UMCOR began operations in Armenia in 1994 and since then has implemented relief and development programs throughout the country. UMCOR’s mission in Armenia is to assist in poverty eradication and socio-economic development during Armenia’s transition to a healthy and prosperous civil society. UMCOR serves vulnerable populations countrywide through health (including HIV/AIDS), anti – human trafficking, income generation, women's empowerment, and agricultural development programs.
With almost 20 years of experience working at all levels of Armenian society and government, UMCOR has developed a strong reputation across Armenia. UMCOR has successfully implemented programs with funding from donors that include United Nations Development Program (UNDP), US Agency for International Development (USAID), US Department of Agriculture (USDA), US Department of State (DOS), Rabobank, Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), The United Methodist Church, and others.
UMCOR’s work in Armenia is organized among these core sectors:
- Anti – Human Trafficking
- Nutrition/Food Security
- Small Reconstruction
- Disaster Risk Reduction
UMCOR is currently implementing the following projects in Armenia:
Medical Commodities Distribution Program
UMCOR’s Medical Commodities Distribution program is the organization’s longest-running program in Armenia. In partnership with the US Department of State and Armenia’s Ministry of Health, UMCOR has provided hundreds of clinics throughout the country with essential medicines, medical supplies, and non-medical commodities since the program began in 1994. These clinics distribute UMCOR medicines free of charge to vulnerable populations. Annually, more than 115 health posts, clinics, orphanages, and schools receive medicines and medical supplies, along with relief supplies leveraged through UMCOR’s relief-supply network, including health kits, school kits, layette kits, sewing kits, and bedding packs. The project provides access to free medicines, medical supplies, and non-medical commodities to approximately 150,000 vulnerable people in urban and rural areas each year.
Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS, STIs and TB Program
Since 2003, with financial support from Norwegian Church Aid, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the United Methodist Church Global AIDS Fund, UMCOR has been implementing the Prevention of HIV/AIDS, STIs, and TB program, which aims to reduce the risk of these illnesses in rural communities by increasing access to health information and services.
In the framework of the project, UMCOR trains local primary health-care providers in voluntary counseling and testing for HIV, STI management, TB case detection, and follow-up of TB patients' treatment; provides free medical services, delivered by UMCOR’s Mobile Medical Team, in targeted rural communities; trains and mobilizes community health volunteers (CHV) to conduct peer education and distribute informational materials on HIV/AIDS, STIs, and TB; and distributes condoms to persons at risk. Since the program’s inception, more than 2,000 CHVs have been trained in the provision of peer education on HIV/AIDS, STIs, and TB prevention.
Since 1999, UMCOR has been supporting Armenian farmers with training, technical assistance, and financial support for the development of farmers’ associations and cooperatives. UMCOR’s activities continue to assist the development of a strong agricultural sector in Armenia.
Farmers’ Support and Technical Assistance Program (FASTAP)
UMCOR is currently implementing the Farmers’ Support and Technical Assistance Program (FASTAP) in five communities in Kotayk and Aragatsotn marzes. Through trainings and the provision of agricultural equipment, beneficiary farmers are encouraged to use improved farming techniques and agricultural technologies. The communities selected for FASTAP include farmer groups created from active community members and farmers who participated in previous trainings with UMCOR. In this way, UMCOR leverages past success to further develop the capacity of targeted communities.
ANTI – HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Since 2004, UMCOR has been actively involved in issues surrounding trafficking in human beings in Armenia. UMCOR’s Assistance to Victims of Trafficking in Armenia program has been implemented with the financial assistance of the governments of Norway, Belgium, The Netherlands, and the United States, and with the generous support of United Methodists through UMCOR’s anti – human trafficking advance. Effective cooperation is maintained with all important state partners in the fight against trafficking, including law enforcement, the prosecutor’s office, and social, health, and labor authorities on national and local levels, as well as nongovernmental organizations and international agencies. UMCOR’s program aims to comprehensively tackle this complex issue by preventing trafficking, building the capacity of local stakeholders, and assisting/rehabilitating victims of trafficking (VoTs).
Direct assistance to VoTs includes shelter; legal consultations and representation in court; individual and group psychological therapy; medical assistance, including hospitalization; and reintegration activities such as vocational skills training, job placement, and financial assistance. UMCOR runs Armenia’s only shelter for survivors of trafficking and provides them with a safe, comfortable, and confidential environment to facilitate successful rehabilitation.
