Mental Health in ArmeniaHundreds of thousands of civilians fled in search of safety when violence broke out in Nagorno-Karabakh on Sept. 27, 2020. Following these first violent clashes, organizations stepped up to provide humanitarian assistance for displaced civilians arriving in the capital Yerevan. The extensive damage to infrastructure and disruption of daily life, coupled with a harsh winter climate and COVID-19, will require help from the international aid community for many months to come. One area that this incoming aid will go to is mental health education and support. In 2019, the World Health Organization reported that one in five people in conflict-affected areas lives with a mental health issue. The longer a person lives with acute stress, anxiety or other mental health challenges, the more difficult it is for them to successfully secure basic needs. Aid groups are addressing the issue of mental health in Armenia with various programs.

Mental Health Support for Armenia

The Armenian Red Cross Society is providing humanitarian assistance to help people with basic necessities. This includes psychosocial support for returning soldiers and civilians. As of late December 2020, it had provided around 1,000 psychological services to wounded soldiers and their families.

The International Medical Corps, another emergency aid response group, is working with the Armenian Ministry of Health to assess current needs. In October 2020, the organization expressed its plans to provide training in psychological first aid for frontline healthcare workers. The organization will also provide mental health and psychosocial assistance to people who need it.

UNICEF Addresses Child Trauma

The UNICEF Armenia team and a local arts and music school called the Nexus Center for the Arts offer art and music-based support groups. These support groups give children and teenagers a chance to express themselves without having to talk. UNICEF reported testimonials of students who upon arriving were too afraid to open up but after participating in the support groups felt ready to talk about the trauma they had experienced. The groups also give students a chance to hang out, decompress and enjoy music in a comfortable and safe environment.

To help school teachers, UNICEF partnered with several civil society organizations to teach them how to address trauma in the classroom. UNICEF offered virtual lessons on trauma-informed teaching. The lessons gave 150 school psychologists and 900 public school teachers the skills to work in high-pressure situations and strategies to provide better psychological support to their students.

UNICEF Armenia also put together a psychological first aid guide. This guide has clear and concise information on how to respond to children in a mental health crisis. It emphasizes the importance of responding to children in an age-appropriate and individualized way.

The Increased Need for Mental Health Support in Armenia

Mental health in Armenia, especially following the conflict, is an issue that requires prioritization. The conflict and displacements have left 39,000 children out of school. The trauma caused by displacement has affected children in multiple ways. Ensuring the well-being of these children is a top priority for UNICEF and other organizations addressing mental health in Armenia. The hope is that these initiatives will combat the negative impacts of traumatic experiences in conflict-ridden areas like Nagorno-Karabakh.

Caitlin Harjes
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid in Nagorno-KarabakhNagorno-Karabakh is a region in the country Azerbaijan and is home to an Armenian majority. While the region is within Azerbaijan’s borders, Armenia has claimed the region for itself. The first intense conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region was in 1988 when the Soviet Union was nearing the end of its existence. Recently, conflict in the region began again in late September 2020 and lasted for about a  month until a ceasefire was brokered by Russia. Additional ceasefires were brought into fruition by France with the help of Russia and the United States. Despite the ceasefires, the conflict in the region is continuing. The fighting in the region has drastically impacted the civilian population of the region. This has in turn created a strong need for humanitarian aid in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The European Union Assists

The European Union (EU) is actively providing aid to the civilian populace affected by the conflict and has done so since early October 2020. The initial amount of aid provided by the EU was €900,000. Then, in November, the EU commissioned an additional €3 million to the civilians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. According to the EU, this humanitarian aid will provide the necessary assistance that humanitarian organizations partnered with the EU need to carry out their duties. This includes providing food, winter clothing and medical assistance.

The United States’ Aid

The United States is also providing its share of financial assistance. In total, the United States has provided around $10 million in humanitarian assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan since the 2019 fiscal year. Of the $10 million, $5 million has been allocated to the International Committee of the Red Cross and similar humanitarian organizations to help civilians caught in the crossfire of the conflict. Assistance coming from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will also be used for humanitarian aid in Nagorno-Karabakh. The support these two institutions will be providing will come in the form of food, shelter and medical support for the people impacted by the conflict.

People in Need

There are also NGOs that have provided humanitarian aid in Nagorno-Karabakh as well. One organization, People in Need, has done just this. People in Need is an organization dedicated to providing immediate aid to countries should a natural disaster or war take place.

