Azerbaijan’s Successful Combat with COVID-19

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Attention and care for people is a priority of the social policy of the Azerbaijani State

AZERI OBSERVER EDITORIAL STAFF

Like all countries around the world, the Azerbaijani state are fighting COVID-19, to ensure the health and security of Azerbaijanis. Luckily, Azerbaijan has chosen a very effective way of dealing with coronavirus and as a result, Azerbaijan has very low mortality rate from coronavirus compared to other countries and the epidemiological situation is largely under control. The Azerbaijani government has taken all necessary measures to protect the safety and social welfare of its citizens. Under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev and First Vice President, Mehriban Aliyeva, a plan of preventive measures has been developed and effectively implemented in the country. The Operational Headquarters established under the Cabinet of Ministers has identified the necessary decisions and requirements, and quarantine rules have been applied. During the pandemic, Azerbaijanis living both inside and outside the country were provided with the state’s support, calls were made for the solidarity of the people, and it was recommended to consider the seriousness of the situation.

Regarding the socio-economic difficulties resulting from COVID-19, the government had mobilised an economic package of almost 3 billion manats ($1.76 billion). President Ilham Aliyev donated his annual salary to the Corona virus Response Fund. In another Order, the head of state allocated 20 million manats from the President`s Contingency Fund to fight COVID-19. First lady, Mehriban Aliyeva also donated her annual salary to the Fund to Support Fight Against Coronavirus. The state provided a financial support as a lump-sum payment of 190 manats – 66.5 million manats in total to low-income people. All relevant steps were taken by the Azerbaijani state for the evacuation of compatriots who sought help to return back home. By the order of President Ilham Aliyev and first lady, Mehriban Aliyeva, the State Committee on Work with Diaspora used every possible means to provide educational, informational, financial & evacuation support to Azerbaijanis abroad. In accordance with the appeals and instructions of the country’s leadership, the State Committee on Work with Diaspora, like other government agencies, has taken appropriate steps to fulfil the tasks set by the state for the health and safety of Azerbaijani compatriots living abroad. Thanks to the professional teamwork, coordinating all aspects of the fight against the pandemic, from the very beginning the State Committee worked with a specially strengthened schedule, combining the necessary technical and human resources. Employees of the State Committee were provided with appropriate protective masks and disinfectants, a 24-hour working group and e-application opportunities were formed to communicate with nationals.

The instructions of President Ilham Aliyev and the First Vice-President, Mehriban Aliyeva, that the Azerbaijani people should not be ignored, and every Azerbaijani in need should be provided with possible assistance, were followed from the very first day. As noted in the appeal of the First Vice President, Mehriban Aliyeva: “All forces in our country are mobilized to prevent the worst developments. All government agencies have been mobilized and are working together. Based on the instructions and calls, the State Committee has been in close contact with the diplomatic missions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Operational Headquarters under the Cabinet of Ministers, since the very first days of the fight against the coronavirus. During this period, the activities of the Coordination Councils, Azerbaijani Houses and the Azerbaijani Diaspora in general were coordinated, the State Committee implemented various projects during the pandemic, worked with the press, Diaspora TV, Diaspora FM and the Fund for Support to Azerbaijani Diaspora.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Diaspora TV and Diaspora FM have intensified contacts with Azerbaijanis living abroad and those temporarily traveling abroad, who were unable to return to the country. Video materials and information on the newly created e-mail addresses in connection with the pandemic were broadcast in Azerbaijani, English, French and Russian. Azerbaijani nationals living abroad, shared their gratitude and appreciation with the state and government via social networks.

One of the projects implemented by the State Committee under COVID-19 is the E-Academy. The project organises virtual discussions of Azerbaijani scientists living in different countries with diaspora youth. At the same time, video discussions and lectures on various topics are held with the participation of professors and students of different universities of the country. During the COVID-19 lockdown, programs run by the State Committee were switched to online meetings. For example, the “Brain Gain” program. The purpose of this program is to strengthen the ties between scholars, experts and youth living in various countries with the Azerbaijani state, and to develop the sense of unity and solidarity between them. The leadership development program allows to study international experience in the field of leadership. The purpose of “We Are Different and We Are Strong Together Project” is to promote the multicultural and tolerant traditions of the country, to contribute to the strengthening of the position of Azerbaijanis in countries where they are living. Also, the State Committee has recently launched a new project – Chamomile Azerbaijani Diaspora Women’s network. The Azerbaijani Diaspora Women’s network allows Diaspora women to connect to Azerbaijani values, engage with Azerbaijan, take action, exchange valuable knowledge and experiences, learn from experts, foster unity and make important connections. The Azerbaijani Diaspora Youths’ “Young Professionals” project is also underway now. Although all the projects are currently running online, the State Committee is planning to continue implementation of the current projects offline as well in the future. So far, the total number of online meetings organised within the programs run by the State Committee, is reaching almost 100.

