UNICEF’s first country programme was established in 1993 and mostly dealt with immediate and urgent humanitarian needs such as immunisation, health, rehabilitation, nutrition, education and child protection.
Prior to this, in 1992, Azerbaijan was amongst the first countries in the world to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In 1999, Azerbaijan acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women and ten years later in 2009 it ratified the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. These events have underlined the commitment of the nation to uphold the highest international standards in protecting the rights of children, including girls and those with disabilities, whom are often amongst the most vulnerable in any society.
UNCEF has played a role in a number of important advances in the protection of children’s health and rights at the national level. For instance, in 2002, Azerbaijan was declared polio-free, a critical step towards the protection of children’s health from what can often be a fatal disease. Furthermore, in 2003, the national law on breastfeeding was adopted, providing important protections to the health and early development of infants.
With UNICEF’s advocacy and support, the Government has also worked to improve the health care system and implement healthcare reform. National commitment to the long-term financing of Extended Programme of Immunisation (EPI) was achieved through the Vaccine Independence Initiative, with the Government committing to take over responsibility for the procurement of EPI vaccines from 2003. One of the most notable achievements of the past years has been the achievement of rates in excess of 95% immunization for all vaccines.
Important achievements towards combating micro nutrient deficiencies include the introduction of salt legislation, provision of equipment to salt factories, the conducting of a Vitamin A survey and advocacy for food fortification in order to eliminate iron deficiency anaemia.
Through the education reform process, Early Child Care and Development (ECCD) approaches have been integrated into pilot formal pre-schools. UNICEF has supported the improvement to the school curriculum and the empowerment of parents, families, teachers and care givers in health, nutrition, psycho-social care, early learning and child protection. In addition a network of Active Learning schools has been established to introduce interactive learning methodologies and practices.
More recently, in 2011, the increase in the legal age of marriage for all children to 18 has emphasized the country’s determination to reduce the prevalence of early marriage, and its associated risks to the health of young girls and related barriers to their education and wellbeing.
Another significant achievement is the empowerment and participation of young people, including IDP/refugee youth in cultural, educational, health and political arenas. The promotion of the incorporation of children’s rights into national planning and policies is another important achievement. National partners have been assisted to develop national databases in relation to important child rights issues and to use this data for policy development and monitoring.
UNICEF is working with its partners to change attitudes towards children with disabilities in Azerbaijan, including their integration into mainstream society and education system. UNICEF supports child-friendly reforms of justice systems in line with international standards. We promote a constructive, tailored response for each child in conflict with the law, in which deprivation of liberty is a last resort and reintegration the ultimate aim.
While in the early years UNICEF’s activities impacted a few thousand children through direct assistance, today the organization strives to bring about systemic change and to touch the lives of all of Azerbaijan’s children. The UNICEF Country Programme for 2016-2020 supports Azerbaijan in its efforts to contribute to the targets related to child and adolescent rights stipulated in the “Azerbaijan 2020: Look in the Future” Concept of Development aligned with SDGs as well as other sectoral policies and strategies.
Global website: www.unicef.org
Website of UNICEF in Azerbaijan: www.unicef.az