People in Need has provided support, not to Nagorno-Karabakh, but to the city of Goris in Armenia. People in Need directed its humanitarian aid to this Armenian city because many of the displaced civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh have gone there for refuge. The displaced people either move on or stay in the city. People in Need have been able to provide hygienic supplies to 1,200 displaced families in Goris. Additionally, People in Need have provided 480 children, 600 women and 110 seniors with their own individual hygienic kits. People in Need have also taken into consideration the psychosocial needs of children impacted by the conflict. To help these children, People in Need opened a child-friendly space in the city library where children can engage with other children and partake in other activities.

While the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh continues, international institutions, individual countries and humanitarian organizations are trying to provide all the support possible to help the civilians impacted by the conflict.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Elderly poverty in Armenia
Armenia is not a country at peace. For the past three decades, tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan have increased. As the border dispute turned deadly in September 2020, rumors emerged of potential involvement from outsider countries, such as Turkey and Russia. However, the country struggles with a concurrent problem. Elderly poverty in Armenia is a stifling issue in the country, which needs just as much attention.

The Current Crisis

In addition to a looming war, Armenians have suffered a vast diaspora. More Armenians live outside Armenia than inside the country. Armenians who live outside the country total anywhere from double to quadruple the number of those living within Armenia. The older generation is the main group still residing within the border. One reason is that older groups have fewer professional opportunities outside of Armenia, so they often stay put. This affects a large portion of society. Over a quarter of Armenia’s population is over 54, one half of this demographic is over 65 years old.

The global recession of 2008 led to increased poverty rates across all demographics in Armenia. At that time, the rate of extreme poverty among Armenians above the age of 65 was 2.0%, and the rate of non-extreme poverty for this group was 29.5%. By 2017, the rate of extreme and non-extreme poverty had fallen, for Armenians over 65, but either increased or remained the same for Armenians between the ages of 50 and 59.

All of these crises leave the elderly in Armenia underserved. However, there are organizations fighting on behalf of this group.

Armenian Caritas

Armenian Caritas, a community-based NGO, operates in Shirak, Lori, Gegharkunik, Ararat, and Yerevan. Over a third of its staff are volunteers, and the organization’s goal is to provide “social inclusion and care of the elderly.”

Armenian Caritas uses a comprehensive method to address elderly poverty in Armenia. Since 1995, the NGO has taken a long-term approach to anticipate the needs of its clientele. Thus, it recognizes that by 2050, a quarter of Armenia’s total population may be between the ages of 60 and 64.

Armenian Caritas focuses on providing “rehabilitative items,” like crutches and moving toilets, to elderly patients. Similarly, they offer psychological and physical health care to patients with chronic diseases. These tactics are part of a larger strategy of social inclusion.

Elderly Armenians represent a large and growing percentage of Armenia’s domestic population. As such, Armenian Caritas works to ensure that elderly Armenians are never marginalized. The organization shares its methodology of elderly care with Armenian medical colleges and institutions. In this way, elderly care is woven into an Armenian practice — the tradition of caring for its vulnerable and aging populations.

An End to Elderly Poverty

A solution to the border skirmish between Armenia and Azerbaijan will hopefully be resolved through international mediation and earnest peace talks between the belligerents. Since the economy is still recovering and has continued to focus on growth, the government must address the diaspora by providing opportunities to draw the younger generations back to the country. In the midst of all of that, the country must not forget about older Armenians. There is hope for an end to elderly poverty in Armenia. However, it needs concerted, sustained efforts to address it.

Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Nagorno-Karabakh
The news has spotlighted the region of Nagorno-Karabakh once again as conflict has erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Nagorno Karabakh is a landlocked territory in the South Caucasus in Eurasia between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Some also know it as Artsakh, the (unrecognized) Republic of Artsakh or the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. Additionally, not everyone views it as a country. For example, Azerbaijan does not recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state and claims the region is Azeri territory. Here is some information about poverty in Nagorno-Karabakh and its challenges to date.

The Conflict

One can trace the roots of the current conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan back to before the formation of the Soviet Union. However, tensions resurfaced in the late 1980s and early 1990s after the Soviet Union’s collapse. Prior to this, the Soviet Union had established the region of Nagorno-Karabakh as within Azerbaijan. Around 95% of Artsakh’s population is Armenian and has been resistant to Azeri rule and continues to receive support and backing from Armenia. In 1992, a full-scale war called the Nagorno-Karabakh war broke out, which killed around 30,000 people and displaced a million. Eventually, Russia brokered a cease-fire between the two countries, and by 1994, Armenia had established some amount of control in Artsakh, though it still had international recognition as a part of Azerbaijan. In 2016, skirmishes reemerged and several soldiers lost their lives in an exchange of artillery fire.

