The healthcare component of FAR’s Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP) fights one of the most prevalent healthcare problems in Armenia today: malnutrition among infants and toddlers (ages 0-24 months).

One of our first steps toward doing this was our health team’s cooperation with Columbia University professors and Ministry of Health representatives to develop a balanced food program for kindergartens* in the Berd Region of Tavush Province, where BCPP is implemented. Today, 577 children in 14 kindergartens receive free and nutritious daily meals. Yet, while this program reached many more needed to be done to help the kids not yet involved in the education system.

The next step was to increase the awareness of mothers and caregivers on the importance of children’s health, nutrition and safety through trainings that would teach them how to use local and limited food resources to manage their children’s nutrition in better ways. These trainings also started in 2013, shortly after the school meals program began. Since then, hundreds of community trainings on topics of children’s nutrition, safety, and hygiene have been organized for young mothers and caregivers in designated “maternal classrooms,” comfortable venues established at medical care centers in nearly all of the program’s target communities in Berd. The number of trainings increases year after year.

“For four years I have cooperated with FAR and I must say it is a fruitful and productive cooperation,” said Dr. Gayane Gevorgyan, a physician at the primary care health center in Navur Village. “Step by step they developed the program. They educated the population and transferred the important knowledge about balanced nutrition for children from poor families into a more targeted and specific approach.”

Sirush Ginovyan, 58, has attended all of the medical and nutrition seminars organized at Navur’s primary care health center. “I want to thank FAR and Dr. Gayane for the workshops during which we learned modern approaches to everyday common diseases. Those seminars give useful knowledge to parents, especially young mothers so that they can raise healthy children,” said Sirush.
FAR’s BCPP social worker Armine Babayan who mostly deals with health programs has been present at many workshops organized in the region over the past years.

“I can say with confidence that the seminars truly serve their purpose and are logical complements to the series of activities carried out under the health component of BCPP. Participant mothers show great interest in the topics, always asking questions and getting involved in discussions,” said Armine. “Often, participants actually propose ideas for topics that we can use for future training courses.”

More than 2,000 have participated in trainings since the start of the program. Sixty-four community trainings have already been planned for 2017, the first block of which will focus on the psycho-emotional sphere of children, followed by some focused on infectious diseases and immunization.

*In Armenia, kindergartens accept children between the ages of two and seven years old, and sometimes starting from age one.