Armenia

OCHA Situation Report for Armenia - Jan 2000

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I. HIGHLIGHTS
The Government of Armenia Established a Department on Coordination and Monitoring of Loans, Grants and Humanitarian Assistance

Heavy Snowstorms, Avalanches Hit Armenia

Budget Allocations for Family Subsidies are Decreased

Unemployment Remains High in Armenia

II. SITUATION OVERVIEW

Principal Department on Coordination and Monitoring of Loans, Grants and Humanitarian Assistance Formed

The Government of Armenia in its efforts to regularise the issue of coordination of international assistance provided to the country, as well as to facilitate the work of the international organisations, established Principal Department on Coordination and Monitoring of Loans, Grants and Humanitarian Assistance under the direct supervision of the Prime Minister. Government decrees related to the responsibility and procedures of the Department have been issued during the last months. The Department is headed by the Chairman of the Humanitarian Assistance Commission, who is also a member of the newly created Governmental Committee of Coordination of International Assistance Programmes headed by the Prime Minister. The Department acts as the working group of the Governmental Committee. A meeting with the Head of the Department was convened by the UN Resident Coordinator on 21 January. Present were representatives of the international community operating in Armenia. The Head of the Department presented the International Assistance Coordination Framework, which includes institutional, regulatory and structural measures, information framework, procedures of receiving international assistance, and functions of the Ministry of Economy, the Department and the Governmental Committee.

Government Project Document "International Assistance Database for Armenia" Elaborated

UN Development Programme (UNDP) Project Appraisal Committee meeting on a project document "International Assistance Database for Armenia" was held on 20 January. The project is elaborated by the Principal Department on Coordination and Monitoring of Loans, Grants and Humanitarian Assistance with support of UNDP. The project aims to support the Government of Armenia in its coordination efforts by strengthening the capacities of the Department through the development and introduction of an International Assistance Database. The proposed database will serve not only as a tool for sistemising and storing information but also will facilitate the implementation of assistance programmes, improve their efficiency. It will be a basis for planning future development objectives. The establishment of such a database will promote the efficient coordination of international assistance which should be based on correct and timely collection of information on ongoing, already compiled and foreseen assistance programmes.

Armenia, US Formed Economic Task Force

Armenian Prime Minister and visiting US State Department Coordinator signed an agreement on 27 January establishing a task force to promote bilateral economic ties and ensure the more rational use of US economic aid to Armenia. Several US Government agencies will be represented in the new task force.

New TACIS Programme Approved

The European Union approved a new seven-year aid programme for the states of the former Soviet Union. The new TACIS Regulation, proposed back in 1998, is intended to bring additional focus to the EU's assistance programme to the thirteen countries in the region, including Armenia. The new programme worth 3,138 million EURO will stress regional cooperation, environmental protection and nuclear safety. The overall objective of TACIS is to promote transition to a market economy and the reinforcement of democracy. Eligible areas for support under the new Regulation include institutional, legal and administrative reform, private sector, economic development dealing with the social consequences of transition, development of infrastructure networks, and development of the rural economy.

Armenia Hit by Heavy Snowstorms, Avalanches

Heavy snowstorms and avalanches have hit Armenia causing avalanches and floods. The northern regions of the country were the worst hit. Strong winds blew off roofs and disrupted electric supply, causing many villages to be cut off from the outside world. In the south of the country, heavy snow caused the flooding of several villages. Heavy snowfalls in the region of Syunik made travelling almost impossible. Strong blizzards have caused serious damages to settlements in the region of Gegharkunik. Communication lines in 5 towns of the region and in a number of villages have been destroyed. The strong winds accompanying the blizzards have broken windows and torn away roofs in villages and blocked the roads.

Family Subsidies Decreased

According to the Finance Ministry, this year 20.2 billions of Drams will be allocated for family subsidies (the 1999 figure was 21,7 billion Drams). The decrease in budget allocations for family subsidies is conditioned by 15 percent (in 1999) and 30 percent (January 2000) increase in the average annual salaries of the budget and education sector employees correspondingly. In addition, the tax-free threshold of the salaries will increase from 17,000 up to 28,000 Drams, which is also considered as an indirect salary increase by 8-10 percent. Thus, taking into consideration that family subsidies should decline in parallel with the increase in the living standard of the population, budget allocations for that purpose are decreased.