Shelling and combat broke out along the outskirts of Azerbaijan and Armenia in late September 2020. Disputes have occurred over who started the hostilities as both parties insist the other was responsible. The violence that ensued has already claimed the lives of more than 200 people, both civilians and soldiers.

Poverty in Nagorno-Karabakh

The National Review on Implementation of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) in the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh Republic) reported the following statistics as of 2019:

  • About 21.6% of the population lives under the national poverty line of $2.40 USD a day out of which over 6.1% live under the national extreme poverty line of $1.60 USD a day.
  • Nagorno-Karabakh has a low preschool enrollment and a high school dropout rate.
  • There is a lack of access to sanitation and waste disposal in rural areas.
  • About 22% of the employed population is still poor.
  • There is a high rate of non-communicable diseases and cardiovascular diseases were the cause of 67.4% of deaths in 2018.
  • Poverty levels are higher in regions that refugees inhabit.

There are also positive statistics that have showcased Artsakh’s progress towards achieving the SDGs:

  •  All citizens of Artsakh have some level of education with around 30% having higher education.
  • More than 90% of households have access to safely managed drinking water services.
  • About 97.1% of the population has access to reliable energy.
  • The average economic growth rate in the last decade was 10.2% annually.
  • About 81.7% of the population lives in their own houses.

Internally Displaced People and the Economies of Azerbaijan and Armenia

The wars in the region have no doubt played a hand in the quality of life of the locals. The conflict has created thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons. As of 2017, more than a quarter of Artsakh’s population are refugees and IDPs. Displaced people are especially vulnerable as they lack protection from international organizations and, when living in conflict areas, may not have access to humanitarian aid and support. Many of these refugees and IDPs are Armenians who fled Azerbaijan in the 80s and 90s during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Others have experienced displacement because of subsequent conflict in the region. The current flare-up is likely to increase their numbers.

The Nagorno-Karabakh war, which ended in 1994, also took a toll on the economies of Armenia and Azerbaijan. The United Nations assessed at least $53.5 billion in economic damage. Despite this, Azerbaijan was able to recover and achieve a high GDP growth due to its oil resources and trade. In Armenia, however, poverty increased to 55% in 1996, and its economy was vulnerable and unstable. The disparity between Armenia and Azerbaijan’s economies shifted power in the region and made Azerbaijan a more militarily powerful country.

The Future of the Region

Resolving the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Artsakh will go a long way to alleviating poverty in Nagorno-Karabakh and ensuring a safer and more secure livelihood for the locals. A potential war makes the future of civilians in Artsakh uncertain. However, mediation efforts seem more plausible and many local organizations are working to provide them with humanitarian relief and financial support. The Armenian General Benevolent Union (ABGU) and the Hayastan All Armenian Fund have launched a global emergency fundraising campaign for Artsakh. The Armenia Fund has also been providing ongoing assistance to the people of Nagorno-Karabakh through infrastructure development and humanitarian aid.

Most of the nonprofit work occurring in Artsakh has involved relief work and humanitarian aid due to the fact that it is a conflict-prone zone and home to many refugees. However, this is changing. In January 2020, World Vision Armenia and the My Step Foundation began working together with vulnerable families in the Republic of Artsakh living in poverty. This is an extension of work that World Vision Armenia had already been conducting in Armenia where it helped families improve their socio-economic condition through life-skills training and coaching from professionals, mentorship and monetary support in order to be more self-reliant.

Months of this social work proved to have positive effects as 48% of the families they worked with were able to overcome extreme poverty and there was a noticeable improvement in the quality of life for 82% of the families. The organizations are hopeful that their partnership will yield similar successful results in Artsakh where its priority is child well-being. The recent conflict has only made the implementation of this program more urgent and has the potential to give many families hope for the future and reducing poverty in Nagorno-Karabakh.

– Manika Ajmani
Photo: Flickr

homelessness in armenia
Though there is little data on homelessness in Armenia, existing research indicates that it is a serious problem affecting many Armenians. Homelessness is apparent across the country, especially in the capital city of Yerevan. However, more research is necessary to fully understand the gravity of homelessness in Armenia and how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted it. Here are five facts about homelessness in Armenia.

