An independent nation since 1992
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.. The capital city, Baku, is located on the Caspian Sea and has around two million inhabitants.
Azerbaijan has a population of around 10 million, of which 2.6 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
Feeling loved, SOS Children's Village Baku - photo: Katerina Ilievska
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 UNESCO figures, five per cent of children between the ages of 5-14 are involved in child labour.
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
We started working in Azerbaijan in 2000.
Care in families: Children who can't live with their families find a loving home in the SOS families. They grow up with their brothers and sisters, and are cared for by SOS parents.
Wherever possible, we work closely with the children’s family of origin, so that the children can return to live with them. Whenever this happens, we work towards supporting them during this period of change and adjustment.
Education: We aim to ensure that all children in our care attend kindergarten and school.
Support for young people: Young people find it hard to become independent in Azerbaijan. We offer both practical and psychological support to young people while they finish their studies and improve their skills.
Advocacy: SOS Children's Villages works with the government and other agencies to promote social reform that improves the rights of children.
Emergency Programme: In October 2020, planning began to provide emergency support to children and families who were affected by the fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This assistance varied according to their needs, but could include medical, psychological and educational support. We protected and cared for children who are separated from their families.
Website of SOS Children's Villages Azerbaijan
(available in English and Azerbaijani)