Posts

homelessness in azerbaijanDespite Azerbaijan’s abundance of resources, homelessness in Azerbaijan became a major crisis as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Due to this war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, nearly 1 million people in Azerbaijan became internally displaced refugees. The major combat operations waged by the Azeri government in the northern part of Karabakh added to this calamity. This offensive resulted in the displacement of 40,000 Armenians, thereby contributing significantly to the problem of homelessness in Azerbaijan.

Not Just the War

Those displaced or made refugees by the Nagorno-Karabakh war are unfortunately just one dimension of homelessness in Azerbaijan. Street children are another common complication, contributing to the issue. There are around 80,000 children facing homelessness in Azerbaijan, though many think the real number is higher. Many of these children are exploited through violations of internationally recognized child labor laws, experiencing sex trafficking and street begging, among other forms of exploitation. A number of them become homeless after leaving government-sponsored orphanages and tend to be more exposed to forms of human trafficking and child exploitation. Some of these children come from troubled homes or lead troubled lives while others are simply the displaced or refugees of the Nagorno-Karabakh War.

Complications Lead to More Problems

Many street children face increased health risks due to the nature of their work. According to Dr. Dadashova, “The street children who earn money washing old cars can inhale toxic fumes.” Dadashova believes that these children tend to be more susceptible to blood diseases. Adding to these problems, Azerbaijan doesn’t appear to have a robust state-sponsored system in place for the adult homeless population. Moreover, the government has engaged in many illegal evictions and demolitions that have worsened the problem of homelessness in Azerbaijan and drawn condemnation from major human rights groups.

The Silver Lining

The government did pass a law in 2005 that was meant to combat the problem of child homelessness in Azerbaijan. Additionally, the government has undertaken further, major initiatives to integrate the internally displaced and refugees from the Nagorno-Karabakh War, through investments in housing. According to the Crisis Group, the government has helped in significantly reducing homelessness in Azerbaijan by moving around 108,000 displaced people into housing and constructing more housing for an additional 115,00 people. When it comes to the larger problem of homelessness, the government has built a temporary shelter in the Zabrat settlement of the Sabunchi district. Here, the government plans to keep those in need for six months, after which the homeless will be resettled in either nursing homes or permanent homeless shelters. In 2014 the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of Population created a shelter in the same region for children, with amenities like a dining room and swimming pool.

However, Azerbaijan is known for strong social bonds. According to Anar Valiyev from the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI), “Networks amongst these people allow newcomers to reduce transaction costs in terms of finding housing and jobs or solving immediate practical problems. Thanks to bonding social capital, the phenomenon of homelessness, typical of big cities, is almost unknown in Azerbaijan.”

Mustafa Ali
Photo: Flickr

top 10 facts about living conditions in azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is a country of 9.8 million people situated between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It is bordered by the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian Sea. A former part of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan is roughly the size of Maine. Below are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Azerbaijan.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Azerbaijan

