Not enough room for all
An agile, round-cheeked Misha, 10, does not resemble a child from the shelter for homeless children and violence victims. Nevertheless, he has already had to beg and thieve in the streets. Once the boy’s step-father punished him and locked him in a cold cellar where his feet were frostbitten. “The parents’ turned to the hospital too late and the boy’s toes had to be amputated. Good Samaritans phone to the children’s shelter and the boy was taken there after the hospital.
Nigar, 5, has a mother, whose name is unknown to anyone and the woman does not know it either. When labor time came, her mother applied to the hospital and was registered under the false name. Having given birth to the child, she left the hospital. It turned out that the mother had symptoms of schizophrenia and split personality. She is being kept in the specialized facility in Göyçay district and she is less likely to ever leave it.
To find little Ahmad’s parents he was shown on TV. It turned out that his mother had left him at her lover’s threshold. Though, the boy had actually no links with the lover’s family, they took care of him for a certain period of time and then he got on TV. Later he was taken to the orphanage. His mother did not turn up.
Elmira, 5, had been scrounging in the street day and night to collect money for a bottle of vodka for her mother and her drinking companions. If she failed to collect the necessary sum of money, she was beaten, sexually abused, one of her mother’s boyfriends pressed the burning cigarettes into her legs. The policemen took Elmira to the children’s shelter.
The first ten days the girl had been sleeping for nearly twenty-four hours, wearing a cap pulled over her eyes for three months. When her mother, accompanied by three men came to the children’s shelter, the girl broke into tears. She was crying and begging not to give her to them. The mother brought a pack of sweets. It was lying at the door, but nobody, even the children, did not touch it for the whole week.
Aida Aliyeva, deputy chairperson of the “Azerbaijan Ushaglari (“Azerbaijan’s Children) public union says: “Regrettably, the state pursues a very soft policy regarding such parents. Nobody is deprived of parental rights in our country.
The children’s shelter at “Azerbaijan Ushaqlari was set up in 2006. Kyamalya Agazade, the NGO Chairperson, has been working with homeless children for many years. Any child, who needs help, can get a shelter, food and medical aid here. However, children are often brought to the shelter either by the police or by the executive government officials.
The lack of stable funding is the shelter’s key problem. Until 2014, the organization had been allocated grants, but then the inflow of foreign grants in the country was suspended. Now they have to tackle the problems themselves – at the expense of volunteers’ donations. The legislation does not regulate the shelters’ activity and that’s why it is impossible to get any state support. The only children’s shelter in the country does not even have a bank account. Only volunteers work here, because there is not enough money for staff’s salaries. Even a rent is paid by the children’s shelter administration from its own pocket.
“The executive government officials frequently visit us, says Aida khanum, “but they cannot help us. We have applied to many organizations for funding; we asked to include us into some sponsor programs, but in vain. Our premises are not big enough to accommodate many people that’s why we asked the executive government officials at least to allocate us more spacy area.
The shelter is a small rented mansion in one of Baku’s micro districts. Children and very often the mothers, who found themselves in the street for different reasons, violence victims and those, expecting a court’s ruling over a divorce case and who have no place to live in, reside in the shelter. The two bedrooms can accommodate not more than 20-25 persons, but there are thirty inmates here now.
The organization also has many care recipients- socially vulnerable families, who have nothing to eat; children, who need surgeries and treatment, that they are unable to pay for. “Our personnel, mainly volunteers, accompany the vulnerable persons, who need surgeries, visit doctors and persuade them to operate free of charge or for a minimal sum. Officially our medicine is free of charge, says Aida Aliyeva.
In addition to all problems, the economic crisis has sharply cut down the number of donations. “Especially much food was brought on holidays, there was offered meat from Kurban Bayram. Sometimes several persons could chip in per AZN100 and buy food for that money. Such things do not happen now, little is donated.
How it should be?
The government must provide children with shelter during “disputable moments of their life. According to Mehriban Zeynalova, chairperson of the “Clean World Aid to Women Public Union, if a family is divorcing (the divorce process is underway), a woman and a child are in a critical situation. A woman often has no place to live in, she has to share one flat with a husband (frequently she is subjected to psychological abuse) and her child is in the same hard situation, especially when the “family case goes beyond the Civil Code frameworks and verges the Criminal Code. However, in Azerbaijan, there is no tandem of the law-enforcers and social workers, who would be able to report on family problems. In Misha’s case, Good Samaritans contributed to his fate and contacted the shelter. What if such people do not appear?
There is another problem – a need for professional psychological aid to children in any critical situation – be it the parents’ divorce or vagrancy and begging.
According to Thalia Irbahimova, the Head of the Legal Department of the State Committee for Family, Women and Children, there are family and children support centers in the city, as well as in the regions. The center workers should meet with family members, render psychological assistance. However, the centers’ actual activity is doubtful.
Published on 17.03.2016