Clothing vouchers and financial assistance to families displaced by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
With the support of the US Government, UNICEF assisted over 3,159 children displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh and resettled in Armenia.
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Tatiana Melkumyan, 37, had to start everything from scratch when she fled from Nagorno-Karabakh as a result of the conflict and moved to Meghradzor village in Armenia’s Kotayk region with her five children.
“Everything we had, we left at our home in Karabakh. We didn’t have time to collect any belongings to take with us, it was a matter of life or death. I didn’t even manage to take my gold jewelry with me,”
Since then, Tatiana and her husband have tried their best to make a living to provide for their two girls and three boys in Armenia. Her eldest boy has already been drafted to the army and can no longer help his parents. “It’s been a big challenge for us. Neither me, nor my husband have been able to find a job. We survive on the assistance we receive and have been barely able to make ends meet,” she explains.
At the end of 2021, the family received financial assistance for four months from UNICEF and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, made possible through funding from the US Government. The monthly cash benefit of 50,000 AMD alleviated the situation in the family to some extent.
“Most of what we received, we used to cover our rent. It was during the winter months, so we also bought much-needed clothing for our children,”
The cash benefit programme was designed by UNICEF for children and families settled in Armenia as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in 2020. Thanks to the support of the US Government, UNICEF was able to provide financial assistance for 3,000 children in addition to clothing vouchers in the amount of 24,000 AMD for 159 children settled in Aragatsotn, Ararat, Gegharkunik, Tavush, Lori, and Shirak regions.
Prior to the conflict, Armenia had not yet formalised a wide range of financial assistance mechanisms for vulnerable families. With the escalation and the consequent humanitarian situation, UNICEF took up the leadership of the UN working group on cash assistance and worked closely with the Government and other partners to develop the range of social protection programmes that would enable families to meet their most urgent needs.
“We first carried out a rapid assessment of the needs of families displaced by the conflict. Many of the respondents had indicated financial assistance as a preferred type of support due to the flexibility of choice that it gives. It allows families to make decisions on financial planning and make purchases according to their needs,”
“We signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and worked with the integrated social services, using the state transfer system, which means we had no other expenses related to this programme and the financial management risks were very low.”
In February-March, UNICEF conducted post-distribution monitoring of the programme to assess its effectiveness. The feedback from 291 beneficiaries of the programme indicated that the type of assistance really worked in their case. Among them, 77 percent did not have paid work, over half lived in rented housing, while only eight percent had their own house or apartment.
The families directed their financial assistance mainly towards utility bills, food, rent, health expenses, as well as clothing. The respondents mentioned that this type of support provided them with the opportunity to take care of the primary needs in their family, however, it’s not nearly enough to make all ends meet.
“This experience has shown us that we need to work further to strengthen the existing social assistance system and improve mechanisms to better identify families in emergencies who are the most vulnerable so that their needs can be addressed promptly,” noted Hovakimyan.
“This is why we are also supporting the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in the development of the new social protection strategy for Armenia, aiming to follow the life cycle approach from childhood to old age that will allow the social protection system to respond to vulnerabilities at different stages of a person’s life in a targeted way.”
Besides cash assistance, with the support of the US Government, UNICEF is also working with partners to improve school conditions in target communities through new furniture and renovation of school bathrooms, providing psychosocial assistance through group and individual sessions to children and their families, as well as working to improve child-care and adolescent services in communities so that children have access to a range of services within their communities and not only during emergencies but beyond that as well.