  1. A Trading Economics report from 2008 shows that only 2.5 percent of the population lives on two dollars per day, while the top 10 percent of the population hold a quarter of the country’s wealth.
  2. Falling oil prices devastated Azerbaijan’s economy in 2015 when the national GDP fell from $75.244 billion in 2014 to $53.074 billion in 2015. The GDP fell even further in 2016 to $37.868 billion. The economy has begun to recover, but the GDP lingers just above half of the pre-economic shock levels.
  3. As the economy recovers, Azerbaijan hit an average record-high income per month in 2019. In March of this year, the average income was 577.60 AZN per month, roughly $399. This is a stark contrast from the record-low income per month just a decade ago, when the United States recession affected the world economy. In April 2008, the average wages were 242.70 AZN per month or $142.
  4. During this recession, food inflation rose to a peak of 18.27 percent. To offset the public’s inability to purchase food, the government raised pensions and wages, which is a move that many economists believed would further increase inflation, however, food inflation currently sits at around two percent.
  5. A majority of the population live in urban areas; 55 percent of citizens reside in cities.
  6. 100 percent of the country reports having access to electricity, both in rural and urban areas. The goal of the government has been to meet and maintain access to electricity for the entire population, but they have struggled to achieve their goal. Access has sat at or over 95 percent for the last three decades but has fluctuated.
  7. 78 percent of the population has access to the internet, although sweeping reforms in Azerbaijan’s government have given authorities the right to widely ban content. In recent years, many journalists were detained and sentenced to up to 10 years for their internet activity.
  8. Access to clean water was traditionally an issue for the people of Azerbaijan. In the early 1990s, only 68.8 percent of the population had access to clean water. Today, nearly 90 percent of people have access to clean water in their households. This improvement was made using many different public projects including sanitation plants installed along the river, and the collection and processing of rainwater.
  9. The fertility rate is low with just under two live births per woman in 2016, compared to near six live births per woman in the early 1960s. Programs that promoted birth control and educated women on pregnancy helped the fertility rate to decline. Another aiding factor was the increase in healthcare that allowed more children to live into adulthood, so families did not need to have as many children to ensure their family’s growth.
  10. The life expectancy at birth for the population of Azerbaijan is 72.8 years. Women have a life expectancy of over 76 years, while men have a life expectancy of 70 years.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Azerbaijan suggest that the country is recovering from a difficult economic era. While there is less devastating poverty in recent years, the economic downturn of 2015 and 2016 shows that Azerbaijan is a country that needs to take steps in stabilizing the economy, investing further in its citizens and broadening its markets if the country wants to completely remove itself from poverty and carry its people into a brighter future. Azerbaijan has reduced the amount of poverty among their citizens, but they still have more to accomplish.

– Kathryn Moffet
Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in AzerbaijanDiseases and illnesses remain common problems in Azerbaijan. With the exception of residents of Baku (Azerbaijan’s capital), many Azerbaijanis lack access to healthcare services in rural areas. Common diseases in Azerbaijan affect many residents due to these conditions. However, efforts are being made to control the country’s disease outbreaks.

Digestive, nervous and circulatory system complications were among Azerbaijan’s top diseases in 2016. Syphilis, chickenpox, and other intestinal infections have become a growing problem in the country as well. Azerbaijan is also taking measures to reduce tuberculosis, diabetes, and other diseases in order to provide patients with better medical services.

Socioeconomic conditions and agricultural changes are factors that contribute to malaria outbreaks in Azerbaijan. In 2013, the country succeeded in preventing malaria transmissions and fulfilled Azerbaijan’s strategic plan for 2008-2013. Azerbaijan also adopted a national strategy to prevent malaria from re-entering the country.

Fifteen years ago in Azerbaijan, seven in every 1,000 residents were infected with tuberculosis. By 2016, the infection rate had dropped to one in every 1,000 residents. However, Azerbaijan is still working to end the tuberculosis epidemic that is especially prevalent in the country’s prisons.

Since Azerbaijan’s prisons are poorly ventilated and frequently crowded, the prisoners often lack prevention methods for tuberculosis. Azerbaijani prisoners are tested yearly for the disease. Prisoners who test positive are sent to a prison hospital for treatment and support. Theater groups are performing plays in the prisons to teach officers about tuberculosis risk factors as well.

Diabetic Azerbaijanis often face more challenges than the disease itself. In Azerbaijan, a diabetic person cannot qualify for welfare assistance unless the disease has physically disabled them. Also, many diabetic Azerbaijanis do not know what glycemic indexes are, and often buy foods that raise their blood sugar and insulin levels.

The Azerbaijan Diabetes Society (ADS), a branch of the International Diabetes Federation (IDC), is working to improve the lives of diabetic Azerbaijanis. ADS helped Azerbaijan establish seven schools with trained doctors and nurses. ADS also holds conferences with U.N. agencies on World Diabetes Day, acting as advocates for Azerbaijan’s diabetics.

Obesity is becoming highly prevalent in Azerbaijan’s adolescents. In 2015, 586 children registered as overweight–a rate of 23 children per every 100,000. The rate increased to 51 per 100,000 children in 2016. Azerbaijani children who live stationary lifestyles while consuming unhealthy foods and beverages are most at risk.