5 Facts About Homelessness in Armenia

  1. There is no official data on homelessness in Armenia. In 2014, Hetq Online published an article estimating that 1,000 people are homeless in Yerevan. Homelessness does exist elsewhere in Armenia, but a lack of data on the topic implies that the issue is not getting the attention it needs. In light of the worldwide economic challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, it seems likely that the problem has gotten worse since Hetq’s report in 2014.
  2. There is only one homeless shelter in Armenia. The shelter, called the Hans Christian Kofoed homeless shelter, has a capacity of approximately 100 people. When compared to the estimated number of those homeless in Armenia, it is clear that a single shelter is not meeting the country’s needs. Though the work of the Hans Christian Kofoed shelter is helpful, it is only able to house 10% of the Yerevan homeless population on any given night.
  3. Demands on the shelter fluctuate by season. An Armenian news outlet called Panorama.am reported that the demand for the shelter rises each September as homeless people seek protection from colder weather. The publication also explained that the homeless population has been increasing in recent years as a result of “poor social conditions and low wages of the people.” In light of the COVID-19 crisis and ongoing conflict at the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, it is particularly important to monitor the growing rate of homelessness more closely.
  4. The Armenian government has no system for counting homeless persons. When the USSR broke down in 1991, Armenia gave up the registration system that previously helped it keep track of housed versus homeless individuals. This means there is no official way to know how many Armenians have no formal residence. As a result, homelessness in Armenia is largely undocumented.
  5. There are many factors that contribute to homelessness in Armenia. These factors include the fall of the USSR, the 1988 earthquake, an influx of refugees and landslides. From natural destruction to refugee crises, the issues causing homelessness in Armenia are important to recognize.

Solutions

There are several organizations working to combat homelessness in Armenia. The Armenian Relief and Development Association has worked to create temporary shelters for homeless families and individuals. Similarly, the Armenia Fund’s Gyumri Housing Project works to secure housing for families in Gyumri, Armenia’s second-largest city. The project works to purchase and furnish apartments and give them to families experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity.

Those who are homeless in Armenia suffer from a lack of shelters and other forms of relief, but they also suffer from invisibility. Uncounted and under-researched, they are largely unseen by the international community. Relief organizations provide crucial support, but more is necessary to make the suffering of Armenia’s homeless quantifiable and visible. What the world cannot see, count and understand, it cannot fix.

– Sophia Gardner
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About the Armenian Genocide
On Oct. 29, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to acknowledge the Armenian genocide that occurred at the hands of the Ottoman Turks during the First World War. Armenian-Americans have long-awaited this action, which was taken at a time of worsening U.S. and Turkey relations. The Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, lauded the motion on Twitter and called it “a bold step towards serving truth and historical justice.” Here are 10 facts about the Armenian genocide to further contextualize this important decision.