Special mention should be made, of the activities of the Azerbaijani Houses established on the initiative of the President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and First Vice-President of Azerbaijan, Mehriban Aliyeva. As always – and particularly during the coronavirus pandemic –  Azerbaijani Houses opened their doors to Azerbaijanis in the most difficult and sensitive moments and became a place of hope for them. Before emphasising the work done by the Azerbaijani Houses to support nationals, it should be noted that the successful operation of the Houses is of great socio-political importance, as well as a priority for the state. The Azerbaijan House in Warsaw, Poland, has provided 19 Azerbaijanis with temporary accommodation and food for three weeks. The head of the House of Azerbaijan in Barcelona has prepared a list of compatriots who required assistance. According to the relevant list, a total of 67 compatriots in need, received financial aid to cover their daily food expenses. The Azerbaijani House in Ankara, in turn, provided appropriate assistance to compatriots in need.

In accordance with the relevant instructions of the President, it was recommended to appeal to all Azerbaijanis to be more agile in the current situation and to support people in need as much as possible. The activities to support the people and their families were executed by 10 Azerbaijani houses operating in Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Austria, Georgia, Germany (Berlin and Cologne), Ukraine, the Kingdom of Spain and Estonia, as well as by 11 Coordination Councils, covering 25 countries and uniting 121 diaspora organisations. Every Azerbaijani living abroad, as well as their relatives in Azerbaijan has the opportunity to contact the Coordination Councils, Azerbaijani Houses and Karabakh schools at any time to receive all the necessary information they need. So far, all requests received through the State Committee’s e-mails have been responded to promptly.

The State Committee received a total of 6857 appeals from March 26 to July 1, 2020 through the Azerbaijani diaspora organisations operating abroad and the Coordination Councils of Azerbaijanis. At the same time, the State Committee on Work with Diaspora received more than 15,000 calls during this period, and telephone calls were answered immediately. The appeals were directed to the relevant government agencies and information support was provided to compatriots in Russia, Turkey, Lithuania, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, Germany, etc. A total of 1,578 Azerbaijanis that appealed to the State Committee were evacuated with the support of authorities of the countries where they resided, such as: Poland, Russia, USA, Turkey, Italy, France and China.

It should be noted that swift and measured decisions were taken by the Azerbaijani government to eliminate and localise the threat of coronavirus, as in all areas, including evacuation. It has been proved once again that Azerbaijani citizens and their health and safety are paramount for the state. The fact that the heads of relevant government agencies, including the chairman of the State Committee on Work with Diaspora, were sent to the Azerbaijani-Russian border on April 19, 2020 to meet some of the evacuees (570 people) by the order of President Ilham Aliyev, demonstrates a clear example of responsibility.  

The State Committee on Work with Diaspora operated in cooperation with Azerbaijani diaspora organisations in different countries to strengthen ties with Azerbaijani compatriots during the pandemic, to study the problems and overcome the difficulties created by the pandemic, to provide moral support to the nationals in the current social isolation, as well as to strengthen the unity and solidarity. The State Committee regularly hosted video conferences with leaders and members of diaspora organisations operating in different countries, to exchange views on the activities of the Azerbaijani diaspora during the quarantine and post-pandemic periods, and make proposals. The main topics of the conferences were “The current situation of Azerbaijanis in a pandemic”, “Support to Azerbaijanis in facing the challenges associated with COVID-19”, “Problems caused by the pandemic and ways to overcome them”, “Diaspora activities in the post-pandemic period”, etc. Until July 12, 2020, more than 200 video conferences were organized with the participation of more than 1000 compatriots from about 40 countries. It should be noted that video conferences are expected to continue in the post-pandemic period.

Azerbaijanis living in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, are responding to President Ilham Aliyev’s call “We are strong together” and thanked the leader of the country, for always keeping the situation of Azerbaijanis in these countries in the spotlight. It was emphasised that, as a result of financial support provided by the Azerbaijani state, food aid was provided to more than 1,000 families from vulnerable groups including Azerbaijani minorities in Georgia’s Marneuli, Bolnisi, Dmanisi, Gardabani, Sagarejo, Lagodekhi, Telavi districts and the city of Rustavi.

A support campaign was held for Azerbaijanis living abroad and facing temporary difficulties, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Within the framework of this campaign and with the support of Azerbaijani Diaspora, the low-income families in Igdir, Turkey and Moscow, Russia were provided with food, legal and financial assistance and medical supplies.

The Integration Centre of Georgian Azerbaijanis ICGA, has provided assistance to low-income and large families, as well as the elderly living in social isolation during the quarantine. The organisation provided food assistance to 1,013 Azerbaijani families living in eight regions of Georgia, as well as in Tbilisi.

The Fund for Support to Azerbaijani Diaspora, established under the State Committee has also implemented a number of projects helping Azerbaijanis living abroad, to effectively organise their leisure time during the quarantine regime in the world. In order to preserve and promote Azerbaijani national musical heritage, to introduce the many talented musicians, the Foundation has organised a series of concert programs. In general, Azerbaijani musicians living in Austria, Turkey, the United States, Canada, France, the Sultanate of Oman and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, performed live concerts entitled “We are strong together.” The Foundation has implemented the Virtual Intellectual Game project. The purpose of the project was to stimulate intellectual development, as well as to strengthen networking among citizens living in different parts of the world.

The State Committee truly believes, that significant and responsible decisions will be successfully implemented during the fight against coronavirus and the post-pandemic period.