The country’s state services plan to utilize strategies for countering obesity and other common diseases in Azerbaijan. The state will also take practical measures to create opportunities and conditions that promote healthier lifestyles among the country’s people. Educational work to boost Azerbaijanis’ interest in responsible health practices will be implemented as well.

Educating Azerbaijan’s population on health risk factors could help more Azerbaijanis avoid diseases. Educating prisoners on health risks shows that the country is taking disease control seriously for all residents. With work in place to lower health risks among the country’s people, common diseases in Azerbaijan can continue to be countered.

Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr

Why Is Azerbaijan Poor
Though it is a higher middle-income country with a booming oil industry, Azerbaijan is overcome by poverty and corruption. Its emerging energy sector could change the economic landscape by answering the question: why is Azerbaijan poor?

Despite economic growth in recent years, 80 to 85 percent of Azerbaijan’s population makes low wages and lives in poor conditions. However, the upper class makes up only two to four percent of its population.

Agriculture is a major source of employment, as 48 percent of the population lives in rural areas. Unfortunately, agriculture only makes up 6.7 percent of the GDP. In Azerbaijan’s rural areas, people suffer from poor infrastructure and limited agricultural production. This is due to inadequate access to services and equipment and rising food prices. Farmers struggle to compete in domestic markets and develop beyond subsistence levels of production. The rising competition in products from increased foreign exchange in oil revenue and liberalization policies also limit agricultural output.

Azerbaijan hopes to promote social equity by creating a sustainable and thriving economy. According to a report submitted by Azerbaijan’s National Coordination Council for Sustainable Development July 3, poverty has already decreased from 49 percent in 2001 to 4.9 percent in 2015.

The International Institute for Sustainable Development and the United Nations Environment Program are discerning why is Azerbaijan poor by studying Azerbaijan’s challenges. The organizations conclude that for Azerbaijan to sustain a thriving economy, it should shift to a green economy. This will improve human wellbeing and reduce environmental risks and ecological scarcities.

Azerbaijan foresees introducing green economic strategies in agriculture in 2018 to continue economic development and reduce poverty. To grow its agricultural production, Azerbaijan must promote stronger supply chains; enhance public-private partnerships with agri-business; promote education and capacity building and enforce stronger regulation on agricultural inputs and outputs. Prioritizing the energy sector to protect soil and water quality is also crucial. Finally, increasing microfinance to benefit the poor in terms of jobs and livelihoods will help grow the economy.

Since agriculture is the main source of employment in Azerbaijan, developing the agriculture sector alongside the energy sector will help alleviate the country’s poverty. Creating progress in the most unfortunate areas improves not only the country’s economy but the individual lives within it.

Sarah Dunlap

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Azerbaijan

Energy-rich Azerbaijan has recently begun to provide its citizens with reliable access to gas and electricity. However, the government is lagging on one key front: potable water. A large percentage, if not a majority, of Azerbaijan’s 8.2 million citizens lacks easy access to drinkable water. Water quality in Azerbaijan is thus a major issue.

Several factors have transformed Azerbaijan into a country where there is dynamic progress in all regions. Successful implementation of public programs and further improvement of infrastructure have all had a positive impact. Incoming modern enterprises have also been a boon to Azerbaijan’s economy. Unfortunately, these improvements come at the expense of environmental sustainability and water quality.

Groundwater pollution from oil spillage and leakage from pipeline and storage tanks results in petroleum, heavy metals and possibly radiation contamination spoiling the water in Azerbaijan. Furthermore, runoff from heavy usage of fertilizers and pesticides, as well as factory waste dumped into rivers, has heavily polluted the water. Finally, the salinity of the water table due to sea water intrusion, rusted water pipes and obsolete and broken equipment in water treatment plants has further reduced the water quality.

