A positive impact on the lives of most vulnerable - Agjabedi Rehabilitation Center
Supporting families achieve self-reliance
The district of Agjabadi, located 374 km from Baku, is one of the largest administrative territories of Azerbaijan in terms of territory and population. It is one of the country’s largest agricultural districts.
To meet the need for public support services for children in the district, the Inclusive Education and Child Development Center was established in 2013 under the Karabakh Office of Youth Education Centers (GTM PU). Among its services is the Agjabadi Community-based Rehabilitation (CBR) Center, which has been operating since 2018 as part of the European Union-funded project Development of Community and Family-based Integrated Social Service for the Most Vulnerable Children in Azerbaijan, implemented with the financial support of the European Union and UNICEF Azerbaijan.
The CBR Center employs two child development specialists, one pedagogue, one social worker, and one psychologist. It organizes individual and group classes two to three times a week for children with special needs, and offers socio-pedagogical services and social-psychological rehabilitation. It also provides advice and support services for parents.
To date, the Center has taken on 230 cases through referrals from local government agencies, communities, families, and mobile visits to families. The Center has helped 150 children with disabilities through its child rehabilitation program. At present, all services related to the COVID-19 pandemic are being conducted remotely, and rehabilitation programs continue online.
"At the Center, parents follow the rehabilitation process and test the skills they have learned at home with their children. This means that teamwork is the key to success here.”
Elmir Valehli, social work specialist of the project, explains its operation: "Agjabadi CBR Center operates within the framework of the Development of Community and Family-based Integrated Social Service for the Most Vulnerable Children in Azerbaijan project, which is implemented with the financial support of the European Union, in cooperation with the UNICEF Office in Azerbaijan and the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of Population. It is gratifying that the Agjabadi District government shows great support for the project. At the beginning of the project, roundtables were organized with the local authorities and parents to prioritize issues in the field of child protection and rehabilitation. In general, as an approach, CBR is a very successful model for the local families and children in need. At the Center, parents follow the rehabilitation process and test the skills they have learned at home with their children. This means that teamwork is the key to success here.”
Six-year-old Alizadeh Nihad is one of the children who has benefited from the services of the Agjabadi CBR Center. Although he has a heart defect, his disability was not officially recognized. Nihad has eye problems, suffers from asthma and bronchitis, and has speech problems. Nihad’s father, Aliyev Mirza, worked as a gardener in Asan Service Center, but he is currently unemployed, as is Nihad’s mother, Aliyeva Elnara. They also have a four-year-old son. The family lives in a one-room house that is in poor condition.
A social worker from the Center visited the family and assessed their needs. A medical examination was recommended for both children, along with the registration of Nihad's disability. The family was determined to need social assistance based on their financial situation. The parents were asked to enroll their children in the rehabilitation program at the CBR Center operating within the project. The assessment revealed that the family needed education as well as additional family support.
The children were examined free of charge by the ophthalmologist of the Modern Hospital and the Invasive Pediatric Cardiologist of the Teaching Therapeutic Clinic of the Azerbaijan Medical University at the Cardiomed Clinic in Agjabadi district. The project is in the process of formalizing Nihad’s heart defect as a disability.
The program helped the mother, Elnara, get a job as a saleswoman in one of the local shopping centers. However, her ability to work was hampered because her children were very young, so they were placed in the Orphanage-Kindergarten No. 5.
The family has been provided with psychosocial support during the pandemic. Elnara was provided with a UAFA child development guide on children with special needs to educate her about caring for her children and to continue with the home rehabilitation program. The children were referred to the CBR Center's online rehabilitation program
"During the first year I was involved in the Center, the improvement in my family’s financial situation and in the health of my children greatly helped my family’s circumstances.”
The program supported the allocation of Targeted Social Assistance (TSA) to the family, taking into account their low income. In early September, the documents for securing TSA were submitted, and in May the family was assigned TSA in the amount of 230 manats. At the same time, the family was provided food aid.
Nihad’s mother describes how the Center has helped her: “Before coming to this Center, I did not know how to solve my family's problems. My unemployment and the health problems of my children left me helpless. But during the first year I was involved in the Center, the improvement in my family’s financial situation and in the health of my children greatly helped my family’s circumstances.”
Community-based Rehabilitation is a strategy for rehabilitation, equalization of opportunities, poverty reduction, and social inclusion of people with disabilities. This program is essential for parents and family members who are involved in rehabilitation and inclusion activities.
A CBR Center specialist talks about the Center’s efforts: “During the pandemic, we encountered many difficulties in trying to solve the problems of the families we were working with. Despite the closure of many workplaces, we did our best to help families like Nihad’s. When the family applied to the Center, psychological problems were their biggest challenge. They were in a desperate situation and were unable to solve their problems. Our first task was to educate them. The parents now know how to access help and have learned how to deal with their children. They have made progress in improving their financial situation and are now able to face challenges on their own.”
The 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.