General information on Armenia Following the devastating 1988 Spitak earthquake which killed around 25,000 people and made half a million homeless in Armenia, SOS Children's Villages decided to offer immediate aid to the children who had lost their parents. Since then, SOS Children's Villages has continued to support children, young people and families, and it is now present in three locations. Most recently, we are supporting children and families affected by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. At the crossroads of Europe and Asia Children in our care grow up together in loving homes (photo: K. Ilievska). The Republic of Armenia is a mountainous country bordered by western Asia, between the Black and the Caspian seas. It borders with Iran to the south-east, Azerbaijan to the east, Turkey to the south-west and west, and Georgia to the north. Around three million people live in Armenia, with the capital city of Yerevan being home to about one million inhabitants. Armenia became an officially recognised independent nation in 1991. The years that followed independence from the Soviet Union were difficult: Armenia faced economic instability and took part in violent confrontations between the Karabakh Armenians and Azerbaijan. A ceasefire was reached in 1994 but by that time around 30,000 people had been killed and one million displaced. On 27 September 2020, fighting erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenian and Azerbaijani military forces. Both sides reported military and civilian casualties. A society with a sharp rural-urban divide Reports from international organisations state that 29 per cent of the population lives in poverty. The unemployment rate stands at 18 per cent. Prior to 1991 Armenia’s economy was primarily industry-based. After independence, the agricultural share of the economy increased. The service industry has also become increasingly important: around 17 per cent of the population works in this sector. People in rural areas are disadvantaged due to poor infrastructure and the lack of employment opportunities. Improved water and sanitation is not always available in rural areas and the quality of health care remains poor. Children living in rural areas are more likely to die under the age of five, than those in urban areas. As a result of migration to urban areas or abroad, some areas are facing depopulation A need to invest in children's future Thanks to the support of SOS Children's Villages, this little girl was able to live with her birth mother again (photo: K. Ilievska). Family life has changed due to the recent social, economic and political changes. Many parents, especially fathers, have emigrated in search of employment: the typical Armenian migrant worker is a married man between the ages of 41 and 50. The women who stay behind find it harder to find employment and earn less than their male counterparts. This, in turn affects the lives of the children in their care. An estimated four per cent of children under the age of 14 go out to work in order to make extra money. Although the situation has improved in recent years, health and education services continue to be under-funded. In spite of recent initiatives, families are often not given the support they need to be able to stay together. As a result, the majority of children who are taken into care are the so-called “social orphans” who have one or two parents still alive. They are mostly taken into institutions due to poverty, or issues related to it. Many continue to be placed in orphanages, some of which have existed since the Soviet era. Children growing up in these settings are often stigmatized and their future development is therefore limited. Alternative care settings are particularly limited for disabled children. SOS Children's Villages in Armenia The first SOS Children's Village in Armenia was opened in Kotayk in 1990. Family-strengthening programme: SOS Children’s Villages works directly with families, communities, local authorities and other service providers to empower families to effectively care for their children. We provide psychological support, we ensure that the children can go to school and that they get medical help when needed. Care in SOS families: When children can no longer stay with their biological families, they can be looked after by SOS families. Wherever possible, we work closely with the children’s family of origin, so that they can return to live with their families. Whenever this happens, we aim to support them during the period of change and adjustment. Youth Programmes: We provide young people with support until they are able to live independently. Great attention is paid to ensure they receive the right kind of education and training so that they can get a job. Emergency Programme: In October 2020, planning began to provide emergency support to children and families who were affected by the fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This assistance varied according to their needs, but could include medical and psychological support. We protected and cared for children who are separated from their families.