Azerbaijan has the reputation of being an environmental disaster zone. Many scientists consider Absheron Peninsula, where 50 percent of Azerbaijanis live, to be the most ecologically devastated area in the world due to severe air, water and soil pollution. Decades of pollution have created medical concerns. Poor water quality in Azerbaijan can facilitate the transmission of bacterial diseases such as cholera and hepatitis. Additionally, traces of heavy metals in the water lead to health complications such as cancer.

The country’s government is motivated and has made efforts to improve the environmental situation in the country. Ten years ago, the centralized water supply system in Baku, the capital, covered only 1.56 million people. Now, 2.366 million people have access. The volume of water usage has also increased. In the last ten years, the volume of water supplied from various sources in Baku and the Absheron Peninsula increased by 23 percent, the U.N. reports. As a result of various projects between 2011 and 2013, 600,000 more people have gained access to an uninterrupted water supply.

The Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources also installs modular sewage treatment plants in villages along rivers. More than 200 villages see the benefits of these projects. In the future, it might be possible to acquire drinking water from the Caspian Sea.

Despite these obstacles, Baku’s new water pipeline and the government’s interest in expanding regional water purification facilities suggest that there is a desire to bring about positive change with the water quality in Azerbaijan.

Yana Emets

Photo: Flickr


The disease is rampant in Middle Eastern and Eastern European countries. Azerbaijan, located just south of the Caucasus Mountains and home to 9.6 million people, is no exception. Every day, these people are affected by chronic diseases in Azerbaijan, which ranges from heart disease and cancer all the way to infectious diseases and HIV/AIDS. Here is a list of the top diseases in Azerbaijan that threaten local citizens.

Cardiovascular Diseases

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 54 percent of deaths in Azerbaijan are caused by cardiovascular diseases. Between 1990 and 2013, the annual mortality rate from cardiovascular diseases in Azerbaijan has increased by 18.2 percent, with an average of 0.8 percent per year. The most severe of cardiovascular diseases in Azerbaijan is Ischemic Heart Disease. However, the number of fatal strokes in Azerbaijan has increased by 24 percent since 1990, and the number of deaths caused by Hypertensive Heart Disease has increased by 33 percent since 1990. Cardiovascular diseases are by far the number one cause of death in Azerbaijan.

Chronic and Lower Respiratory Diseases

Data shows that of the communicable diseases in Azerbaijan, chronic respiratory diseases are the most dangerous. From the list of communicable diseases, lower respiratory infections make up for half of the deaths depending on age group, and the annual mortality rate sharply increases for those over the age of 55. However, things are looking better for chronic respiratory diseases in Azerbaijan; since 1990, the annual mortality rate for lower respiratory infections has decreased by 73 percent.

HIV/AIDS

Although HIV/AIDS does not make up for a large percentage of harm, it is still a very dangerous disease in Azerbaijan. HIV/AIDS has one of the fastest-growing annual mortality rates of any other disease in Azerbaijan. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of deaths caused by HIV/AIDS has increased by 3,247 percent. As of 2015, the number of people in Azerbaijan living with HIV is estimated to be around 11,000, and it is predicted that the number will increase.

Diseases in Azerbaijan are extremely prevalent and have a large effect on citizens’ lives. Organizations such as WHO, UNICEF, and UNAIDS are all working closely together in order to properly treat current diseases and prevent future deaths.

Morgan Leahy

Photo: Flickr


In the past decade, access to education has been on the rise in Azerbaijan. As of 2009, the literacy rate in Azerbaijan was 99.5 percent, an impressive number for the Caucasus region. Education in Azerbaijan is well on the way to meeting the Millennium Development Goal 2 of universal primary education in the next few years. However, there are clear, massive inequalities in primary education between refugees and non-refugees.

Azerbaijan has one of the largest displaced populations, as it is currently home to over one million refugees who are internally displaced people (IDP) hoping for asylum status. According to UNICEF, Azerbaijan has the highest IDP population per capita in the entire world; a majority of these people are Azeris, who have been displaced from their own homes due to the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

Refugee Children Require Additional Educational Resources

Azerbaijan is leading the Caucasus region in access to education for refugees. In 2003, Azerbaijan began allowing refugees to attend public school. However, since there is a large IDP population, inequities in refugee education are inevitably holding back universal education in Azerbaijan. Many refugee children do not have the same access to education as native children, affecting early, primary and secondary schooling.

