Community Based Rehabilitation – a life-changing program

Success story of a girl with special needs

UNICEF Azerbaijan
Shujayat is studying behind her desk.
UNICEF Azerbaijan
17 December 2020

Located around 350 km from Baku in the west part of Azerbaijan, Ganja is the third largest city in the country. It is a large industrial city with an ancient architectural heritage.

In response to the need for physical and social rehabilitation services for children with special needs living in the city, United Aid for Azerbaijan (UAFA) established the Ganja Community-Based Rehabilitation Center in 2004. The Center was initially established as a Family Support Center and was the first center in the western region to provide services to children with special needs and their parents. The Center offers individual and group sessions for children, and parents receive advice and support from specialist staff. Since its opening, 1,689 children have benefited from the Center's services. Although there are many alternative private organizations and NGOs in Ganja, there is still a great need for the kinds of services that the Center provides.

Mrs. Razala Abbasova, head of the CBR Center, describes its impact: “Our main achievements over the years have been – providing services and making them accessible and free of charge; training parents in child development; delivering social and psychological services; and organizing sports and art activities and events that promote the integration of children into society. As a result, many of the children and youth benefiting from the services of the CBR Center have achieved great success in sports and arts and have represented Azerbaijan and Ganja in international and local competitions.”

Since August 2019, when the European Union-funded project “Development of Community and Family-based Integrated Social Service for the Most Vulnerable Children in Azerbaijan” started in Ganja in cooperation with UNICEF Azerbaijan, the social worker service in the Center has seen an increasing number of requests from people who are in need of both rehabilitation and social services. Social workers have received 79 petitions, and 79 cases were opened. Services provided include disability registration, legal assistance, rehabilitation services, enrolment in inclusive education, provision of orthopedic equipment, referrals to Mardakan Medical Rehabilitation Hospital, and others.

“Our main achievements over the years have been – providing services and making them accessible and free of charge; training parents in child development; delivering social and psychological services; and organizing sports and art activities and events that promote the integration of children into society."

One of the successful beneficiaries of the project is 14-year-old Shujayat Abbasova, a girl from a low-income, broken family, who had a microcephaly diagnosis. She and her family received comprehensive support services from the project.

Shujayat has benefited greatly from the rehabilitation services of the UAFA CBR Center in Ganja. When her mother brought her to the Center in 2013, she had a speech delay. She did not know any sign language and could not explain her needs. The Center helped her to access sign language classes at a special boarding school in Baku. Now she is able to express her needs with signs and gestures and understand communication from others. During her rehabilitation, her social and cognitive skills improved. Her dream of going to school turned into a reality, and Shujayat is currently a student at the special school No. 45 in Ganja. She has also joined a dance group at the CBR Center.

On visiting Shujayat’s family, the social worker assigned to her case determined that the mother, who worked as a cleaner, was temporarily living at her sister's house with her daughter as she could not afford to rent a house. The father did not pay alimony on time. These circumstances made it difficult for Shujayat to receive regular treatment.

In her petition, the mother wanted the amount of alimony to be increased and she wanted treatment for her daughter. Legal assistance was provided to the mother and a lawsuit was filed with the court to increase the amount of alimony and to ensure timely payment by the father. The court ruled in favor of the mother, and the alimony amount was increased to 150 manat per month. After the trial, the mother burst into tears of joy.

Shujayat was also placed on a waiting list at Mardakan Medical Rehabilitation Hospital for treatment. She was recently invited to the hospital. 

Shujayat’s mother expressed her gratitude:
“You have restored our rights. My financial wellbeing has improved, and we received the necessary support for my daughter's treatment. If I had not come to this project, I would have no idea how to protect the rights of my child or where to seek help. I think that projects such as this are a great support for low-income families like us. I express my deep gratitude to the European Union, UNICEF Azerbaijan and the team of UAFA Ganja Community-Based Rehabilitation Center, which is implementing this project.”


“Development of Community and Family-based Integrated Social Service for the Most Vulnerable Children in Azerbaijan” Project, funded by the European Union, is implemented in partnership with UNICEF and local NGOs that work alongside public sector entities in delivering the broadest range of support to vulnerable children in the selected districts.

The content of this story is the sole responsibility of UNICEF and does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.