In Armenia, schools are essential for cultural survival and are highly valued with 1,600 years of literary history. The government spends about 3 percent of its annual GDP on education and has passed new laws to help increase educational standards. Armenia has found some success improving education standards and is continuing to find solutions to other educational issues.

Here are five facts you may not know about education in Armenia:

  1. 77 percent of teachers in primary schools are professionally trained. The government is attempting to increase the number of experienced school teachers by raising their monthly wages, which are below the national average. In 2005, their wages went up 65 percent, but many teachers today are still offering private tutoring in order to supplement their teaching income.
  2. Armenia ranks 59th in the world in primary school enrollment. Part of the problem with enrollment for education in Armenia is the fact that there are 18,000 children who are not enrolled in primary school. Most of the un-enrolled children are boys and they end up working to help their families, sometimes earning more than Armenian teachers.
  3. Dropout rates in Armenia are rising by 250 percent per year. Armenia’s dropout rates are low compared to neighboring countries, but the fast rise is alarming. However, the government is committed to improving education by ensuring access to a quality education for all Armenians regardless of gender, race, ethnicity and income level.
  4. 47 percent of Armenians have access to the internet, compared to only 6.4 percent in 2009. The country now ranks 61st in the world for internet access, which is crucial to the continued growth of education in Armenia.
  5. Disabled school children have limited access to education: There are about 8,500 disabled children in Armenia, and only a few of them are able to attend school. UNICEF has helped increase educational programs for children with special needs by enrolling 250 students in 18 inclusive kindergartens and 257 in 14 inclusive schools.

In 2014, the World Bank announced that they will provide $30 million for the Education Improvement Project in Armenia. Reforms taking place include implementing new educational standards and a new national curriculum and extending the educational system to include grade 12; these steps are vital to building a successful and competitive educational system in Armenia. The project will also help 12,000 children living in poverty in rural areas and boost development for electronic content.

Donald Gering

Sources: Internet World Stats, Social Progress Imperative, UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank
Photo: Open Source Foundation

Every year, the Social Progress Imperative comes out with an index that measures how individual countries perform in basic human needs, foundations of well-being, and opportunity. One subset of the foundations of well-being category is health and wellness. This subset takes into account life expectancy, non-communicable disease deaths between the ages of 30 and 70, obesity, outdoor air pollution attributed deaths and suicide rates. Below is a list of the world’s ten most unhealthy countries in the world, based on this subset.

10. Bulgaria, 60.63

Bulgaria is in the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula. The country has a high mortality rate from cardiovascular disease. Additionally, Bulgaria has the worst air quality in Europe, with some of the highest concentrations of particulate matter, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide.

9. Mozambique, 60.40

Mozambique’s main health problems are to due with high mortality rates due to drought, poverty and HIV/AIDS, as well as a lack of experienced health workers in the country. The HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to decimate portions of the population in the country. In addition, capacity building and risk reduction expertise are both low.

8. Swaziland, 60.29

Located in southern Africa, Swaziland has an extremely high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, reaching over 26 percent. Swaziland needs the most improvement in life expectancy and non-communicable disease deaths between 30 and 70.

7. Latvia, 59.97

Latvia, too, has problems with air quality that cause long-term health problems. Latvia also needs to address substance abuse problems such as alcohol and tobacco, which both contribute to ill health in the country at a disproportional rate.

6. Armenia, 59.36

Armenia’s health issues revolve around a broken, extremely expensive health care system that cannot meet the burden of care. With economic downturn, basic medicines and doctor visits can become too expensive.

5. Moldova, 58.00

Moldova is currently experiencing negative population growth. The two main causes of death are heart disease and cancer. Moldova has high rates of substance abuse-related deaths, like alcohol and tobacco. Tuberculosis, especially multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, is rapidly becoming a major health concern in the country.

4. Belarus, 56.56

The main areas that need improvement in Belarus are non-communicable diseases and suicide rates. The country, located in Eastern Europe, is also relatively polluted, which can cause long-term ill-health.

3. Russia, 51.99

Russia needs improvement in almost all categories, including life expectancy, non-communicable diseases, air pollution and suicide rates. Additionally, Russia experiences high rates of mortality due to smoking for both men and women. HIV/AIDS is also becoming more of a concern.

2. Ukraine, 51.82

Ukraine, located in Eastern Europe, has similar problems as its neighbors, mainly bad air quality, high levels of tobacco and alcohol abuse and high suicide rates. Additionally, Ukrainians spend about 13 percent of their lives in ill-health, which is much higher than most of their neighbors. Ukraine also has the highest rate of infectious diseases in Europe.

1. Kazakhstan, 49.93

Kazakhstan, located in Central Asia, is ranked as the unhealthiest country in the world, according to the Social Progress Imperative. Kazakhstan needs dramatic improvement in life expectancy, deaths related to non-communicable diseases, air quality and suicide rates. HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis have become growing concerns; TB, especially, is of great concern because of drug-resistance.