A 2010 report indicates that about 20 percent of Chechen refugee children in Azerbaijan do not attend school, and of those who do attend, many cannot understand their instructors due to language barriers. This is common for many refugee populations in Azerbaijan. UNICEF notes that “most refugees have special linguistic needs since many do not speak the national language, straining teachers and school resources.”

It is common for displaced children to experience violence and hardship due to their refugee status, leading to many children requiring additional special psychosocial learning. Additionally, refugee children enter school later and tend to be less prepared for school, compared with the average Azerbaijani student.

Though Azerbaijan is working to ensure increased access to education for all children, many outside organizations have taken initiative to increase educational opportunities for refugees in Azerbaijan. For example, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found that oftentimes, refugee children do not go to school because their school materials are too expensive. To remedy this, the UNHCR created a textbook fund, giving more than 8,000 textbooks to about 2,000 refugee children.

In the future, there is a great deal of hope for the state of universal education in Azerbaijan.

Morgan Leahy

Photo: Flickr

Azerbaijans_Oil_Money_What_Will_it_Do_With_it
Since 2005, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline has brought Azerbaijan a newfound prosperity, but the money from the oil windfall is still tightly concentrated, and inequality remains a huge issue. Even with the enormous bounty from the pipeline, it is still a struggle for the average Azerbaijani to make a living.

Azerbaijan, a former member of the USSR, is home to some of the richest people around the Caspian Sea. Despite its lack of universities, public services, or manufacturing sectors, it has a plentiful supply of oil.

This is the first time in centuries that Azerbaijan has had a lucky break in geopolitics. It has been occupied by Cyrus the Great, Alexander the Great, the Seljuks, the Mongols, the Persians, the Russians, the Ottomans and, finally, the Soviets over the centuries. Now, finally, Azerbaijan has a chance of controlling its own destiny. Between 2006 and 2008, Azerbaijan’s economy grew at an annual average rate of 28 percent, the fastest in the world.

Many would argue that Azerbaijan is not spending its new money wisely. Instead of overhauling its creaking social security system, or investing in schools, it is building sports stadiums and luxury mega-developments. Gulnara Suleymanova, an impoverished mother living in the shadow of Azerbaijan’s brand-new stadium, built especially for the European Games, said that she can barely afford to feed her children, let alone provide them with an educated and treatment for their health problems.

“They build sports complexes, construct roads, but who benefits from them? Why don’t they help children? Why don’t they think that there are small children, sick and poor people living in this country? Why don’t they help them?” she asks.

Huge undertakings like the stadium and the mega-development can be argued to have some merit, as the publicity from the games and the over-the-top extravagance of the mega-developments can signal to investors that the country’s government supports growth. They serve as a kind of international billboard, advertising a friendly business climate to anyone who wants to build anything spectacular.

That being said, experts at USAID have said that Azerbaijan must diversify its economy if it wants to maintain a high rate of growth. Right now, there is too much emphasis on the extraction-sector and not enough focus on other sectors, or on investments for the future. Without movement into other sectors, a failure in the oil supply could send Azerbaijan back into an agrarian economy.

Azerbaijan used to rely primarily on its exports of pomegranates and hazelnuts to make money, but even high-worth crops like these are subject to droughts, floods, blights, and other events outside of the country’s control. USAID hopes to help Azerbaijan achieve a diverse and sustainable economy, with much less inequality than is present now.

If USAID succeeds, Azerbaijan may be able to mold its new-found wealth into a well-rounded and diverse economy.

– Marina Middleton

Sources: USAID, Doing Business, New York Times, Massispost, The Guardian
Photo: Flickr

violence in azerbaijan
As the world’s eyes turn to the ongoing struggle and possible ceasefire in Ukraine, another simmering conflict in Russia’s backyard seems to be flaring up. The long contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, which lies in Azerbaijan but which is a self-declared independent nation and comprised of ethnic Armenians, has seen an increase in violence in 2014 and 2015.

