Azerbaijan, an oil-rich country of more than 8 million people, gained independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. Despite recent economic gains, a large portion of the Azerbaijani population still lives in poverty, and while peace talks are underway, a long-term conflict with Armenia has displaced more than one million people, exacerbating gaps in access to health care.
Where health care is available, most doctors and nurses have limited information about contraceptives, and few have received training to provide family planning services or counseling about how to choose the best method. Thus, while the majority of Azerbaijani women aged 25 and older have achieved their desired family size and do not want more children, prior to EngenderHealth’s work only 14% of married couples used modern contraceptives, which are often perceived as unsafe and expensive. Like in many former Soviet republics, abortion is common in Azerbaijan.
To address the need for improved reproductive health care, from 2004-2010 EngenderHealth and Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Health launched several programs that reached out to health care providers and Azerbaijani women and men through the ACQUIRE Project. These projects succeeded in:
- Strengthening the reproductive health care system by introducing new policies, guidelines, and medical protocols, and developing a national strategy
- Improving the quality of services by training doctors, nurses, and pharmacists to provide family planning services, and improving patient counseling and infection prevention practices—now the majority of providers are compliant with national standards for service delivery
- Expanding the availability of affordable contraception by partnering with international pharmaceutical companies and local pharmacies, and enhancing supply channels
- Increasing community awareness of family planning by developing a network of peer educators and launching a nationwide TV campaign to promote various modern contraceptive methods
In districts where the project was implemented, the percentage of women age 15-49 using a modern method of contraception increased from 10% to 40.7%.
EngenderHealth/ACQUIRE also assisted the government in developing a national reproductive health strategy and clinical protocols to expand access to family planning for all Azerbaijanis.