UMCOR maintains a toll-free hotline to impede human trafficking and assist VoTs by providing them with different kinds of information, including advice regarding laws and rights of migrants in destination countries, how to access assistance in destination countries, and referrals for health, employment, shelter, medical, and legal aid assistance.
UMCOR’s Nutrition/Food Security program in Armenia combats hunger and supports and empowers vulnerable and disadvantaged people living in state institutions and in rural communities.
Provision of Humanitarian Assistance to Institutionalized People (PHAIP)
In 1999, UMCOR launched its US Department of State – funded Cheese Distribution program to distribute cheese to elderly homes, orphanages, and boarding institutions; improve beneficiaries’ diets; and promote markets for local cheese producers. The current iteration of the PHAIP program supports 5,396 vulnerable children and 1,845 elderly people living in state institutions by meeting their basic nutritional needs with locally produced cheese. Within the project framework, UMCOR will procure 33.612 MT of locally produced cheese through an open and transparent tender, and distribute the cheese to 62 beneficiary institutions, improving the menus of 7,241 people for a 12-month period.
Fighting Hunger through Sustainable Livelihoods Development
In 2011, with support from Foods Resource Bank, UMCOR began implementing community-level food security programming in Armenia. UMCOR’s Fighting Hunger through Sustainable Livelihoods Development program aims to meet immediate and long-term nutritional needs of vulnerable members of targeted communities and institutions; establish sustainable food security bases; and promote community development through technical assistance. The program provides agricultural inputs to select institutions and families in targeted communities to increase their self-sustainability in food production. Technical trainings on sustainable farm management, beekeeping, and the raising of poultry and sheep increase participants’ knowledge base. Additional trainings increase participants’ ability to design menus that improve daily diets and promote overall health of community members and residents of institutions. Young people at institutions and community schools are further empowered through trainings that address life skills, beekeeping, and sustainable farm management.
Since 2005, UMCOR Armenia has been successfully implementing small reconstruction projects (SRP) funded by the US Department of State. Through its SRPs, UMCOR seeks to create the proper conditions in rural health facilities to provide quality health-care services to targeted populations. UMCOR has to date renovated 13 health facilities in Armavir, Ararat, and Kotayk marzes. SRP activities help improve sanitary conditions in targeted health facilities, bringing the facilities into compliance with necessary hygiene standards. Community members now receive medical care in pleasant, clean, and hygienic environments.
In the fall of 1997, UMCOR established the Aregak microfinance program, with the purpose of creating economic opportunities for low-income people who had limited to no access to formal financial sources, especially in remote rural areas. Aregak quickly became the largest microfinance institution in Armenia in terms of the number of active clients. In March 2006, it was registered and accredited by the Republic of Armenia Central Bank as a universal credit organization or UCO. Currently, Aregak UCO renders a broad range of financial services without compromising the social aspects of its mission and continues initiatives geared toward the fulfillment of its social goals.
Provision of scholarships for Aregak UCO clients
With financial support from Aregak UCO, UMCOR administers a scholarship program for Aregak UCO clients. The program aims to alleviate the burden a child’s education can pose for a low-income family by offering business loans and encouraging vulnerable community members to pursue microfinance opportunities. Scholarships are awarded to students from Aregak UCO client families to pay student’s tuition fees for at least one semester, giving children from low-income families the chance to enroll in higher education institutions. To date, more than 650 students have received funds to cover tuition fees for one semester.
DISASTER RISK REDUCTION
UMCOR has been implementing emergency and disaster preparedness activities in Armenia since 1997, and the Armenia mission continues to emphasize Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in its ongoing activities.
Disaster Preparedness through Education
Beginning in September 2013, UMCOR’s Disaster Preparedness through Education pilot project will educate staff and beneficiaries of targeted institutions in selected regions of Armenia on disaster preparedness. The project will address the disaster preparedness needs of grass-roots institutions, including local NGOs and special institutions that UMCOR supports through other programs. During discussions with relevant stakeholders it was brought to UMCOR’s attention that there is a great need for disaster preparedness education at special institutions. With extensive experience working with special schools, kindergartens, and NGOs that assist different categories of beneficiaries, UMCOR will implement a disaster preparedness education pilot project in Armavir marz to better prepare staff and children at targeted institutions to deal with natural and human-made disasters.