Power Tariff Discounts For Poor

The Government has introduced a programme to enable socially vulnerable people to take advantage of tariff discounts. Consumers using electricity from midnight till early morning would pay 40 percent less than for the rest of the day. That is, 15 instead of 25 drams (about 2 US cents) per one kilowatt/hour. Those willing to save money on the discount have to pay an equivalent USD 52 for the installation of special electricity meters that can distinguish between daytime and nocturnal power consumption. The Government had decided to provide those meters free of charge to some 200,000 households across the country officially deemed poor. Apart from the social benefits of the measure, the Government also hopes to boost energy consumption at night in order to ensure more even power supplies that would improve the sector's efficiency.

Unemployment Remains High In The Country

The Labor and Employment Centre of the Ministry of Social Welfare reported that in 1999 10,702 people were provided with jobs. This figure is twice more than the previous year's index. Half of those received jobs were women. Twenty-five retraining courses were organised last year by the Centre, enabling 382 unemployed to acquire new professions. 75 percent of them were provided with jobs. According to official statistics, 11 percent of the national workforce are unemployed, but various unofficial estimates put the rate between 20 and 40 percent. The high level of unemployment is a major contributor to the high rate of emigration from Armenia.

Armenia Participates In Post-Conflict Rehabilitation Seminar

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)-initiated third regular seminar on the post-conflict rehabilitation efforts was held on 26 January in Tbilisi. The two-day seminar was the last preparatory arrangement on the threshold of the OSCE 8th economic forum to be held in Prague in February. Participating in the seminar were delegates from over 50 countries. The Armenian delegation was led by Deputy Minister of Territorial Administration. The OSCE field representatives in the conflict zones made reports on several countries. The reports deal with the tasks of post-conflict economic rehabilitation.

UAF's 107th Airlift Delivers USD 3.6 Million Of Aid To Armenia

The United Armenian Fund's (UAF) 107th airlift arrived in Yerevan on 23 January carrying USD 3.6 million of humanitarian assistance. The UAF itself collected for this airlift USD 3 million worth of medicines and medical supplies. Several other organisations contributed supplies for this airlift. Since its inception in 1989, the UAF has sent USD 269 million of humanitarian assistance to Armenia on board 107 airlifts and 541 sea containers.

III. SECTORAL SUMMARY OF EVENTS

1. Food Security/Agriculture

As reported by the Ministry of Agriculture, Armenia produced 297,800 tones of grain in 1999, which was 9 percent less than it was produced in 1998. Armenia's grain requirement is about 800,000 tones per year. To meet this requirement the country imported grain and also received it as humanitarian aid. Most of the imports came from Russia. The United States has been the main provider of humanitarian aid: it has supplied Armenia with 1.33 million tones of grain since 1992. The Ministry forecasts Armenia will produce 315,000 tones of grain in 2000.

Three agricultural programmes worth a total of USD 88.4 million are currently under implementation in Armenia. An USD 11,000,000 subsidy was also provided for by the state budget for the purpose of developing agriculture. The irrigation system restoration programme implemented in the country is worth USD 55.15 million. USD 51 million were allocated by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), as well as by the Armenian Government. The programme, which was launched in 1994, will be completed this year. The project of developing agricultural services in the northwest regions is worth USD 13.45 million, USD 12.95 million USD being the IFAD loan, the rest is the share of the Government. The project was launched in May 1998. The agricultural reform assistance programme is worth USD 19.8 million, USD 14.5 million being the USAID loan, and USD 5.3 million is the share of the Government. The programme was launched in 1998 and is to be completed in 2002.

2. Health & Nutrition

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) supported the Ministry of Health to conduct evaluation project of the Armenian National Immunisation Programme (NIP). As a preparatory stage, nationwide training on NIP evaluation for field investigators and supervisors was held in July. The final report was submitted to UNICEF and the Ministry in December, and in January the Armenian translation was finalised and shared with the Government partners and NIP focal points. The major findings from the coverage survey highlight both the accomplishments of the NIP during the past decades as well as multiple areas for improvement. Disparities across regions for many coverage indicators suggest that intensive efforts are still required to improve coverage rates at the regional level.

UNICEF, In cooperation with OXFAM, implemented a project aimed at the development of integrated primary health services in three villages of the Vayots Dzor region. The villages were selected according to the number of families living below poverty line. Other factors such as the number of health providers and community's commitment were also considered. The main objectives of the project were to increase the access of population to primary health services through strengthening the capacities of health facilities and improving service delivery. Activities included upgrading of health post facilities, provision of equipment and supplies, training of local health personnel and establishment of community-managed health insurance schemes - revolving drug funds.