Caitlin Huber

Sources: Social Progress Imperative, World Health Organization 1, World Health Organization 2, World Health Organization 3, World Health Organization 4, World Health Organization 5, New York Times, UNICEF, National Center for Biotechnology Information, Common Dreams, World Bank, University of Pittsburgh
Photo: Flickr

poverty in armenia
Landlocked between Azerbaijan, Turkey, Georgia and Pakistan, the country of Armenia has faced economic hardships since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Between 1989 and 1999, warfare with Azerbaijan and tensions with Turkey have led both countries to impose economic blockades against Armenia; an international settlement has yet to happen. The country’s main source of trade occurs across the border shared with Georgia and into Russia.

Despite some growth and improvements from bilateral humanitarian efforts, Armenia faces several economic and food security challenges. Though Armenia’s gross domestic product growth rates have reached double digits in recent years, this is largely attributed to the widening of the poor-rich gap and the uneven distribution of wealth. Areas of poverty in Armenia are concentrated in rural areas and the country’s borders. Harsh winters, infertile and highly elevated lands and a lack of agricultural diversity have hampered Armenia’s goal of achieving economic sustainability.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reports that levels of poverty in Armenia have halved from 56.1 percent in 1999 to 23.5 percent in 2008. Though promising, the hard fact is that about 48 percent of the country’s population was below the poverty line of $2 per day in 2008. In 2006, a severe lack of funding forced the World Food Programme to cease its food aid operations in Armenia. Already dire conditions for the country’s most vulnerable people worsened.

Several organizations have since taken up the task of aiding Armenia’s long-term development. USAID is the leading donor agency in Armenia, focusing operations on diversifying Armenia’s economy and agriculture, rebuilding infrastructures, fueling education and bolstering Armenia’s economic competitiveness.

In addition, USAID has partnered with several inter-World Bank and IFC Armenian initiatives to provide extensive technical assistance as well as monetary aid to the bolstering of water safety, road construction and the modernization of healthcare and the public sector.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has focused on increasing investments by $2.5 million to improving food safety measures of Armenian meat factories; improving food safety practices to international standards would bolster future international trade potentialities and competitiveness. The IFC has invested $271.5 million in the country over 44 projects spanning several diverse sectors.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization is also supporting the Armenian Government in the improvement of food safety; methods involving training government assessment personal and educating rural farmers. The World Bank has invested $1.746 million to dozens of projects in Armenia, focusing on job creation and again economical competitiveness. The World Bank has since renewed its partnership with the Republic of Armenia for 2014 to 2017, paying particular attention to rapidly reducing both urban and rural poverty.

Armenia is one of the international success stories of multi-lateral humanitarianism. The country that crumbled economically two decades ago has seen vast improvements and is on its way to economical sustainability and independence, but only as a result of international collaboration and investments.

– Malika Gumpangkum

Sources: Action Against Hunger, World Food Programme, World Bank, The Armenian Weekly, World Bank, World Food Programme, World Bank, United Nations Development Programme, USAID, USAID
Photo: Ararat Magazine

Rural Poverty in Armenia
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Armenia descended into poverty. Industries that were previously operated by the Soviet state, including agriculture, were discontinued, creating massive unemployment in this region of the Southern Caucasus. Today, nearly 50% of the population lives below the poverty line. Many of those affected by poverty either reside in rural areas along the nation’s borders or in isolated mountain villages.

In a 2012 article written for the Guardian, reporter Sigrid Rausing portrays a bleak portrait of Armenia. Rausing describes a polluted mountain landscape devastated by the fall of the communist regime. She says, “Every village we drove through was half abandoned – the falling-down houses haphazardly mended with metal sheets or planks of wood. Whole families move if they can, otherwise, women and children remain while the men join the migrant labor force in Russia, sending meagre remittances home.”

Over 30% of households in Armenia are headed by single women whose partners have traveled to other countries for work. The end of collectivized agriculture destroyed efficient food production because Armenian farmers were ill-equipped and undereducated in the business of farming. In addition to this, the rocky Armenian soil was a thorn in the side of former Soviet agricultural laborers who were not used to dealing with such challenges without the help of Soviet officials. It was this combination of factors that forced agricultural workers into migrant labor, leaving the women of rural Armenia to fend for themselves.

The situation in Armenia requires international attention. Armenia was assisted by several Western powers in the early 1990s when the threat of famine loomed over the fledgling nation, however, development in Armenia could be the chance to improve food production, reduce migration, and lift this struggling country out of poverty permanently.

– Josh Forgét

Source: Rural Poverty Portal,The Guardian
Photo: Care Armenia

For developed world travelers, malaria is an exotic hazard, and easily preventable. Yet for many underdeveloped communities, malaria is an epidemic. 90% of all deaths from malaria in 2010 were in Africa, with the majority of victims being under five years old. Spread by a mosquito bite, symptoms of malaria can show up 10-15 days after being bitten and include fever, vomiting, sweating, weakness, and muscle pain. Once diagnosed, malaria is treatable with artemisinin-based combination therapy. But left untreated, the disease can be fatal. Because it takes only a single bite to be infected, and mosquito populations are booming, it is very difficult to prevent the spread of the disease.

