BAKU, 2 July 2018 – UNHCR’s newly appointed Country Representative in Azerbaijan Mr. Guido Ambroso started his duties by welcoming a team of six Japanese Optometrists of the Fuji Vision Aid Mission led by Dr. Akio Kanai, the prominent scientist and a winner of the prestigious Nansen Refugee Award. It was the start of the 14th humanitarian visit of the Fuji Vision Aid Mission to Azerbaijan which is going to last by 11 July 2018.
Every year UNHCR Azerbaijan facilitates such missions in close cooperation with the authorities to arrange free of charge eye-screening and eyeglasses distribution for refugees, internally displaced and other vulnerable people. This year the humanitarian activities will be carried out in Ganja from 3 to 5 July, in Shamkir from 6 to 7 July and in Baku on 9 July. At the end of the visit the mission leaders will meet with the high level relevant Government officials of Azerbaijan.
More than 2.6 million USD has been spent by Fuji Optical to accomplish its humanitarian activity in Azerbaijan since 2005. Around 54 thousand pairs of high quality optic eyeglasses and other items have been brought to the country as in-kind donation to the UNHCR operations in Azerbaijan. In total, more than 28 thousand refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable people have benefited from free of charge vision screening services facilitated by the UNHCR Representation in Azerbaijan together with the relevant authorities. This year, Fuji Vision Aid Mission has donated 4,000 pairs of eye-glasses and other vision and hearing aid items to UNHCR and it is targeting to screen about 2,500 IDPs, refugees and other vulnerable people during the six-day vision tests and eye-glasses distribution. Last year the number of screened people was over three thousand – the highest since the start of the Japanese vision aid missions to Azerbaijan.
In general, since 1983, when the Company started its humanitarian activity among Indo-Chinese refugees in Thailand, Fuji Vision Aid Mission has donated about 160 thousand pairs of eyeglasses to refugees, IDPs and other vulnerable people in six countries of Asia, Europe and Africa, conducted vision aid missions in four out of those countries, including Azerbaijan.
Humanitarian efforts made through the Japanese Vision Aid Mission have always been highly appreciated by UNHCR and also by the Government of Azerbaijan and the targeted communities. These efforts demonstrate understanding and sympathy towards the displacement challenge faced by Azerbaijan and the work of the UN Refugee Agency. Along with the official recommendation from the Government of Azerbaijan, Dr. Akio Kanai received the Nansen Refugee Award in 2006 and used the prize money to fund a water supply project for the IDP community in Beylagan district.
UNHCR is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international interventions, in cooperation with national authorities, for the protection and well-being of refugees and IDPs. It continues to raise awareness and facilitate all efforts aimed to support the displaced people in Azerbaijan until the time a solution is found to their displacement.