Azerbaijan: Red Crescent programmes for displaced children

تم النشر: 14 سبتمبر 2001 0:00 CET

Nigar Garibova in Baku

When any disaster takes places, it is often helpless children and elderly people who suffer most. They are the most vulnerable in all emergency situations.
Today, there are more than 11.000 displaced children living in camps in the districts of Sabirabad, Saatli and Bilasuvar in the southern part of Azerbaijan. Most of them were born in the camps and the only home they know are the mud houses they live in - cold in winter, hot in summer and wet all year long. The parents use all their energy to provide food for their families and they often do not have the strength to organise the children's free time.

To address the needs of the children living in the camps, the Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society, in cooperation with the International Federation, is currently implementing a children support project in all seven camps located in the three southern districts. The project aims at meeting the children's developmental needs through organising meaningful free time activities and educating adults in addressing these needs. "I joined this project as a volunteer, and as time passes, I realize that it has become a part of my life," says Solmaz Maharramova, the National Society's children support programme officer from the Sabirabadt Regional Centre.

"Before the Children Support Project was initiated, the only occupation children had after class, was just 'doing nothing' except fighting off the mosquitoes and flies inside their tiny, wet houses. With nearly no electricity supply in the camps, the children could not even be kept busy reading or doing their homework ."

Drina Karahasanovic, Community Development Field Delegate recalls the time when the children support project had been just initiated: "We started with a small number of volunteers. Now we have about 100, who are actively organising different types of activities for the children like drama, fine arts,sports and folklore dances. If you have ever seen the eyes of children born in the camps and for whom a feeling of 'home, sweet home' is nothing but a dream, you would easily understand that those who are involved in working with these children, always try to keep track of their needs and address them properly as much as possible."

In July this year 50 children participated in a summer camp in Lenkoran, one of the most picturesque regions of the country. This summer camp was financed by the Swedish Red Cross and this contribution provided the children with swimming suits, hygiene articles, T-shirts, caps, sunglasses, bed sheets, blankets as well as food.

A second summer camp for another 25 children was organised in August. "The children had a wonderful time and we intend to organize similar camps next year," says Drina Karahasanovich..