Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan Appeal No. 01.78/2003 Annual Report

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The Federation's mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity. It is the world's largest humanitarian organization and its millions of volunteers are active in over 181 countries.

In Brief

Appeal No. 01.78/2003

Target: CHF 1,896,238 (USD 1,301,071/ EUR 1,288,397)

Coverage: 105.3% (Click here to go directly to the Financial Report)

Appeal 2004: Azerbaijan No. 01.77/2004 (click below)

http://www.ifrc.org/ cgi/pdf_appeals.pl?annual04/0177 04.pdf

This document reports on and analyses achievements within the International Federation's 2003 annual appeal for Azerbaijan. The activities supported by this appeal fell within the Federation's longer-term support strategy for Azerbaijan. This is continuing in 2004 and is being supported by Appeal 01.77/2004 (see above).

Overall analysis

The year 2003 saw remarkable improvements in Azerbaijan's economy, largely owing to external investment in the energy sector. Year-on-year real GDP growth was recorded at 11.2 per cent. Agriculture and industrial output also improved by 3-5% compared to the last year's indicators.

Experts evaluate positively Azerbaijan's performance under its three-year poverty reduction and growth facility programme. The programme was launched with the support of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and includes an activity plan for 2003-2005. It foresees the development of a new repatriation plan for thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs), who have been the most visible sign of the continued territorial dispute with Armenia over Nagorno Karabakh. Another priority area for the Government is the rehabilitation of the so-called 'liberated areas' -- the territories lost and recaptured by Azeri forces; housing for 8,800 families; upgrading infrastructure in the camps accommodating displaced people 1, education and health. Additionally, the Government, with the United Nation Development Programme's support, has undertaken to revise its strategy to reduce unemployment. It also initiated a pension reform to benefit 100,000 pensioners (as an initial step) in the north-eastern regions of Azerbaijan that received the least assistance over the years. There are 745,301 pensioners in Azerbaijan in total.

Since 2001, the government of Azerbaijan has been making efforts to provide a more comprehensive response to the needs of IDPs, who almost 10 years after the ceasefire agreement in 1994 continue to live in very precarious conditions, compared to the rest of the population. Authorities devoted more of their oil revenues to resettlement programmes and social aid. An annual average of USD 72 million has been allocated to the assistance and search for durable solutions for these people. In August 2003, 3,558 families were moved from a camp in Belasuvar to better accommodation. In addition to new houses, these people were provided with agricultural land and livestock.

Despite successful efforts of the Government to address vulnerability in the country, challenges , such as widespread poverty particularly in rural and remote areas and poor social welfare, remain. The health problems facing Azerbaijan are considerable too. Many of the problems are preventable and stem from a lack of knowledge. Prevalent illnesses include malaria, tuberculosis and childhood infections. Child mortality remains high compared to other countries in Europe. Despite more immunisation, measles and whooping cough are still widespread. The rate of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS is also increasing. In December 2003, the national AIDS prevention centre registered 587 HIV/AIDS-infected people. Given the lack of countrywide surveillance, the figure is probably a gross underestimate. New cases are increasingly recorded outside of the capital Baku too. Azerbaijan's already precarious public health sector is further weakened because of a lack of finance. Only 0.6 per cent of GDP is allocated for health.

The country is susceptible to earthquakes, mudflows, floods, landslides and strong winds. Floods in 2003 killed at least two people, affected some 4,000 families and had a significant economic impact.

Politically there were developments too. Violent clashes were reported on the streets of Baku in the aftermath of Azerbaijan's presidential elections in October 2003. At least two people were killed and several hundred injured during the mass protests in the capital. International observers said the poll fell short of international standards.