The region devolved into a bloody war immediately preceding the fall of the Soviet Union that killed almost 30,000 people and displaced millions more. A ceasefire brokered by the Russians in 1994 left Karabakh and surrounding territories in the hands of Armenians but legally enveloped by Azerbaijan, which lost 14 percent of its territory in the deal.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Azerbaijan has made great strides in socio-economic indicators including hunger, malnourishment, poverty, GDP per capita and the under-five mortality rate. While improvements can still be made, the country is squarely in the Upper-Middle Income country group and has met or is on its way to meeting all of its Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs. Without diversification, however, the economy, which has seen a lot of growth since the early 2000s, may become unstable and create additional social problems.

In its relative state of peace since the turn of the century, Azerbaijan’s poverty rate has dropped from 46.7 percent in 2002 to 8.4 percent in 2011. The economy grew as people felt safe to invest in the country. Hunger very nearly has disappeared from most regions and other indicators are well on their way to the same status. But a rise in violence around the Nagorno-Karabakh region could reverse this progress.

Azerbaijan, claiming a double standard in the West’s handling of Crimea in Ukraine compared to the Nagorno-Karabakh region, has increased its annual defense budget from $177 million in 2003 to $3.4 billion in 2013. It has purchased weapons from Israel, Turkey and Russia. Extra dollars mean not only a militarization in conflict areas, but also an economic focus shift from development to power.

The increased militarization of the Nagorno-Karabakh region and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, coupled with a penchant for violence on both sides, creates “the risk of a war by accident” according to the director of the Regional Studies Center, Richard Giragosian. War in the region could prove to be just as disastrous as last time, forcing millions to flee their homes without promise of return and killing thousands more.

The humanitarian crisis created by war between the two countries could be devastating. Rampant hunger, poverty, displacement and violence among neighboring ethnic groups could reverse the progress made by Azerbaijan in the last two decades. While the threat of open war is relatively low, any increase in violence stokes tensions anew, pushing the region further from peace.

Caitlin Huber

Sources: Economist,  BBC,  UNDP,  Knoema
Photo: The Guardian

Rural Poverty in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is a small Central Asian country about the size of South Carolina bordered by The Caspian Sea, Armenia, Georgia, Iran, and Russia. Similar to Russia, Azerbaijan’s heritage is derived from both Eastern and Western civilizations, making her a distinctly Eurasian entity.  In the years initially following the Russian revolution of 1917, the victorious Bolsheviks invaded Azerbaijan, integrating it into the Soviet Union.  This was an effort by Lenin to capitalize on the oil reserves of the Azerbaijanis.

Consequently, agriculture in Azerbaijan was collectivized.  This caused agricultural workers to become dependent on a very specific, prescribed method of farming in which success depended upon the survival of the Soviet system.  When the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s and farms were privatized, agricultural workers were completely unprepared to grow crops on their own.  This resulted in a situation in which uneducated farmers with limited resources were unable to maximize the productivity of their land.

Like other nations that declared independence after the fall of the USSR, Azerbaijan’s rural communities have struggled immensely to stand on their own two feet economically.  Rural poverty is widespread, but it is especially concentrated in the desolate northeastern part of the country, with pockets also appearing in the mountainous northwestern region of  Sheki-Zagatal where the poverty rate is over 50%.  The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) describes the severity of the economic conditions there, stating:

“Remote areas and upland or mountainous areas show high rates of poverty. These areas often lack basic infrastructure and services, including irrigation, adequate road access, a reliable drinking water supply and health services.”

Fortunately, IFAD has invested almost $200 million in development projects in Azerbaijan over the last decade and a half.  These projects focus on improving food security through practical education (such as irrigation tutorials) and the establishment of business connections between rural farmers and lucrative markets.  With support such as this, agriculture in Azerbaijan has the potential to rise out of poverty in the coming years.

– Josh Forgét
Source: Rural Poverty Portal via IFAD,Glenn E. Curtis
Photo: Azerbaijan News