Community-based Rehabilitation – a program of positive change

A bright path to the future for an eight-year-old girl

UNICEF
A girl sitting in a forestry area, looking to the side.
UNICEF Azerbaijan
21 December 2020

The city of Shirvan is located in the central region of Azerbaijan about an hour-and-a-half drive from Baku. In 2016 an important resource for local families opened in Shirvan – the Community-based Rehabilitation (CBR) Center of United Aid for Azerbaijan. Since February 2019 the Center has been supported by the European Union-funded project Development of Community and Family-based Integrated Social Service for the Most Vulnerable Children in Azerbaijan, in partnership with UNICEF Azerbaijan. It delivers physical and social rehabilitation services to children with special needs, as well as guidance and counseling for their parents.  There is great demand for such services in Shirvan, and most families who need them cannot afford to pay for services offered by private centers.

The Center receives referrals of children and families from local authorities, the minors’ commission, doctors, and city departments of health and social protection. Its staff of qualified professionals conducts individual and group sessions that focus on a variety of needs, and parents bring their children in to participate once or twice a week. The Center currently serves 79 of the area’s most vulnerable families and their children.

Elmir Valehli, a social work specialist of the project, points out the importance of the Center: “There is a great demand for community-based rehabilitation and child development services in the regions of Azerbaijan. There are at present three CBR centers, in the cities of Ganja, Shirvan and Agjabadi, that are supported within the framework of the European Union-funded project Development of Community and Family-based Integrated Social Service for the Most Vulnerable Children in Azerbaijan. We believe that this project has a very important role in the lives of the most vulnerable families and their children by supporting their development and social protection through quality services.”

"We believe that this project has a very important role in the lives of the most vulnerable families and their children by supporting their development and social protection through quality services.”

One of the children benefiting from the services provided by the Shirvan CBR center is eight-year-old Khadija. She was diagnosed with anomalous papillary muscles, a type of heart defect that can be associated with hearing impairment. Khadija's mother, Ramila, first brought Khadija to the Center in 2018 through the Early Intervention project. During the initial consultation with the family, Ramila expressed concern about her daughter's future and asked for support. One of Ramila’s concerns was that Khadija had a hearing problem and a speech delay. These problems prevented Khadija from communicating with her peers, and also had a psychological effect on her. When she began attending sessions at the Center, Khadija's speech consisted only of individual words and only her parents understood her. Outsiders and teachers had difficulty understanding Khadija.

Through the Development of Community and Family-based Integrated Social Service for the Most Vulnerable Children in Azerbaijan project, a social worker from the Shirvan CBR Center visited Khadija in October 2019 and assessed her family. UNICEF ​​Azerbaijan supported an examination for Khadija at the Children's KIND Sound Hearing Center. As a result, she was provided a new hearing aid free of charge. The hearing aid improved Khadija's hearing and she started to demonstrate higher engagement in individual sessions at the Shirvan CBR Center.

A child development specialist at the Center describes Khadija’s situation:

“Due to financial difficulties, the mother could not take Khadija to other child development centers. When Khadija first came to the Shirvan CBR Center, only her parents could understand her speech, and her communication ability lagged far behind her peers. She struggled to adapt to other children and society in general. After working on Khadija's perception, speech, and self-care skills in individual sessions provided by Shirvan CBR Center of UAFA within project, Khadija is now able to communicate with her peers without hesitation and she has made very good progress.”

Khadija with her teacher at the CBR centre.

The CBR program brings together a community of educators, including parents, to improve the opportunities of children and adults with disabilities. This is how Khadija’s mother describes the success of the program:“Before coming to UAFA's Shirvan CBR Center, my daughter’s condition prevented her from gaining the academic knowledge she needed. I was very happy to hear about the opening of the Community-based Rehabilitation Center in Shirvan two years ago. The first thing I did was to approach the Center and ask them for their support. The social worker at the Center immediately visited our house. They helped me solve a number of our social problems (alimony was one of them). In addition, as a parent, I was very pleased with Khadija's emotional development thanks to the rehabilitation sessions she had over two years at the Shirvan CBR Center. Khadija's previous hearing aids were not effective, which made it difficult for her to hear. Through the Development of Community and Family-based Integrated Social Service for the Most Vulnerable Children in Azerbaijan project, we have been provided with a new hearing aid completely free of charge."

Her gratitude is clear: “After these interventions, a lot of positive changes happened with my daughter's hearing and speech. Khadija can now express her words and thoughts clearly. I am so grateful for the support that the staff at the Shirvan CBR Center gave to my daughter. Our experience at the Shirvan CBR Center and with the rehabilitation services they provided was a bright path for my daughter. Khadija now goes to school, communicates with her peers, and even has friends. As a parent, I am very pleased to see my daughter happy. Like all families, I want to see my children both healthy and happy. Children are our future. I would like to express my deep gratitude to the staff of the Shirvan CBR Center, operated through the Development of Community and Family-based Integrated Social Service for the Most Vulnerable Children in Azerbaijan project, that provided great support to our family.”


“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.