Some facts about Azerbaijan
Children at play at SOS Kindergarten Baku - photo: Katerina Ilievska
The Republic of Azerbaijan gained independence from the former Soviet Union in 1992. It is located in western Asia and borders Russia and Georgia in the north, the Caspian Sea in the east, Iran in the south and Armenia in the west. Its national territory includes the autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, which is separated from Azerbaijan by a strip of Armenian land. The capital city, Baku, is located on the Caspian Sea and has around two million inhabitants.
Azerbaijan has a population of around eight million, of which 2.8 million are children under the age of 18. There are three main ethnic groups: Azerbaijanis, Russians and Armenians. The main religion in Azerbaijan is Islam.
Lack of health care and social services
Since 1992, Azerbaijan's economy has experienced rapid growth due to revenues from oil, gas and other natural resources. The construction, banking, real estate and tourism industries also provide employment. However, the revenue from these industries is not widely spread and although poverty has been reduced, it is estimated that one third of children continue to live below the nationally-defined poverty line.
There is a lack of basic health care services, particularly in provincial regions and villages. Where health care is available, many people cannot afford to visit the clinics. Social services are also underdeveloped. The absence of effective support systems means that families in need are not provided with help in caring for their children. As a result their children often end up in state-run residential institutions.
Situation of the children in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and although measures have been taken to implement it, the rights of children continue to be violated. According to UNICEF figures for 2009, seven per cent of children between the ages of 5-14 are involved in child labour.
Feeling loved, SOS Children's Village Baku - photo: Katerina Ilievska
Children with disabilities, children who are severely ill, children in institutions, street children, and children with HIV/AIDS are most frequently exposed to discrimination. Most children in state-run institutions have been placed there by parents who cannot afford to keep them in the family home.
Girls face discrimination in almost every area of life, including education. In several districts of the country, girls often leave school at an early age. In southern regions, many girls are forced into marriage well before they reach the officially permitted age for marriage.
SOS Children's Villages in Azerbaijan
SOS Children’s Villages has responded to the social, cultural and economic changes in Azerbaijan and to the changing needs of children and families. In cooperation with local authorities, the SOS Social Centres run family-strengthening programmes which enable children who are at risk of losing the care of their families to grow within a loving family environment. Families are given support and counselling to ensure that children have access to essential services; adults can improve their parental skills and ability to earn a living. Children from the local community have been supported through the provision of day care and a mobile play centre.
Children whose parents cannot take care of them will find a loving home in one of the SOS families. Young people are given the opportunity to live semi- independently until they are ready to live on their own.
Website of SOS Children's Villages Azerbaijan
(available in English and Azerbaijani)