Taking the expertise to Nagorno-Karabakh

World Vision Armenia to reach the most vulnerable children and families in Nagorno-Karabakh Republic

World Vision Armenia with the support of ‘My Step’ Foundation will be sharing its expertise on poverty reduction and social work while providing services to the most vulnerable children and their families in Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR).

‘My Step’ Foundation and World Vision Armenia will be closely working with 30 highly vulnerable families living in the Republic to help them graduate from poverty and ensure their self-sustainability and decent living.

In September 2019, a representative team from World Vision Armenia and ‘My Step’ Foundation visited Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, having meetings and discussions with the president of the NKR Mr. Bako Sahakyan, Human Rights Defender of the NKR Mr. Artak Beglaryan, heads of respective ministries and stakeholders.

The Republic is mostly deprived of opportunities to benefit from international programs and directly learn from the existing experience because of its current international status. The organization’s presence in Nagorno-Karabakh can play a significant role here by actively involving the Republic in the processes that aim at human rights protection, capacity building, poverty eradication and more”, - says Human Rights Defender of the NKR Mr. Artak Beglaryan.

Cooperation with My Step Foundation and poverty eradication efforts for the vulnerable families

World Vision has been closely working with more than 4000 most vulnerable families in Armenia to help improve their socio-economic situation, as well as protect the rights of the children in these families. As a result of excessive and continuous social work and involvement of various professionals, these families not only receive in-kind support, but they also receive professional consultations, participate in a series of trainings, learn important life-skills and through ongoing coaching and support begin a more confident and self-dependent living and eventually leave the cycle of poverty. 

As a further supplement to social work, in 2017, World Vision also piloted the implementation of the ‘Graduation model’ that aims to help families living in poverty become self-reliant. Initially World Vision selected 60 (later the number reached 90) families and through organization of learning sessions, in-kind (monetary) support, guidance and close mentorship, managed to develop the families’ self-confidence, resilience, technical and entrepreneurship skills witnessing their ‘graduation’ from extreme poverty.

After months of intensive social work plus the implementation of ‘Graduation model’, the positive change in the lives of these families and their children was evident; analysis showing that some 48 per cent of these families overcame extreme poverty, while the quality of life improved noticeably among the 82 per cent of the beneficiary families.

In 2019, World Vision started a strategically important cooperation with My Step Foundation. The first step of the cooperation was the close work with 18 highly vulnerable families based on ‘Graduation model’. The success of the interventions was mostly due to the professional collaboration between My Step Foundation and World Vision experienced and qualified social workers who involved all the stakeholders including state child-protection and social-protection responsible bodies and actors. 

Taking the expertise to Nagorno-Karabakh; setting child well-being as a top priority

The decision for further cooperation between World Vision Armenia and ‘My Step’ Foundation for the well-being of the children in Nagorno-Karabakh was based on the statistical data on poverty and vulnerability among the children and their families and the lack of sustainable development programming available in the area.

Graduation model’ uses comprehensive toolkit, and designing individual development plans based on individual needs, preferences and peculiarities of each family allows using more effectively the scarce resources. After meetings with the representatives of relevant authorities, I am hopeful that we will record the same successful results with the families living in Artsakh Republic as well”, - says Hovhannes Ghazaryan, Executive Director of My Step Foundation.

World Vision sets child well-being as a top priority. Every child, irrespective of where he/she lives, has the right for a decent living and protection of his/her rights. The organization will bring its expertise in social work and poverty eradication to help improve the lives of children and their families living in Nagorno-Karabakh’, - says Zhirayr Edilyan, World Vision Armenia Director.

Currently, the experts from World Vision and ‘My Step’ Foundation are closely working with the state agencies in Nagorno-Karabakh to identify the first 40 beneficiary families of the initiative. Later, World Vision’s qualified social workers will be training the professionals in Nagorno-Karabakh on the efficient methodology of social work and specifics of ‘Graduation model’.

*Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and the vulnerability of the children and families

Located in South Caucasus, Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (self-declared independent republic) borders the Republic of Armenia in the West, the Islamic Republic of Iran in the South, the Republic of Azerbaijan in the North and the East.

The NKR population comprises 148,100 people (as of 2016[1]), the majority of them being ethnic Armenians. The armed conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh started in 1988 in response to Armenian population’s peaceful claims to exercise the right for self-determination. The conflict with Azerbaijan escalated in 1991-1994 until a ceasefire was concluded. It left a devastating impact on the lives of civilians in the area. The four-day armed conflict erupted in April 2016, resulting in hundreds of casualties on both sides.

In this fragile context of frozen conflict, poverty, unemployment and migration rates are high among the people living in the Republic. Households with three or more children under 6 are at higher risk of poverty (51.8%) as compared to national average (22.8%)[2].. The poverty levels among women led households (27.6%) are higher than those led by men (21.4%). There are over 18000 refugees in Nagorno Karabakh[3], over 460 IDPs (internally displaced people)[4] living in extremely vulnerable conditions across the republic.

Moreover, the number of unemployed in republic in 2016 comprised 91.6% of job seekers registered at the ministry of social affairs. The numbers of unemployed women keep being high, comprising 91.7% of all unemployed. On top, in 2013-15 households having young people aged 15 and above 40.8% were involved in migration flows within the republic, 15.1% to the Republic of Armenia, 42.7% to the Russian Federation.  The main reason for outmigration is search of employment, including seasonal [5]. 

There is a limited number of organizations present in the field because of the sensitive and fragile context.


[1] Stat-NK.am
[2] Ibid.
[3] NK Refugee Organization NGO data
[4] “As a result of the “April war” – escalation on the border, Azerbaijan now controls over the village of Talish, previously the biggest settlement in the area, giving it a strategic vantage point over the mountainous gorge leading into Nagorno-Karabakh’s densely Armenian-populated Martakert region. Similarly, the southern positions it gained on the Lalatapa mountain provide it with a strategic vantage point over Nagorno-Karabakh’s south and parts of the south east, including the Armenian-populated areas of Hadrud and Martuni.” International Crisis Group, Nagorno-Karabakh’s Gathering War Clouds, Europe Report N°244 | 1 June 2017
[5] Social Picture and Poverty in Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, statistical-analytical report, Stepanakert, 2016