While other children were learning to read and playing outside, six year old Ayan* was left behind. Blind in one eye, and visually impaired in the other, she urgently needed an operation to correct her vision. Yet when her mother took her to the hospital, the answer was always the same: pay US$1,200 or no treatment. Unable to afford the illegal fees, her mother had repeatedly contacted the Ministry of Health for assistance, but they had never responded.
“It’s a common problem in Azerbaijan”, says Kanan from our centre, “institutions are often reluctant to help people who don’t have money or powerful connections.”
Ayan’s mother heard about our centre from a neighbour who had attended an outreach event. She contacted us asking for help.
Working with her to write another letter to the ministry, we also submitted an application on her behalf. Seeing she was not alone, the ministry started to act. Officials contacted the family, saying they would send Ayan to hospital to operate on her blind eye. A year later, she underwent her second operation, successfully treating both eyes. Today, she can see without any difficulty.
“We want to make sure that all citizens – regardless of their position – get the treatment they deserve,” says Kanan. “We’re campaigning for better health funding to reduce the temptation to request bribes, and continuing our outreach events to help citizens understand and uphold their rights.”
* Name has been changed.