Amid these events, there was ongoing vulnerability. The Azerbaijan Red Crescent has had a considerable role in meeting humanitarian challenges in Azerbaijan. The overall goal of the 2003 Federation programme was to assist the Azerbaijan Red Crescent in supporting the country's most vulnerable people and achieve:

  • reduced health vulnerability of people of Azerbaijan (health and care)

  • reduced impact of disasters on vulnerable communities (disaster management)

  • more tolerant and less violent behaviour in the community (humanitarian values)

  • a better functioning national society able to provide high quality assistance with greater impact on and relevance to the country's vulnerable people (organizational development).
Remarkable progress was made under each of these programmes. Under health and care, the Red Crescent initiated volunteer blood recruitment. Several blood donation campaigns were organised and a number of volunteer blood donors were recruited. A network of health promoters was established too across the country to reach more people. By educating people, particularly youth, the Red Crescent effectively combats the spread of HIV/AIDS and stigma associated with it.

Red Crescent efforts were concentrated on improving its disaster management capacities to better address challenges of natural and man-made disasters and empower local communities to reduce their vulnerability during emergencies. In 2003 the focus was on updating a vulnerability and capacity assessment, development of disaster management policy and plan, as well as enhancing skill of its staff and volunteers. The vulnerability and capacity assessment will help the national society better understand humanitarian challenges confronting the country and tailor its programmes more effectively to provide relevant services to people in need. The Red Crescent also stepped up its advocacy initiatives with the Government and other stakeholders to draw their attention on the needs of large groups of refugees and internally displaced people who years after they fled the war and destruction in Nagorno-Karabakh, continue to depend on external aid.

The programme is a part of a long-term capacity building plan consistently pursued by the national society with the support of the Federation and other partners and aims to build experience, knowledge and structures to achieve effective disaster preparedness and response. Although progress has been made, efforts will need to continue.

The organizational development supported the continuation of the change process initiated by the Red Crescent few years ago in accordance with the Federation's Strategy 2010. The ultimate goal is to hand over both operational and financial responsibility from the Federation to the national society so that it independently addresses humanitarian needs in the country. An important achievement was an announcement by the presidium of a clearer division between governance and management reflected in the new statutes of the Red Crescent. This led to timely resolution of daily management issues and effective services to beneficiaries.

Another important achievement was the Red Crescent work with its young volunteers. Central and regional youth and volunteers boards the national society established in 2003 ensure that volunteers are represented at the governance and management of the national society and actively participate in the decision-making process as well as strengthening of the coordination mechanism.

Significant progress has been made on finding alternative funding sources within the country. A fundraising working group explored ways to diversify the organization's financial base. A number of fundraising activities were organised and some income was raised.

Efforts were also made to position the Red Crescent as an important actor in building the civil society in Azerbaijan and strengthening its auxiliary role to the Government. There was increased attention from the Government towards the work of the Red Crescent. A decree signed recently by the Cabinet of Ministers shows their greater attention and appreciation of the Red Crescent and its work as well as the government's willingness to support the only indigenous, volunteer, community based and countrywide organization in Azerbaijan.

Through the humanitarian values programme, the Red Crescent encouraged respect for other people and a willingness to work together to find solutions to community problems through its mandate.

The Federation supported the Red Crescent through its country delegation in Baku and a regional delegation in Ankara. Most activities progressed as planned. The appeal coverage was 105 %. At the beginning of the year, many programmes were implemented with the funds carried over from 2002 as the funding for the appeal 2003 arrived later during the year . Main donors were the Norwegian government through the Norwegian Red Crescent, Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) through Swedish Red Cross, Federation's Capacity Building Fund, European Commission Exceptional Assistance Programme (EXAP) and two oil companies - EXXON Azerbaijan Operating Company LLC (EXXON Azerbaijan) and Statoil Azerbaijan. The Netherlands Red Cross supported the Red Crescent branch development project under the organisational development programme.

Not all programmes, however, were funded equally, some of them received full funding, while others were under or over funded. Humanitarian values programme received only 54 per cent of the funds requested, while organisational development, youth and volunteers development, as well as community development projects had over 100 per cent coverage. Other projects that suffered financial constraints were disaster preparedness, mobile technical teams and population movement.