Many international health organizations have been working on ways to help control the disease with one of the most effective being the use of insecticide treated mosquito nets over beds because the species of mosquito which spreads malaria bites mainly at dusk and dawn. Vector control (i.e. the control of animals carrying pathogens) is another method used, as mosquitos have specific breeding preferences, mainly in residual puddles of water. The World Health Organization also encourages the use of insecticide around homes to protect families and communities.

Using the current strategies there is hope that the spread of malaria may be one day halted. Recently, four countries have been declared as malaria free – the UAE in 2007, Morocco and Turkmenistan in 2010, and Armenia in 2011. The greatest challenges, however, remain in sub-Saharan Africa.

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Source: WHO
Photo: Life Saver

April 24, 2013 marked the 98th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman government. Each year, hundreds and thousands of supporters march and protest throughout countries such as a Georgia, France, Germany, Iran, and, of course, the United States. They call for not only recognition from the Turkish government of the mass murder of 1.5 million Armenians, but also reparations such as the return of ancestral lands to Armenia as well as redrafting the border lines set in Woodrow Wilson’s 1920 Treaty of Sévres.

While 43 states in the U.S. recognize the genocide, President Obama himself has refused time and time again to refer to the event by its intended name, ‘the Armenian Genocide’. His conflict come from obvious political issues and concerns with America’s relationship and alliance with the Turkish government.

Despite his lack of efforts to recognize a significant historical event, many Congressmen and Senators stand strong with the Armenians. Congressman Adam Schiff from the 28th District in California (including areas of the San Fernando Valley, Glendale, Burbank, and northern Los Angeles suburbs) stood in front of the U.S. House recently and spoke in Armenian, commemorating the genocide. Throughout the years, Schiff has proven to be a voice for the Armenian communities he serves in the capitol.

What is tragic about the situation, not only about the actual killings from 1915-1923, is the way a modern-day republic such as Turkey is able to deny its actions. Many Turks come out to counter-protest Armenians on the remembrance day, not only rejecting their family stories and proofs, but going so far as to claim that things were the other way around, where Armenians in Anatolia killed Turks.

When it comes to the most horrific atrocities committed in the 20th and 21st centuries, including but in no way limited to the genocides in Rwanda, against Native Americans, the Circassian Genocide, that of the Chechens, the Kurds, Tibet, Congo, and countless more, there should be no option for denial. In an age where it even seems silly to argue over petty political procedures and media-made alliances, countries should be held responsible for accurately depicting their histories.

Humanitarian abuses occur around the world on a daily basis. When passionate activists have quite literally exhausted themselves and their resources, the battles are left to the politicians. If they are not given a political or economic motive to make those changes, it is up to the people they service to verify their desires and requests to do so.

– Deena Dulgerian

Photo: Armenian National Team

As children, our perception of libraries was clouded by the old librarian sitting at the front desk ‘shh-ing’ everyone as they walked past. While American libraries retain their importance but may have lost their romantic allure, their reputation and modern use is only just beginning in developing countries.

With 73% of the world’s 320,000 public libraries in developing countries, organizations such as Beyond Access are highlighting the extensive potential public libraries can provide to governments who are trying to work on development throughout their countries. Libraries act as a central hub for multiple resources, one of the most important being free access to the internet.

For countries with heavy agricultural areas, farmers are able to research and apply for subsidies, such as farmers in Romania were able to do last year with the help of the 400 public libraries in Romania. 17,000 farmers applied for EU subsidies and were able to bring $27.1 million back into their communities.

The most attractive quality about libraries is their simplicity. They are an age old institution, directly tied to the government. Their operations are more or less the same from country to country. Funding is minimal; computers, basic stationery, office supplies, and training for staff. The return however is limitless.

EIFL, one of the dozen or so partners of Beyond Access, has built a massive group of 39 programs and public libraries. Their libraries serve one of five public interests including agriculture, employment and livelihood, culture and education, youth and at risk children, and health. For example, The Berd Public Library in Berd, Armenia has introduced organic farming practices to 9,000 villagers. The library also hosts lectures and provides journals and books on effective agricultural practices as well as opening up new markets online for farmers to sell their produce.

With startup companies around the world focusing on harnessing technology to bring villages and farming societies out of poverty, the institution of the library and the sense of belonging it brings to communities should not be forgotten. Most public libraries in developing countries can survive on yearly grants between $5,000-$20,000. They provide a constant flow of information as well as an opportunity for employment for the staff. By illustrating the hundreds of success stories in countries like Ghana, Serbia, Nepal, and Uganda, Beyond Access hopes to recruit more donors and policymakers to take advantage of one of history’s longest standing institutions when implementing programs.

– Deena Dulgerian
Source: The Guardian