US based relief and development agencies continue efforts
to reduce human suffering and alleviate poverty in conflict affected areas.
Activities include thirteen projects with a focus on economic opportunity,
community development and primary health care in 500 communities in over 23
cities and districts of the country.
Azerbaijan, Baku - Ahmedabad is a village in the southern area of Azerbaijan.
Its population is slightly more than 2,338 of which 780 are refugees. During
the Soviet period the village residents were mostly involved in husbandry, poultry,
cotton, wheat and truck farming and the standard of living for most villagers
was higher than it is today.
After the collapse of the Soviet regime, the challenges of the transition to
free market economy and new government system had a negative impact on the living
standards of the Ahmedabad community. The economic and the infrastructure of
the village was further damaged by the influx of internally displaced people
(IDPs) and refugees from various countries of former Soviet Union and disputed
Nagorno-Karabagh zone over which Azerbaijan and Armenia were fighting. The additional
population became a significant burden to an already deteriorating infrastructure
and shrinking resources of the community.
According to Gulahmad Mammadov, the leader of the Ahmedabad community, the
village residents for a long time were in the mood of "wait and see"
going through the transition period. However, the worsening living standards,
diminishing job opportunities and aging infrastructure triggered very real concern
and drove the community to take some initiative regarding its future.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) team's visit in the village in 2000
has raised hopes of the community. The team introduced the concept of self-assistance
to the community. It strengthened the abilities and skills of the community
to identify problems of the village, prioritize them, write proposals and mobilize
internal and external resources to solve these problems through a comprehensive
and participatory training. As a result, the community implemented its first
project of the community center construction, and elected a Community Action
Group (CAG) consisting of twelve community members with the support of IRC.
The CAG was designed to serve as a driving force for the mobilization and organization
of the community to put into practice the knowledge they learned from the training.
The community participated in a training program offered by International Medical
Corps (IMC) to improve health and sanitation in the community. This opportunity
enabled the community to advance its knowledge on health issues including reproductive
health, immunization, sanitation, childcare, and environment.
Later the community turned to CHF to reconstruct the secondary school to solve
one of the most urgent issues of the village. Before the repairs, the school
had deteriorated roof, wall, doors and windows, which presented serious difficulties
for class activities, especially in winter season. Students were regularly absent
from lessons because of frequent illnesses. It is important to mention that
the community itself prepared the reconstruction plan and directly participated
in its implementation through cash and labor contribution.
In 2002 in an effort to advance the economy of the village, the community with
the help of IRC planted 50ha wheat, 4ha potatoes, and built 6km canal to improve
the irrigation for these plants. At the same time the Ahmedabad community has
also established a cheese production enterprise. The processing shop has a capacity
for one ton of milk processing per day. To launch the enterprise, villagers
created a group of 22 shareholders. Each shareholder invested $100 USD of his/her
own funds. An additional $10,000 USD was provided by the IRC. This amount will
be repaid in one year. IRC also gave assistance in finding and assembling equipment,
and in start up of production. Having the processing shop equipped with a vacuum
packing device has reduced cheese loss to a minimum. Every milked cow is under
veterinary control, and every employee is under health control.
According to Gulahmad Mammadov, up until now international organizations including
CHF, IRC and IMC has provided $50,000 assistance to the community. "We
appreciate the support given to our community by these organizations and their
donors" he said. Mammadov is now optimistic that all problems can be solved
when community members unite their efforts and mobilize internal resources.
Ahmedabad community is one of the 500 communities that have been helped through
grants funded by the United Sates Agency for International Development (USAID)
and managed under the terms of an international partnership more commonly known
as the Azerbaijan Humanitarian Assistance Program (AHAP) led by Mercy Corps.
