Clothing vouchers for families displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh
UNICEF provided warm clothing vouchers to 286 children displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh
Mary Margaryan, who lives in Vayots Dzor’s Kechut village, is getting ready to go shopping with her daughters Sophie and Donara.
“The children are ecstatic. It’s not often that we can buy the clothes they need. I have five kids and they’re growing. I can’t tell them to wear clothes that no longer fit, or that we have trouble putting food on the table,” Margaryan explains.
Mary’s family of nine moved from Nagorno Karabakh to the village of Kechut near Yeghegnadzor during the 2020 conflict. She explains that while her family has received support in the past, they have been unable to make all ends meet.
“I was so happy when I got call about this winterization vouchers and happy to hear that our family got two of them. I immediately thought that my children would be very pleased,”
For her, it is important that all her children in the family have a fulfilling childhood despite what the conflict brought to them.
“With the funding from the Government of Japan and together with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, we tried to provide needs-based assistance to large families that were displaced from Nagorno Karabakh, and especially those with young children under the age of 5 years. We know that these families are at a higher risk of poverty and have greater needs as they have lost livelihoods and belongings,”
In February, UNICEF reached 286 children under the age of five from 165 displaced families that now live in Ararat, Armavir, Kotayk, Vayots Dzor, and Syunik with 24,000 AMD vouchers. “The vouchers can be spent on clothing, shoes, blankets and other necessities,” explained Armenuhi.
“Together with our implementing partner, Armenian Progressive Youth NGO, we organized town hall discussions in the regions to present the program in detail to parents and to explain how and where to use the vouchers, so that they are prepared. The participating shops were carefully selected for a convenient experience.”
The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs believes that the vouchers can be a good way to quickly respond to children’s needs and looks forward to the results of the distribution assessment.
“We have provided cash assistance in cooperation with UNICEF in the past. The voucher system was new to us. Though the sample size was not very large, [the vouchers] seem to be a new and efficient method of assistance. This can be employed in the future as well as when the need arises.”
Internationally, cash and voucher assistance are a dignified means of support and a way for states to respond to the individual needs of the beneficiaries and provide freedom of choice.
"Though voucher support systems tend to be more restrictive, especially when they are used for one specific product or policy goal, we have not limited what type of clothing should be purchased by the beneficiary,” explains Hovakimyan. “At the same time, voucher support requires a complex implementation mechanism. We have already learned some lessons from this first attempt, which should be taken into account when providing similar kinds of assistance in the future.”
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict escalation displaced about 90,000 people in 2020. Many families, like Mary’s, had to start from scratch as they fled to Armenia with just basic necessities. While both Mary and her husband have now found employment, their salaries are not enough for their big family.
“As our children grow, the needs grow in parallel. These vouchers have been of great help, but there are so many other issues that our family now has to deal with, including education of our children, living conditions and so forth,” Mary says.
Since the very first day of the conflict escalation, UNICEF provided various types of assistance to support children and their families displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh in Armenia. Together with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, UNICEF is now also putting efforts on policy development, supporting the development of a comprehensive social protection strategy, as well as the integrated social services strategy. UNICEF also supports the development of rapid response social work mechanisms for emergencies.