Zero poverty for every child

Poor children cannot wait for the economy to develop, they need an intervention now

Zhanna Ulikhanyan
4 year old Alex looking to the camera sitting on his old bed.
UNICEF Armenia/2018/Babajanyan VII photo

01 November 2018

The car stopped in front of a single-storey house. Grandma Varsik came out to meet us and led us inside the house. We walked through a narrow corridor where the walls on the right and left sides were lined with old sofas. We then walked into a foyer, with green walls that betrayed their age – their lower sections had almost completely faded to white. We were taken with the other members of Grandma Varsik’s family into a relatively better-maintained living room, and we were served chocolate and coffee there. They were very welcoming and generous people.

The hospitable, seven-member Mkrtchyan family lives in a half-built, one-storey house without a kitchen, in one of Armenia’s small towns. The family includes two small children – four-year-old Alex and seven-year-old Milena. The children live here together with their father, mother, grandparents and aunt. The house does not even have a decent toilet, but everything was neat and clean during our visit and there was an atmosphere of peace and kindness inside.

A family of seven sitting together in their living room at their house.
UNICEF Armenia/2018/Babajanyan VII photo
A family of seven in the town of Artashat, Armenia. While 29.4 per cent of Armenia’s population is poor, 34.2 per cent of Armenian children live in poverty. UNICEF works to ensure an integrated approach to reducing the effects of poverty on children through social protection, nutrition, education and other interventions. Oct 15, 2018

Rudik is the only breadwinner in this huge family. And although he had been at work the whole night, he responded to our questions with a great deal of patience and serenity while also keeping an eye on the children. Rudik gets a salary of 116,000 drams after taxes. A large part of this money goes to paying off a loan that he had taken to cover his father’s coronary stenting surgery. “We still have another 15 months before we can pay off that loan. Finishing with it will lighten our load considerably,” Rudik said. It is no easy task to bear the burden of caring for a large family alone. They are also trying to find a job for his wife, Hayarpi, but those efforts have been in vain so far. They have applied to receive a state allowance, but were told that their family was not eligible.

The only other source of income in the family is the 30,000 dram pension received by the grandfather, Rudik’s father. But this money does not have much of an impact on the family’s wellbeing, especially in the winter. This four-room house shrinks in the winter into a one-room space, which the family tries to heat by burning wood. But wood has grown much more expensive this year…

After talking to Rudik, we returned to the living room, where the adults were having a conversation, the smallest child was playing, and Milena was doing her homework, seated at the same coffee table in the room. Milena told us that she loved going to school, but she enjoyed her dance classes even more, especially when they would go to Yerevan and participate in a concert on any of the beautiful stages in the capital. “Yerevan is very pretty.”

A 4 year old boy playing on the floor of their house together with his friend.
UNICEF Armenia/2018/Babajanyan VII photo
Every third child in Armenia lives in poverty today. This figure reflects only material poverty. With support from UNICEF, Armenia has begun to consider poverty as a multidimensional concept, focusing also on NON-MATERIAL poverty.
Father and son blowing the ball together.
UNICEF Armenia/2018/Babajanyan VII photo
Poverty has a huge negative impact on children, ruining any chance of starting a good life for many of them. Poor children cannot wait for the economy to develop. They need an intervention now.

One of the biggest problems in this loving family is the issue of enrolling their youngest member, four-year-old Alex, in a kindergarten; or rather, the fact that he had not been placed in one yet. His mother told us how they had gone to several kindergartens but had been rejected by all of them on the grounds that there was no space available. Rudik added the following to his wife’s comments,

“They say there’s no place, but then we find out that they enrolled another child in their kindergarten after rejecting us. It’s true that there’s always someone at home, so Alex is taken care of, but it’s so important for children to go to kindergarten, they learn so much there!”

Alex has not yet learned to talk. His mother, Hayarpi, said that it was particularly important for him to go to kindergarten now, so that he could play with other children and start to communicate with them.

“When we managed to sign up for free treatment with a speech therapist at the rehabilitation center, the doctor insisted that the child must interact with children his own age, which would improve his verbal skills. We finished that treatment course and I went to the polyclinic to ask for more sessions, but they told me that the speech therapist’s services would not be free,” Hayarpi told us.

The family has several problems, but they have all focused on the issues faced by green-eyed Alex, and they are seeking help to make things better for him. I asked Alex whether he wanted to go to kindergarten and he stared deep into my eyes before nodding his head yes…

Every third child in Armenia—around 224,000 children in all—lives in poverty today. Every second child in Armenia—around 376,000 children—suffers from multidimensional poverty.

Every third child in Armenia—around 224,000 children in all—lives in poverty today. This is the approximate population of the province of Gegharkunik. This figure reflects only material poverty. With support from UNICEF, Armenia has begun to consider poverty as a multidimensional concept, focusing also on NON-MATERIAL poverty. According to the latest data, Every second child in Armenia—around 376,000 children—suffers from multidimensional poverty, meaning that they are deprived of the most fundamental living conditions such as basic utilities and opportunities for social interaction and leisure. That is larger than the population of Gegharkunik and Syunik provinces combined.

Investing in the lives of children by improving healthcare services, nutrition, education, water and sanitary conditions as well as social security is one of the best options for combating child poverty as well as ensuring the all-round development of children, and their present and future wellbeing.

Poverty has a huge negative impact on children, ruining any chance of starting a good life for many of them. Poor children cannot wait for the economy to develop. They need an intervention now.

A 4 year old boy climbing the tree in their garden.
UNICEF Armenia/2018/Babajanyan VII photo

Alex must start going to kindergarten, he must get the speech therapy and other medical services he needs. He must be prepared to go to school, and then to college.

He has to get the necessary qualifications to be able to secure a good job.

No child should be neglected and not a single one of them should be condemned to live in poverty and deprivation.

 

There are still 376,000 children in Armenia living in conditions of material and non-material poverty…