© UNICEF/Armenia 2007/Igor Dashevskiy
UNICEF has been working in Armenia since 1994, helping the Government of Armenia to ensure that children grow healthy, educated and protected from abuse and neglect, trafficking and HIV/AIDS.
UNICEF’s main areas of work include health and nutrition, education, protection of child rights and promotion of adolescents’ health and development.
Health and Nutrition for All Children
In health and nutrition UNICEF is working with the Government to ensure that all children in Armenia have access to quality primary health care services, receive timely vaccinations and proper nutrition.
Since establishment of its presence in Armenia UNICEF has been the major international organization providing vaccines to Armenia. In addition, to ensure sustainability of immunization and efficient implementation of the National Immunization Plan, UNICEF supports the Ministry of Health in organizing regular trainings for health professionals and carries out awareness campaigns among families and care-givers.
UNICEF and the Government of Armenia have also been working hand-in hand to ensure that newborns in Armenia are breastfed exclusively for a minimum of 6 months. In 1995 UNICEF launched a Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative and in 2004 a Baby Friendly Policlinic Initiative. A maternity facility or a policlinic can be designated “baby-friendly” when it does not accept free or low-cost breastmilk substitutes, feeding bottles or teats, and has implemented 10 specific steps to support successful breastfeeding.
UNICEF also successfully tackles the problem of iodine deficiency in Armenia through universal salt iodization. Iodine deficiency is the world’s leading cause of preventable mental retardation among children. Salt iodization is the most effective and sustainable way to prevent iodine deficiency disorders (IDD) because salt is widely consumed and iodization is safe and inexpensive.
Education for All Children
In Education we are assisting the Government to ensure that all children in Armenia go to school prepared and receive a quality primary school education.
UNICEF supports and actively participates in the process of reforming the education system of the country and assists in development and introduction of legal and administrative frameworks to backup these reforms. The Government of Armenia extensively uses UNICEF’s expertise in implementation of transition to 12-year education system.
The introduction of Life Skills is one of several education reform initiatives that have been undertaken in Armenia since 1995. UNICEF-supported Life Skills is a shift from a teacher-centered, knowledge-driven process of schooling to one where knowledge, skills and values are seen as interrelated and where students are considered as vital part of a learning process.
About 80 per cent of pre-school age children are not able to attend kindergartens or any other type of pre-school facility. High fees, lack of learning materials as well as qualified staff at kindergartens are among reasons cited by parents. In order for young boys and girls to go to school prepared, UNICEF assists to set up centers for parents and children in various communities, where parents learn how children develop, what needs they have at different stages of their life and how to ensure early learning for children.
According to official statistics, there are over 8,000 children with disabilities living in Armenia, many of whom have been isolated from society and are excluded from mainstream education. UNICEF advocates for full access of children with disabilities to education through promoting the establishment of inclusive and child-friendly schools.
To encourage schoolchildren to participate actively in school governance and decision making process UNICEF supported the Ministry of Education and Science to develop guidelines to allow student’s councils to participate in school management. UNICEF also devised the conceptual standards for child-friendly schools to ensure a safe and enabling school environment for all children.
Protection for All Children
In Child Protection, we are working with the Government, international and non-governmental organizations and media to ensure that all children are able to enjoy all range of rights accorded to them.
For children deprived of parental care UNICEF is trying to seek solutions that would allow them to grow in a family environment. UNICEF has been actively advocating for increased support to vulnerable families that will allow children placed in orphanages to return to their families and will also prevent future placement of children in public care institutions.
UNICEF has also successfully introduced foster care concept in Armenia, whereby children are placed with foster parents under conditions when they either have no family or cannot return to their own family.
To prevent placement of children in public residential care institutions at community level, UNICEF supported local NGOs in establishment of community-based care centers for children at-risk, children with special needs and children from vulnerable families.
UNICEF was one of the first organizations to initiate studies into the phenomenon of trafficking in women and children from Armenia.
In 2003, UNICEF published a survey into child abuse and neglect. The survey revealed cases of violence and abuse against children in communities, families and institutions.UNICEF has been working hard to disseminate information to parents and children and provide training to teachers, police, social workers, nurses and doctors for them to be able to prevent and respond to cases of violence against children.
By supporting revision of the juvenile justice system, UNICEF has also promoted positive legislative changes including the introduction of alternative systems such as probation.
YOUth Can Make Difference
Working for young people and promoting their participation in various activities and projects is one of our priorities. Given that Armenia is part of the region where HIV/AIDS is spreading rapidly, UNICEF is working to educate young people on HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and healthy lifestyles. We have been organizing summer camps, trainings and communication campaigns with the involvement of young people.
In 2004 UNICEF assisted the Government of Armenia in development of a Country Specific Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS Prevention among Most at-Risk Adolescents (MARA) and Especially Vulnerable Young People (EVYP) and a National Behaviour Change Communication Strategy for HIV/AIDS Prevention among MARA and EVYP for 2007-2011 which are incorporated into the National Programme on the Response to HIV Epidemic for 2007-2011 endorsed in March 2007.
UNICEF also promotes introduction of Life Skills-based education in upper grades of secondary schools with particular focus on HIV/AIDS and healthy lifestyle. Healthy lifestyle curriculum was developed and piloted in upper grades of 30 schools with relevant trainings and guidelines provided to teachers of those schools.
UNICEF facilitates the introduction of youth-friendly health services into the health system through advocacy, policy development, and capacity building of health care providers and local authorities.
UNICEF intimately contributes to “Capacity building in HIV/AIDS Prevention” UN Joint Programme (UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP) aimed at strengthening the capacity of local authorities and selected NGOs working in the areas of community development, youth, human rights, gender, etc., to mainstream HIV/AIDS into their activities.
UNICEF will continue to implement programs and projects that contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and, particularly, to realization of children's rights to grow up healthy, well-nourished in a caring, nurturing and protective environment. Working in cooperation with other members of the UN family as well as Government, NGOs and donors, UNICEF’s 2005-2009 Country Programme will continue to focus on sustaining progress already made.