AHAP has been working to reduce human suffering and alleviate poverty in conflict-affected
areas of Azerbaijan since 1998. The current phase of AHAP is implemented by
seven American based organizations: ADRA, CHF International, International Rescue
Committee (IRC), International Medical Corps (IMC), Pathfinder International,
Save the Children and World Vision International. Under AHAP these agencies
implement thirteen community-based programs in primary health care, economic
opportunities and community development in over 23 cities and rayons of Azerbaijan
(Baku, Sumgait, Fizuli, Imishli, Saatli, Sabirabad, Belasuvar, Beylagan, Agdam,
Agjabedi, Ganja, Mingechavir, Yevlakh, Ter-ter, Goranboy, Barda and Nakichivan
The integrated strategy of the AHAP has made it possible to address multi-sectoral
needs of these communities, including health, economic and infrastructure activities.
According to Myriam Khoury, AHAP Program Director at Mercy Corps, AHAP addresses
multi faceted needs of internally displaced and conflict-affected people because
life is integrated and our experience shows that any development process that
addresses only one aspect of life eventually fails.
In 2002 the AHAP projects have created 1,185 jobs, disbursed 4,571 loans, completed
613 community led infrastructure and social projects, and refurbished 56 health
facilities. In total, the program has benefited over 500,000 vulnerable people
"The year 2002 was productive for the AHAP partnership," said William
Holbrook, Chief of Party of Mercy Corps Azerbaijan. "During the past year
the partnership continued to address various critical needs of internally displaced
and conflict affected people through 13 grants that supported economic opportunity
programs, community development, and primary health care projects.
Economic Opportunity activities have provided micro and small loans to enterprises
mainly engaged in agribusiness and rural service industries and supported them
with business plan development, financial advice, and incorporating improved
technology and overall management techniques into enterprise. In addition, these
projects strengthen private business owner associations, which in turn have
potential to become links to inputs, credits, market information, skills training,
and technical assistance.
Community Development projects mobilize and empower communities with the skills,
abilities and confidence to take charge of their own development process. Mobilization
is achieved through extensive training that enables communities to assess their
own problems and issues and to make plans for the solution of these problems.
Grants for the implementation of different micro projects are subsequently provided
to the internally displaced and conflict affected communities. The provision
of grants to implement micro-projects gives communities a chance to complete
the process of planning, implementing and assessment.
Primary Health Care projects focus at improved access to sustainable and quality
primary health care. The activities include trainings for community and health
providers, works to increase public awareness of family planning and reproductive
health, and micro projects to rehabilitate health facilities with 25% community
The Social Investment Initiatives (SII) Program has worked to rehabilitate
economic and social infrastructure of communities. The program was successfully
completed in October 2002. Since its beginning in 2000 the SII project completed
152 community based projects ranging in value from $6,000 to $20,000.
The Integrated Community Development Program provides a multi-sectoral approach
that includes small and medium enterprise development, micro credit, health,
and infrastructure rehabilitation within clusters (groups of communities) in
the Southern and Central districts.
"Success for our projects doesn't simply mean the delivery of services,"
says Myriam Khoury. "In the last year and over the second phase of the
AHAP since 2000, we have worked to increase the potential for the sustainability
of our services and change community and organizational attitudes and habits
and give communities a common vision of what can be achieved when they rise
to meet their needs."
"For organizations involved with relief and development activities in
Azerbaijan, the last year was also remarkable for the growing collaboration
and partnership between the public and private sector in support of major development
programs'', said William Holbrook. "A Reflection of this new trend and
partnership was the First National Community Development Conference, which took
place in October 2002 and was sponsored by USAID and Exxon Azerbaijan Operating
Company, LLC, an ExxonMobil Subsidiary. The conference convened over 300 participants
to determine the effectiveness of existing community development approaches
and methodologies and the best strategy for positive, integrated future development
As to plans for 2003, William Holbrook said that "the USAID funded AHAP
Partnership will continue its programs focused on conflict affected people through
the availability of credit and business development services, support for the
further development of primary health services, and a commitment to provide
incentives for community mobilization through integrated community development
For more information please contact:
Ramil Maharramov - Public Information Officer at Mercy Corps Azerbaijan,
4 Magomayev Lane, 370004, Baku, Azerbaijan.
Tel: (994 12) 97 51 72;
Fax: (994 12) 97 76 65;
Web Site: www.mercycorps.az