UNICEF strengthens community-based child friendly spaces in the aftermath of the military escalation
UNICEF improves care and protection of children through child friendly spaces in five host communities across Armenia
On November 11, UNICEF Representative in Armenia Christine Weigand and Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Tatevik Stepanyan visited Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR) Children’s Support Center in Yerevan. The Center is part of the five community-based child friendly safe spaces, supported by UNICEF in the aftermath of the military escalation in and around Nagorno-Karabakh to ensure that children from Nagorno-Karabakh and in the host communities have an equitable chance to play, learn and develop.
“UNICEF believes that every community should have a spectrum of community-based services for children and their families. When the number of children sharply increased in Yerevan and other communities across Armenia as a result of the military escalation in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, UNICEF set out to improve access to and quality of the existing services with the help of our donors,” noted Mrs Christine Weigand, UNICEF Representative in Armenia. “At the moment we are working also in Abovyan, Ejmiadzin, Armavir and Mrgashen to establish child friendly spaces, with funding from the Government of Japan. The existence of child friendly spaces helps to mobilize communities around the protection and well‐being of all children, including those highly vulnerable, and provides them with opportunities to play, acquire contextually relevant skills, and receive social support.”
In the past five months, UNICEF worked with FAR to renovate, refurbish and improve conditions so that more children can benefit from the services of the Children’s Support Center. While it has functioned since 2001, the Center had not been renovated in the past several years. With UNICEF support, the Center now has a safe play and therapy area for children of various ages, as well as improved conditions in the bathroom, hallway, and laundry room.
“We usually work with children from three to 18 years of age in difficult life circumstances. If there are cases when several children from one family need support, we also accept children younger than three to prevent separation,” explained Mrs Mira Antonyan, Executive Director of FAR Children’s Support Center. “At the Center, we support children who have witnessed or suffered from violence or conflicts, been sexually abused, abandoned, left out of education or other services. A caring and compassionate environment is essential to help them recover and thrive. We also work with caregivers in an effort to improve the conditions in the family and support positive parenting practices.”
UNICEF widely uses child friendly spaces in emergencies as first response to children’s needs in affected communities especially with regard to protection, psychosocial wellbeing and non-formal education. They also serve as a bridge to early recovery and long-term support for vulnerable children. Broadly, the purpose of child friendly spaces is to support the resilience and wellbeing of children and young people through community organized, structured activities conducted in a safe, child friendly and stimulating environment.
“The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs is currently reviewing the Family Code to establish new and transparent regulations with regard to community-based services. Our policy direction will remain intact in that every child should grow up in a family environment. However, that vision will not be possible without the existence of a broad range of support services in the community, such as this one in Yerevan, which contribute to the resilience and wellbeing of vulnerable families,” noted Deputy Minister Tatevik Stepanyan.
In December 2021, UNICEF and the FAR Children's Support Center plan to reopen the Abovyan Child Support Center with the financial support from the Government of Japan and Abovyan Municipality.