National guidelines (modules) on emergency obstetrics and neonatology were reviewed and updated by a national team of specialists of the Ministry of Health. 1,330 copies of the revised modules were printed and six-day practical seminars were organised in every region of the country. Twenty-five obstetricians, pediatricians, midwives, and anesthesiologists were trained. During the training sessions, special attention was given to the prescription and use of health supplies and equipment provided by UNICEF. Pre- and post-testing of implementation of revised guidelines was an integral part of each course.

3. Education, Training & Child Care

Armenia submitted its first National Report on Education for All, which is an attempt to describe the situation in the country's education sector and implemented reforms as well as to assess the past ten years' accomplishments measured against the Jomtien Conference target dimensions. This work was done through the support from UNESCO, UNICEF and other UN agencies. The National Report on Education for All will serve as a substantive basis for development of the reform strategy in the education sector in Armenia, as well as will highlight areas of concern.

Armenia's Initial State Party Report on the implementation of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) was discussed at the Plenary Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child held in Geneva on 20 January 2000. The Armenian delegation was headed by the Minister of Social Security. UNICEF/Armenia representatives also attended the session. Most of the questions discussed referred to the definitions of the child, children's participation, ill-treatment/abuse of children, parental education, institutions for children, childhood disability, inclusive education, special protection measures, juvenile justice, national mechanism to monitor CRC implementation, data collection and analysis, national plan of action including child analysis impact. The Committee expressed concern on the impact of some presidential decrees that somehow reduced the autonomy of the national children's rights commission, the lack of an ombudsman on child's right issues, and ambiguous government policies towards NGOs as an important part of civil society. It was also mentioned that the definition of the child and the juvenile justice system are major legal areas that still require considerable work.

From 3-10 December, a photo exhibition to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the CRC opened in Yerevan. The exhibition was the result of the initiative of East-West Centre NGO that with UNICEF support organised photography training for 40 children aged 12-13 years in Yerevan and Meghri. Alongside with photos by children, the exhibition also featured works by professional photographers made available through the support from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

The Armenian National Television and the Armenian National Radio participated in a row in the International Children's Day of Broadcasting (ICDB) 1999. This year's ICDB featured materials prepared by young journalist schools in seven regions. A direct link was established between the studios airing live programmes on TV and Radio. The Armenian National Radio also managed to establish a direct link with the Georgian National Radio.

UNICEF encouraged Yerevan secondary school #19 to participate in the initiative of the Spanish National Committee for UNICEF, aimed to increase active knowledge of the CRC through a work of literary and artistic creation. Children's groups worldwide wrote stories and drew pictures for a CRC book in national languages illustrating provisions of CRC articles. Schools representing over 100 countries joined the initiative. The books resulting from the work of children were presented in the UNICEF Headquarters to commemorate 10th Anniversary of the CRC.

UNICEF supported a local NGO, the National Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, to conduct a comparative study of existing legislation in terms of its compliance with the CRC. The study revealed that although the legislation is largely in place, the law enforcement and administration mechanisms are barely functioning. The study analysed the whole array of Armenian laws pertaining to the child, including the Law on the Rights of the Child, the Constitution, the Civil Code, the Criminal Code, the Family and Marriage Code.

4. Refugee Issues

The Minister of Territorial Administration and Operative Issues and UNHCR Representative signed Memorandum of Understanding on 20 January for cooperation and coordination of activities in refugee related matters. This is the third memorandum signed between the Armenian Government and UNHCR in recent years and aimed to promote refugees' naturalisation process and support in resolving a number of issues concerning refugees.

The NGO Centre in Armenia organised a two-day workshop on 22-23 January in Tsakhkadzor with the representatives of local mass media and NGOs working with refugees in Armenia. The aim of the workshop was to enhance the cooperation between the local mass media and NGOs and promote the activities that NGOs are currently carrying out in Armenia concerning refugees and in general.

5. Shelter

UNHCR and the Armenian Social Investment Fund have agreed to implement joint co-funded projects for rehabilitation of village infrastructure in refugee populated areas in Armenia. UNHCR shelter construction programme for refugees will be continued in 2000 as well. The sites that have been initially selected jointly by UNCHR and the Government of Armenia for implementation of shelter activities in 2000 are Hrazdan, Voskehat, Ijevan, Nor Nork and Bureghavan. The programme will mainly target homeless refugees living in temporally dwellings and hazardous buildings. The rehabilitation of the communal centre in Vardashen is partially completed and moving of beneficiary families to their rooms is in the process.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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