10 Facts About the Armenian Genocide

  1. The Armenian genocide refers to the systematic, premeditated massacre and forced deportation of more than one million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire. While the number of victims of the genocide is disputed, some estimates, such as one from the U.S. Congress, puts the number of Armenians killed by the Ottoman Empire at 1.5 million Armenians between 1915-1923. The genocide was an attempt by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire to eradicate the Armenian people.
  2. Prior to the twentieth century, the Armenian people had resided in the Caucasus region for approximately 3,000 years. The Armenians are predominantly Christian and in the fourth century A.D., the kingdom of Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion. In the 1400s, that empire was that of the Ottomans. Led by Muslim Turks, the Ottoman Empire was suspicious of the Armenians who they feared would be more loyal to Christian governments. Nevertheless, the Armenians thrived under the empire until its decline, beginning in the late 1800s. Ottoman discrimination towards the Armenians reached a new high as the empire grew weaker. By the 1890s, the regime was already committing mass atrocities, including the killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians.
  3. In 1908, the Young Turks, a nationalistic reformist group, overthrew the Sultan and formed a constitutional government. The Young Turks wanted to “Turkify” the empire and viewed the Christian non-Turks of Armenia as a threat to their regime. Indeed, when the Ottoman Empire entered the First World War on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary, the Turks declared war on all Christians with the exception of their allies in the war. World War I was the immediate backdrop of the Armenian genocide. The Turks used it as justification for their persecution of the Armenians, whom the Turks called traitors. As the war dragged on and some Armenians sought to aid the Russian army against the Ottomans, the Turkish regime set out to remove Armenians from their Eastern front.
  4. Historians consider the beginning of the genocide to be April 24, 1915. On this day, the Turks arrested and killed between 50 and more than 100 of Armenian intellectuals. After that, the Turkish government sent thousands of people on death marches and deprived them of basic needs, such as food and water. Often, Armenians were forced to walk naked until they died. The government had other gruesome ways to kill Armenians, including burning people alive.
  5. Most of the killings occurred between 1915-1916, during which period the Ottoman Empire systematically slaughtered and terrorized Armenians by raping, starving, shooting, drowning and maiming them. Many Armenians died from disease or were subjected to mass deportations as well. Even after World War I, the Turkish nationalist government continued its persecution of Armenians and other ethnic minorities in Cilicia, Smyrna (Izmir) and the Armenian highlands. The nationalist regime confiscated property from Armenians in order “to finance the ‘Turkification’ of Anatolia” and to incentivize ordinary Ottoman citizens to take part in the ethnic cleansing campaign.
  6. Ottoman forces sought to rid of the region of Armenian landmarks such as churches, homes and other cultural sites by destroying or confiscating the properties. According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, “tens of thousands of Armenian children were forcibly removed from their families and converted to Islam” because the Ottoman government wanted them to assimilate into Turkish society. In some cases, children could convert to Islam in exchange for staying alive. In addition to the Armenians, the Ottoman government targeted non-Turkic minorities, namely Yezidis, Assyrians and Greeks.
  7. Turkey refuses to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, though the Turkish government acknowledges that some atrocities happened. However, the government argues that the killings of the Armenians were not systematic or premeditated and were an unavoidable consequence of the war. Recognition of the Armenian genocide is illegal in Turkey, as it is considered to be “insulting Turkishness.”
  8. Recognition of the genocide by the U.S. is controversial because of the United States’ alliance with Turkey. For the first time in decades, the entire U.S. House of Representatives considered and decided to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. At the time of the ethnic cleansing and since then, the U.S. has condemned the Turks’ genocidal activities on various occasions. U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire (1913-1916), Henry Morgenthau, declared the Ottoman’s actions as a “campaign of race extermination” and organized protests by officials against the Ottomans. The U.S. government officially recognized the genocide in May 1951, April 1981, 1975 and in 1984.
  9. The Armenian genocide still has consequences to this day. There are 7-10 million people in the Armenian diaspora, and 3 million people in Armenia, who are descendants of the genocide. The genocide is, for some, core to Armenia’s identity. Yet others would like for Armenia to move and focus on problems in their own country. Turkey’s refusal to recognize the genocide affects its politics today and its relations to Armenia. However, there are groups (including liberal intellectuals and Kurdish groups) in Turkey that have acknowledged and apologized for the genocide.
  10. Denial of the genocide has far-reaching implications. Turkey’s denial of the genocide has hindered peace between Turkey and Armenia. This denial undermines the commitment to preventing future genocides and atrocities. The institutionalized denial shields the perpetrators of the genocide from blame. The U.S. has refused to acknowledge the genocide as such, under the argument that doing so would threaten regional security and U.S. interests in the Middle East. Turkey’s genocide denial has perpetuated the distrust and resentment Armenians have towards the Turks, as well as anxiety Armenians have that they are still under threat.

H. Res. 296: Affirming the United States Record on the Armenian Genocide

The House of Representatives recently passed a resolution acknowledging the genocide. This action is significant, as the previous U.S. attempts to recognize the genocide have resulted in renewed bilateral talks between Turkey and Armenia. Another positive effect of the United States’ recognition of the genocide is that it is front-page news across Turkey. Thus, recognition of the Armenian genocide brings greater awareness to it, especially to Turks who never knew it occurred since the history of the mass killings was omitted from school books.

On April 8, 2019, Representative Adam Schiff [D-CA-28] introduced H.Res. 296 which had 141 cosponsors, including 120 Democrats and 21 Republicans. The House passed the resolution on Oct. 29, 2019, by a margin of 405 to 11. In the weeks leading up to the vote, Turkey outraged members of Congress by its ground offensive against the Syrian Kurds and U.S./Turkey relations have continued to sour since then.

On Dec. 12, 2019, the Senate unanimously voted to affirm the Armenian genocide, despite the Trump administration’s objections.

The Armenian genocide was a horrific tragedy that led to the deaths of one and a half million people, yet many people still deny the reality of the genocide for political reasons. As these 10 facts about the Armenian genocide prove, the mass ethnic cleansing did happen, and its effects are felt to this day.

– Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Armenia

The Armenian Relief and Development Association (ARDA) focuses on one mission: to help impoverished Armenians. ARDA has helped Armenians in many aspects, including the building and restoration of medical clinics and schools. The organization has also created and provided resources for educational programs, widow and orphan programs and feeding programs.