Lack of funds had a negative impact on the operation. The Red Crescent had to prioritise activities and adjust its initial plan. A number of initiatives, ultimately, were not implemented. Thus the Red Crescent was unable to carry out planned awareness campaigns against discrimination, violence and stigmatization under the humanitarian values programme. Campaigns under the disaster preparedness project were cancelled too.

As mentioned above, some projects received funding later during the year and affected the original plan of action. For instance, the establishment of two mobile teams in Guba and Nakhchevan was delayed to 2004.

There were operational constraints too such as structural changes within the Red Crescent, as well as emergency interventions that hindered progress. Also, there were personnel changes in the national society- several staff left the organisation for better paid jobs and new people were recruited. This slowed the implementation and some planned activities, such as health promotion initiatives, were postponed to 2004.

Due to late arrival of funds, the national society could not spend all money. The remaining balance at the end of the year was CHF 322,360.46 (17 % of appeal budget). With donors' approval, the amount will be transferred to 2004 to continue activities as described in the Federation appeal 2004.

Health and care

Goal: Health vulnerability in Azerbaijan is reduced through health education and advocacy.

Objective: Community-based health promotion in the areas of nutrition and good sanitation practices, HIV/AIDS education and first aid is developed and linked more closely to preventive activities through the disaster preparedness programme.

Expected result 1: Creative, community-based first aid and health promotion activities are maintained by the Red Crescent Society of Azerbaijan in all regions covered by the regional centres, through training of 90 volunteers in health promotion, distribution of training material and first aid kits, and seminars on focal issues such as breast feeding, and prevention of diarrhoea and malaria.

Achievements: The Azerbaijan Red Crescent has been working to improve community health since its inception. In early 1990s, during the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, the Red Crescent concentrated on emergency response, such as helping malnourished people, encouraging immunisation and preventing outbreaks of water and sanitation-related diseases. A decade later, the focus is preventive health.

In 2003, the Red Crescent efforts were directed to strengthen the organisation's role in the national plan on preventive health by enhancing community based first aid initiatives and establishing a network of health promoters across the country to reach more people.

The Red Crescent trained 51 volunteers as health promoters and first aid instructors to disseminate knowledge about reproductive health, family planning, healthy nutrition, personal hygiene, infectious and preventable diseases, child health, cardiovascular diseases, importance of immunization and basic first aid skills in their communities. Some 21,619 people were reached during the year through group or individual sessions. Main target groups were internally displaced people living in the southern camps, orphans and students.

The Red Crescent also conducted a number of seminars on key health issues, such as TB. Over 900 people -- mainly IDPs from the camps and Darnagul settlement - attended a seminar on TB in March. Malaria is another critical issue prioritised by the Red Crescent. After the devastating floods in the south eastern Azerbaijan, Red Crescent volunteers in cooperation with the Sabirabad Hygiene and Epidemiology Centre sprayed antimalarial chemicals in 2,500 houses in 14 villages and three IDP camps in Sabirabad, the areas most exposed to the disease. They also distributed thousands of leaflets and posters to educate people and prevent outbreak of epidemics.

For the first time in the history of its existence, the Red Crescent celebrated the International First Aid day with a demonstration of first aid skills and distribution of information materials to the public. Some 300 volunteers and staff participated in the celebrations.

Insufficient blood reserves contribute to the growth of morbidity and mortality. When thousands of people require blood transfusions, blood donors are few. Their number has dramatically reduced from 130,000 in 1986 to 16,000 in 2000 -- in the wake of the break up of the Soviet Union and the ensuing economic crises. The Red Crescent is uniquely placed to contribute to improving the country's blood supply. Last year, it strengthened cooperation with the National Blood Transfusion Centre via a memorandum of understanding. The national society has undertaken to assist the centre to recruit blood donors through awareness campaigns and community mobilization.

The first campaign was held in May 2003. Red Crescent staff at the headquarters were encouraged to donate blood. 45 people were recruited to help children suffering with thalassemia. Similar campaigns were held in Sumgait and Baku mobilising Red Crescent staff and volunteers , students and other people through media and personal contacts. In total, the Red Crescent recruited 96 blood donors.

