UNICEF visits border villages of Syunik

Children in Tsav, Nerkin Hand, Shishkert, Shikahogh, Srashen, Chakaten, Davit Bek, Shurnukh, Vorotan and Bardzravan villages of Syunik received educational and other resources ahead of the winter season

UNICEF Team
A smiling girl of 8
UNICEF Armenia/2021/Martirosyan
25 January 2022

On December 22-25, UNICEF team members visited the 10 border villages of Tsav, Nerkin Hand, Shishkert, Shikahogh, Srashen, Chakaten, Davit Bek, Shurnukh, Vorotan and Bardzravan in Syunik marz. Ahead of the school break for New Year and Christmas holidays, we decided to support children in hard-to-reach communities to enable continuity of learning after the holidays, especially as winter weather may further reduce access, and provide psychosocial support.

The situation in and access to these villages were affected by border-related disputes as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. During our visit on November 20, UNICEF observed the situation, discussed the needs with officials from the regional administration and non-governmental partners, and agreed on which support could be quickly provided. So it was time to visit again!

Children in a classroom
UNICEF Armenia/2021/Martirosyan

In David Bek, we followed the distance learning course organized by our joint program with E-School Armenia. Previously, we provided computer technologies and furnish the classroom to properly organize distance learning lessons for students in Davit Bek village. During this visit, 58 tablets were provided to all school students from Tsav, Nerkin Hand, Shikahogh, Srashen, Shishkert, Chakaten, and Bardzravan villages. In Davit Bek, Vorotan and Shurnukh, UNICEF provided 57 tablets to school-age children with disabilities, children living in difficult conditions or children whose parents died or were injured during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Three boys and UNICEF employee posing for the camera
UNICEF Armenia/2021/Martirosyan

"It is extremely important that children receive support that responds to their actual needs and is timely, especially when it comes to the well-being of children and families living in border villages which may face special challenges related to accessibility and security concerns."

Hasmik Arakelyan, Education Officer

“It is extremely important that children receive support that responds to their actual needs and is timely, especially when it comes to the well-being of children and families living in border villages which may face special challenges related to accessibility and security concerns. Through the humanitarian support provided and UNICEF’s ongoing programmes, we hope to create more favorable conditions for the continuity of education for children in these communities as well as for the psychosocial wellbeing at a time when children may feel isolated. At the moment, our focus is on improving access to distance learning options, as these communities are faced with temporary lockdown or interrupted access to schools due to conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic,” said UNICEF Education Officer Hasmik Arakelyan.

"Of course, safety issues remain a priority for the settlements we visited, but the problem of water supply, no proper heating system or lack of sanitary and hygiene conditions in these schools are no less important for children and teachers."

Vigen Shirvanyan, UNICEF Climate Change Programme Officer
Children and UNICEF employee drawing.
UNICEF Armenia/2021/Martirosyan

“The schools we visited need emergency response training, disaster risk management plans. Many of them do not have shelters. Of course, safety issues remain a priority for the settlements we visited, but the problem of water supply, no proper heating system or lack of sanitary and hygiene conditions in these schools are no less important for children and teachers. We must try to find the resources to respond to these problems in coordination with the Government, other partners and donors,” said UNICEF Climate Change Programme Officer Vigen Shirvanyan.

 

Children and UNICEF employee sitting on a bench and talking
UNICEF Armenia/2021/Martirosyan

"Children shared with me that there are very few opportunities for development for them in their communities."

Hasmik Aleksanyan, UNICEF Adolescent Development Officer

We also made sure to talk to children and young people from these villages to understand their needs and concerns. UNICEF Adolescent Development Officer Hasmik Aleksanyan shared: “Children shared with me that there are very few opportunities for development for them in their communities. We discussed life skills, the so-called 21st century skills, and many said that they would love to have the chance to acquire and practice them, for example, how to manage stress, become resilient, perfect their communication skills, form relationships and develop leadership abilities. I also felt that young people largely lacked resources to become an active member of their community, take part in decision-making, come up with ideas and programs that contribute to community development. In the future, UNICEF plans to respond to these needs and I cannot wait to see them again within the scope of our adolescent development programmes.”

"It is impossible to describe the joy and happiness of children, parents and teachers. Meeting them is the greatest source of inspiration for me and the rest of our team."

Hermine Katvalyan, Education Programme Assistant
UNICEF employee talks to children who are opening presents.
UNICEF Armenia/2021/Martirosyan

Our visit was timed to happen before winter weather sets in and further reduces access to these communities. So our team also brought educational and learning materials, books and games for children and for adolescents, sets for pottery work and warm clothing for the 168 children in those 10 remote villages to keep children learning and playing throughout the winter months. Since the visit happened also just ahead of the New Year holidays, we hoped that it would bring children joy and help mark the beginning of the festive season.

“It is impossible to describe the joy and happiness of children, parents and teachers. Meeting them is the greatest source of inspiration for me and the rest of our team. I was so proud to have the opportunity amidst the winter season and impassable roads to show to these children that UNICEF is there. It made me feel even greater responsibility for our work for children,” shared Hermine Katvalyan, UNICEF Education Programme Assistant.

Three children in winter. They are carrying UNICEF presents.
UNICEF Armenia/2021/Martirosyan

It was indeed hard to pass through the roads under construction amidst the foggy winter season. In some areas, they were not fully paved yet and hence dangerous in difficult weather conditions.

Besides the items distributed during this trip, UNICEF Armenia has also been supporting regional health authorities of Syunik in organizing pediatric mobile units and reinforcing the capacity of nearby primary health facilities to ensure access to health services for children and their families despite the situation. In 2020-2021, we provided psychological support to children and families displaced from Nagorno Karabakh and settled in Syunik, as well as delivered humanitarian support, including backpacks and school utensils, ECD kits, hygiene kits, nutrition boxes and other materials.

UNICEF has a long history of programmes and cooperation in Syunik marz of Armenia and in 2022 and beyond, we will continue providing support to children where they most need it. UNICEF will implement adolescent development programmes, establish early learning centers and strengthen health and child protection services in Syunik. We are committed to our vision of every child growing up in a safe environment and with opportunities to grow to his or her full potential.