However, its biggest project revolves around reducing homelessness in Armenia. Many apartment buildings were damaged during the 1988 earthquake, and there were not enough resources for rebuilding and restoration, which left thousands of Armenians without a home.

“According to the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe, of the approximately 800,000 families living in Armenia, about 40,000 are without permanent shelter.” Their solution was to use metal shipping containers as what was supposed to be a temporary shelter. However, this “temporary shelter” has been their home for over three decades. These “homes” are basically just protection against the elements, as they do not have a bathroom or a kitchen. Also, temperatures within the containers reach below the freezing point during the winter and are extremely hot during the summer. Thousands have died within the confines of these “homes.”

ARDA knew it had to find a solution to this on-going problem. The solution came in four phases and utilized a simple building material: polystyrene foam (more popularly known as Styrofoam).

The Four-Phase Project

In 2007, ARDA, together with the Armenian Center for International Development, sent faculty and students from Point Loma Nazarene University to northern Armenia to execute their four-phase plan.

The first phase involves the building of homes using inexpensive yet sturdy materials including polystyrene molds. The molds, which are hollow, “interconnect like Legos to make the exterior walls of the home.” Once the foundation is put into place, rebar for stability and wiring for electrical outlets are put into the molds, after which the cement is poured in. Each mold is 16 inches tall and eight inches wide. These molds result in much more energy-efficient homes, as they require 44 percent less energy for heating and 32 percent less for cooling.

After phase one is complete, the next step involves some research: trying to find a local manufacturer that can create these molds cheaply. “Each of the structures built during the trip cost an estimated $20,000. That doesn’t include labor, land, and extra materials, which were mostly donated.” Being able to acquire these materials at a reasonable rate is an important step in the continued building of these houses and reduction in homelessness in Armenia.

Once a manufacturer is procured, ARDA moves onto phase three, which results in more long-term benefits. This phase focuses on the creation of a business model that sustains production and creates jobs in the area. This is accomplished by building a Trade and Technology Center on the same site as the homes. Steve Lazarian, director of ARDA at the time said: “the center would provide education and training for the local community in various trades, including home construction.” These skills, which are essential to becoming self-sufficient, will assist Armenians in the transition out of temporary shelters and into permanent homes.

The success of the first three phases of the project will gauge whether the fourth phase is necessary. If they are successful, phase four will be the implementation of the project in other poverty-stricken countries worldwide.

Benefits of Polystyrene Foam

Using this technique, a new home could be built in about one month. This is much shorter than the six to 12 months it takes when using traditional building methods. Also, the polystyrene blocks are mold and earthquake resistant. This is an important factor in a country that is still reeling from the aftermath of a devastating earthquake.

Other Important Projects

ARDA’s Angel Home Health program provides social services to fifty families. Of those fifty families, sixty-five percent graduate out of the program, acquiring the skills they need in order to take care of themselves.

Patrick Hovsepian, Operations Manager of ARDA, spoke of a woman named Eliza who approached ARDA for help after her husband passed away at a young age. She was left homeless and was unable to care for their baby. ARDA gave her a job as a Teacher’s Aide in their preschool. Through hard work and determination, Eliza eventually became the director of that same preschool.

What’s in Store for the Future?

Though the polystyrene blocks have proven to be an exemplary building component, ARDA is already looking for better materials, with hopes of building houses at an even faster rate. According to Hovsepian, ARDA is working toward securing an architect and building a 3-D printing factory in Armenia. With this new technology, houses can be built within one week, which will not only provide homes, reducing homelessness in Armenia, but it will also create thousands of jobs.

What do Potential Donors Need to Know?

When asked what people might not be aware of regarding the living conditions in Armenia, Hovsepian stated, “People don’t seem to understand just how impoverished these cities are. These people look just like us, but they’re living in devastating situations.” He also mentioned that many people think their small donations might not make a big difference. “A little bit here is a lot over there. It only costs $360 a year to sponsor a child, which helps pay for food, clothes, and education for an entire year.”

ARDA has been helping the poverty-stricken communities of Armenia for decades but its work is nowhere near completion. Armenians who have been living in containers that were not meant for habitation will soon be able to live in actual houses, complete with plumbing and heating, improving the situation of homelessness in Armenia. With ARDA’s help, there is hope that Armenians will emerge from poverty and become self-sustaining.