The Red Crescent acknowledges that better coordination and integration within the organisation can bring better results. In July 2003, various departments of the Red Crescent united efforts and organised a joint campaign at a public beach under the slogan 'unity is the power'. Volunteers demonstrated first aid skills and distributed leaflets on safe blood, HIV/AIDS and blood donation related issues as well as other Red Crescent activities. They talked to people about importance of preventive health and encouraged them to become volunteer blood donors. The campaign proved successful; people showed interest and willingness to learn more about the organisation and its work, including volunteer blood recruitment.

The Azerbaijan Red Crescent worked in partnership with the Interagency Coordination Committee of Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, Ministry of Health, Republican Centre of Hygiene and Epidemiology, World Health Organization, UNICEF, World Bank and UNHCR. Red Crescent contribution to increasing heath awareness has been well appreciated by all stakeholders, and more importantly, by beneficiaries.

Impact: The Azerbaijan Red Crescent has a health promoter and a first aid instructor in every region allowing it to reach more vulnerable people across the country. Through health education, vulnerable communities are more conscious about health measures and have increased their ability to deal with day-to-day incidents as well as more serious challenges.

In December 2003, the Red Crescent conducted a survey among 812 IDPs in camps and Darnagul district of Baku to measure the impact of the Red Crescent health prevention activities. The survey revealed that beneficiaries much appreciate the Red Crescent efforts and follow advice of their volunteers. 83 people said they used condoms; 40 persons applied first aid skills; 49 IDPs visited a doctor as soon as they noticed first symptoms of malaria and prevented aggravation of the illness. Sabirabad and Saatli are considered high risk areas with high morbidity caused by malaria. This year, however, fewer cases of malaria were registered. The progress can be attributed to health education efforts. 29 IDPs reported they had consulted with doctor as soon as they detected first symptoms of tuberculosis. Four of them confirmed the disease. 26 of those interviewed used respirator masks during the cold season to protect themselves from acute respiratory infectious diseases.

The feedback is encouraging and confirms the Red Crescent programme is on the right track. Efforts, however , need to continue. The survey confirmed that communities are keen to have more information on family planning, prevention of infectious diseases, personal hygiene, immunization and healthy nutrition.

Equally significant is progress made with volunteer blood donor recruitment. Cooperation with the national blood transfusion centre helped to increase the number of donors and strengthen the auxiliary role of the Red Crescent to the Government in reducing health vulnerabilities in the country.

Despite undeniable progress of the last few years, the population, particularly women and children, remain highly vulnerable to preventable diseases largely because of the widespread poverty, fragile social support system and insufficient financing of public health sector, as well as lack of information. Health promotion and education both are effective ways of reducing morbidity and mortality and are reflected in the Red Crescent strategic work plan 2003-2005. Over the coming years, the Red Crescent will build on its achievements of the past years and continue work to increase people's awareness of basic health problems through its health promotion teams.

For further information related to Azerbaijan please contact:

Elkhan Rahimov, executive director, Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society, email: azer.redcrescent@azdata.net phone: 994 12 93 19 12; 994 12 93 84 81; fax: 994 12 93 15 78.

Hlin Baldvinsdottir, head of delegation in Azerbaijan, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, email: baku02@ifrc.org phone: 994 12 98 37 72; 994 12 98 16 7; fax: 994 12 98 55 01.

Carl Naucler, head of regional delegation, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Turkey and Southern Caucasus, email: ifrctr06@ifrc.org phone: 90 312 441 42 92 fax: 90 312 441 38 66.

Sylvie Chevalley, regional officer, Europe Department, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Geneva, email: sylvie.chevalley@ifrc.org phone: 41 22 730 4276; fax: 41 22 733 03 95.

All International Federation assistance seeks to adhere to the Code of Conduct and is committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable. For support to or for further information concerning Federation programmes or operations in this or other countries, or for a full description of the national society profile, please access the Federation's website at http://www.ifrc.org

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