According to official data, in Armenia 70 per cent of deaths occurring before child’s first birthday happen during the first 28 days of life – neonatal period. Most of these deaths could have been prevented, had timely and proper neonatal care and resuscitation services been provided to those children.
The years after Armenia regained independence in 1992 have been marked by drastic economic decline and deterioration of the social infrastructures. Although the country - supported by various international organisations and international financial institutions - has firmly embarked on the path of social reforms, the entire system of social protection and social services delivery remains faulty due to the lack of resources (budget allocations under social sector fall short of OECD standards), lack of human resources and lack of appropriate data and data collection and analysis mechanisms.
Deterioration in the social sector can’t but have a significant impact on the lives and well-being of children and their families.
UNICEF’s MAJOR CONCERNS
Child poverty in Armenia is growing faster than the overall poverty. According to the National Statistical Service data for 2010, 41.4 percent of children in Armenia were poor, and 3.7 percent were extremely poor; poverty for children means lack of access to essential nutrition, basic services, sport and leisure, and in some cases, even to the love of a family. Poverty in the first years of life hinders the development of children’s full potential, signing their lives forever.
Social inclusion of children with disabilities
Children with disabilities live on the edges of the Armenian society. Being hidden in their homes, most of them are deprived of opportunities of social inclusion and integration. 54 per cent of the children with disabilities and their siblings live in poverty. Even among the poor, this group is particularly vulnerable.
There are around 8,000 children registered with disabilities in Armenia. For a large number, there is no record of any admission to school (a detailed survey is currently promoted by UNICEF to verify the access to services for all these children). Only 500 out of 2,800 students of special schools have certified disability status. Children in special schools are separated from their peers and communities and are more likely to be socially excluded. And when they graduate, not many opportunities are offered to them. A strong discrimination is still evident in Armenia for children with disabilities and their families, and more needs to be done to promote their rights to full inclusion and equal opportunities, according to their needs and abilities. One in five children with disabilities do not attend any kind of school.
Children in institutions
There are close to 5,000 children in residential care institutions in Armenia. 3,800 of them stay in those institutions permanently and rarely go home. Almost 80 per cent of those children have at least one parent and ended up in a residential care institution mostly due to social and economic difficulties their families are facing. UNICEF demonstrated that alternative care solutions, apart from responding to the best interest of children, and to their right to grow up in a family, are also less expensive for the State if managed in a proper way.
Children dying before their first birthday
According to official data, in Armenia 70 per cent of deaths occurring before child’s first birthday happen during the first 28 days of life – neonatal period. Most of these deaths could have been prevented, had timely and proper neonatal care and resuscitation services been provided to those children. Among factors contributing to the problem in Armenia are poor antenatal and neonatal care, lack of qualified staff and lack of basic equipment, poor family practices on newborn care and nutrition. All of these require immediate comprehensive response, particularly in remote [and poor] regions and communities of the country, where population suffer from low accessibility to quality neonatal services.
Opportunities for development during early childhood
Only 22 per cent of children of 6 years and younger are enrolled in kindergartens in Armenia against 60 per cent reported in 1989. Even more, the number of children attending pre-schools in rural areas is even lower – 10 per cent only. Pre-school education can have a significant role in the comprehensive development of children and formation of their cognitive, emotional and social skills. In almost half of communities across the country, there are no pre-school facilities. Together with partners UNICEF is seeking for establishment of alternative pre-school services, to ensure that children have access to early learning and go to school prepared.
UN Convention on the rights of the children