– Sareen Mekhitarian
Photo: Flickr

Water management in Armenia

With 25.7 percent of the population living below the poverty line, the people of Armenia consider water a luxury. Armenians face daily water shortages and unclean water supply in their homes. Despite this, several groups are working together to improve water management in Armenia. Maintaining a stable supply of water is an important step in lowering poverty and improving the lives of citizens.

3 Efforts to Improve Water Management in Armenia

  1. Relief to Yerevan: The World Bank sponsored a $50 million project to make water more accessible to Armenians living in the capital city, Yerevan. Before the intervention, families would have access to water in their homes for approximately six hours per day, and the water was usually unclean. Now, 332,000 families in the capital have access to water for 21 hours per day, and thanks to nine new chlorination stations, the water is cleaner and safer. The World Bank also recognized the need to monitor the water supply to prevent waste, so they introduced a software program that oversees the entire network of pipes and water mains. The program makes it possible to pinpoint areas within the network that need renovation or attention to maintain a stable supply of water. This program could help thousands of Armenians if it were implemented in other cities, but so far, it has brought a sense of security and relief to Yerevan.
  2. Wastewater Treatment Methods: Before 2010, the wastewater treatment system allowed unsanitary water to contaminate agricultural lands, causing a jeopardized food supply and an increased risk of disease. In the village of Parakar, Global Water Partnership’s Armenia branch stepped in to reform the wastewater treatment methods. They chose a cost-effective technology that treats domestic wastewater so that it can be later used for irrigation purposes and vice versa. This allows water to be recycled and reused, promoting a message of sustainability. The treatment program also focused on public awareness of the new treatment technology, involving the community in the process which facilitated the plan’s success.
  3. Water Within Reach: Armenians used to have to travel very far to get potable water. Some families were forced to drive over an hour to get to the public tap, spending a large portion of their income on the expenses associated with this travel. The Asian Development Bank launched a project that aimed to reduce the cost of obtaining water by making it clean and available within people’s own homes, benefitting more than 600,000 people across the country. Having access to water in the home for at least 17 hours per day now costs $12 per month – significantly less than what it previously cost to make the drive to the public tap. This initiative marginally contributes to the decrease in poverty among Armenian families, and it improves the quality of their lives significantly.

The World Bank, the Global Water Partnership and the Asian Development Bank have changed lives because of their work to improve water management in Armenia. This is a small but mighty step towards decreasing poverty in Armenia.

– Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Armenia

Armenia, a country nestled in the mountainous region between Asia and Europe, has faced many devastating blows in its colorful past and is, unfortunately, still dealing with the aftermath. Ever since the election of Nikol Pashinyan as Prime Minister in 2018, the country of Armenia has experienced an exorbitant amount of welcome change. However, recovering from years of corruption is not something that can happen overnight or at the hand of just one man.

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Armenia

  1. Riddled with dilapidated buildings, Armenia is still recovering from a 1988 earthquake. More than 30 years have passed, and the 517,000 people left homeless have had to live in dorms or single rooms. Many buildings do not have heating or cooling systems, so residents rely on burning wood as their source of heat. Over 50 percent of apartment buildings are due for renovations that will make them more earthquake resistant and energy efficient. Since 2015, Habitat for Humanity has provided housing to 4,323 families who would otherwise be homeless or living in broken-down buildings.
  2. Though there is a vast supply of natural water due to Armenia’s location in a mountainous region, the country has not yet achieved unlimited access to tap water, though about 99 percent of the population now have running water for twenty-one hours a day (formerly it was six hours). Companies like Veolia, which also deals with Armenia’s wastewater treatment, are responsible for the improvements in water accessibility and cleanliness.
  3. Attempts to improve health care brought about the Basic Benefits Package, which Armenia introduced in 1999. Under this package, Armenians are supposed to have access to state-funded health care services. However, the state pays out so little that patients end up having to pay out-of-pocket for services. Due to lack of funding, many people rely on home remedies or wait to see if symptoms pass before seeking out a medical professional.
  4. Educating the population about the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases has also become a priority. In 2004, the Center of Dermatology and Sexually Transmitted Infections, along with IntraHealth International, taught a course about the management of STIs for obstetrician-gynecologists and STI specialists. Since 2010, new HIV infections have decreased by 31 percent.
  5. Students have access to free schooling. While instruction is mainly in Armenian, schools teach English as a second language. The main public universities are Yerevan State University and the Yerevan Architecture and Civil Engineering Institute, whereas the American University of Armenia is a private university.
  6. Services for students with special needs are limited, so UNICEF is working to provide an inclusive early childhood education to all children, making sure to train school staff to accommodate those with special needs.
  7. The average monthly salary is 55,000 Dram, which is roughly $115 USD. In March 2018, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of Armenia was drafting a new labor law to allow for open communication between employees and employers to discuss working conditions and overtime hours. The new law would also encourage the involvement of trade unions in negotiations.
  8. Armenia is one of many countries who participate in compulsory military service. Armenia drafts Armenian men to the army for two years when they turn 18. However, those pursuing higher education may defer their service until obtaining their Bachelor’s degree, at which point the government would require them to serve for three years. Many students complain that the required military service interrupts their education, making it difficult to return to school after this mandatory hiatus.
  9. Most Armenians welcomed Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan with open arms because he made them feel hopeful about their future. After his election, he pled with his people to join him in protecting their country, “We’re waiting for everybody! This is a new Armenia, where we do not shy away from military service, from where we do not emigrate, where we return – to incur their share of duty and duty for the sake of the future of Armenia.” Because of the trust they had placed in him, 320 citizens returned to serve in the army, 156 of which had previously evaded service.
  10. Upon election, Pashinyan called for the arrest of many corrupt government officials and filled the open positions with members who intend to drive Armenia forward. In addition, the government audited several businesses that had been working closely with the previous Republican Party.

