The city of Shamakhi lies in a mountainous region of Azerbaijan with many remote villages. The region has experienced multiple PHC challenges partly due to its remote location, including workforce constraints: 54% of physician positions in rural PHC facilities
are vacant. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated PHC equity and resilience challenges, including in women’s health.
Funds from the WHO SDG3 recovery challenge supported a collaborative project in Shamakhi led by the government with support from WHO and UNICEF. Three tranches of funding facilitated a PHC training fellowship for healthcare workers and students in Shamakhi,
as well as national PHC workforce development.
One project strand was women’s health. Azerbaijan has a disproportionately high maternal mortality rate in the WHO European Region with significant disparities between urban and rural areas. Dedicated safe spaces for women within PHC clinics have
allowed women to talk and learn about specific issues related to their health. Participating fellows praised the project and some have remained working in PHC in rural areas.
The project contributes to progress towards several SDG indicators and is integrated with the national PHC strengthening project known as PROACT-Care that is led by the government and WHO with collaboration from UNFPA and UNICEF and funded by international
partners including the Universal Health Coverage Partnership.
The PROACT-Care project initiated in 2020 with the aim to prevent excess mortality in the Shamakhi District, Azerbaijan. ©WHO/Azerbaijan Country Office