaemic
There are also major problems with nutrition of children – as evidenced in a very high level of anaemia and stunting (height for age). Both of these affect children’s mental development and physical robustness to diseases.
One in four children is stunted
There are various causes for these problems, but we will be working both to fortify flour, and also to help parents (especially mothers) increase the nutrition their children receive (starting with breast-feeding).
About 10,000 children are in state run institutions
There are many issues for Child Protection. One of the most pressing issues that UNICEF has been working on for a while is the number of children who are in institutions. We term them “social orphans” because people think the institutions are orphanages, but in fact most of the children have one or two parents. We are working with Government to put in place community based services to support children and their families so that large-scale institutions will not be necessary
Around 400 juveniles in conflict with the law are registered each year in Azerbaijan
We are also working with the Government to put in place a system of justice for children to help not only children who are in conflict with the law (helping them to reform), but also victims and/or witnesses of crime, so they are not traumatized further by the interaction with police and court system. A new law on Juvenile Justice should be passed in the next session of Parliament.
Over one third of women under fifty was married as a child
One area which is of increasing concern is “child marriages” i.e. marriage of a person under the age of 18 – sometimes only 13 or 14. This is dangerous for the child (her health, her social life, her education) and for children she might bear (it is much more likely to have miscarriages and child deaths in that age group).
Only 1/4 children with disabilities is currently receiving any kind of education
One of the cross-cutting themes in our programme is the problems faced by children living with disabilities. We are working to reduce their stigma (which is very strong), to increase their enrolment in school, and to help the health system improve early detection and prevention of conditions that can lead to disability.
Breaking down barriers between young people
We are also working with young people to remove stigma and barriers between – for example – fully abled and disabled, IDPs and host communities, rich and poor. It is young people who can change the attitudes of the future, and who are most open to listen to different views and ideas.