With its history of corruption, Armenia was struggling to thrive in its war against poverty. Bearing in mind that it has only been a year since Pashinyan’s election, one cannot expect instantaneous improvements. However, these 10 facts about living conditions in Armenia point to positive changes in the future of its people.

– Sareen Mekhitarian
Photo: Flickr

nonprofits in ArmeniaSince Armenia has only been an independent country for less than 30 years, its economy has been slow-building. As of 2017, Armenia has a 29.8 percent poverty rate. The landscape of nonprofits in Armenia is a good example of how diverse strategies can contribute to the reduction of poverty. Here are the top five nonprofits in Armenia.

Top 5 Nonprofits in Armenia

  1. AGBU
    • What they do: The Armenian General Benevolent Union works to promote Armenian heritage around the world.
    • Who they serve: AGBU serves all Armenians by bringing attention to the country for its unique culture. At the same time, AGBU fundraises for causes, like Artsakh. Moreover, AGBU organizes women empowerment programs, work to improve medical care and support local farmers.
    • For more information, read about AGBU here.
  2. Eevah
    • What they do: Eevah aims to feed 33,000 hungry children around the world by 2020. The sale of handmade jewelry funds Eevah’s presence in Armenia. By combining creativity, fashion and charity, Eevah exemplifies how to utilize local talent to enact change.
    • Who they serve: Eevah serves children suffering from hunger around the world.
    • For more information, read about Eevah here.
  3. World Vision
    • What they do: World Vision identifies and eradicates root causes of poverty to benefit the lives of children across. To do so, World Vision empowers communities to become self-sufficient and sustainable.
    • Who they serve: To date, World Vision has helped over 200 million children in poverty. In Armenia, they focus on ensuring children live happy childhoods through programs enriching home and school life. Additionally, they put together clothing drives to provide warm clothes to families in need during the winter.
    • For more information, read about World Vision here.
  4. Air Serv International, Inc.
    • What they do: Air Serv provides safe transportation for people escaping vulnerable and dangerous areas. Accordingly, Air Serv transports them to humanitarian organizations for help.
    • Who they serve: In April 2019, Air Serv transported 1,061 passengers into relief spaces. They are present in Armenia and surrounding countries like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Georgia. Moreover, they have worked with the World Food Programme to provide food to Armenia and its neighbors during times of war and conflict.
    • For more information, read about Air Serve here.
  5. ACDI/VOCA
    • What they do: ACDI/VOCA fights to implement capacity-building projects across the globe. Specifically, they focus on economic advancement to help communities thrive through local programs.
    • Who they serve: In Armenia, ACDI/VOCA has supported innovative growing projects for 60,000 farmers. As a result, these programs benefit local efforts and bolster the agricultural industry. They also supported programming to provide $7 million in loans to Armenian farmers.
    • For more information, read about ACDI/VOCA here.

A labor force migration, weak agricultural system and unemployment drive Armenia’s poverty rate. However, the creativity of local and global nonprofits help provide relief to the 29.8 percent of Armenians who live in poverty. These nonprofits in Armenia prove the many ways communities can benefit from the work of like-minded individuals who want to eradicate poverty.

Ava Gambero
Photo: Flickr