COVID-19 Relief for Refugees and Other Vulnerable Persons in Armenia
“The True Measure of Our Humanity is
How We Treat the Weakest Among Us in Times of Crisis”
Donors/Partners: Individual Donors and Open Society Foundations-Armenia
Implementing Organization: Aleppo-NGO
Project Duration: March 15, 2020 – August 31, 2020
Project Beneficiaries: Syrian Refugees, Lebanese-Armenians, Other Vulnerable Persons in Armenia
Having conducted a scientific survey to determine the level of labor rights violations against Syrian refugee workers in Armenia in 2019, Aleppo-NGO not only recognized the vulnerability of Syrian refugees due to their housing situation (more than 80% of Syrian refugees rent apartments in Yerevan) and employment status (undocumented and under-registered employment), but also recognized its position to advocate for the protection of Syrian refugees in Armenia, launching its COVID-19 emergency response program.
The program sought to secure emergency funds to provide cash assistance to support Syrian refugees in Armenia by covering their monthly housing rent and providing food and hygiene vouchers/packages to ensure the food security of Syrian refugees and other vulnerable persons in Armenia.
Between March 15, 2020 and August 31, 2020, Aleppo-NGO provided cash assistance to more than 260 Syrian refugee and other vulnerable families in Armenia.
With more than 80% of Syrian refugees living in rental apartments and more than 60% of Syrian refugee workers being undocumented or under-registered worker in Armenia prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of Syrian refugees were automatically disqualified from receiving financial assistance through the RA Government’s COVID-19 unemployment stimuli packages (interventions 8 and 20) after losing their jobs during the COVID-19 lock-down between March and May 2020. More importantly, similar to the United States, the RA Government did not pass legislation mandating landlords to waive or defer rental fees, thus forcing Syrian and other vulnerable groups in Armenia who live in rental apartments to continue paying rent despite losing their source of income.
Thanks to the support of countless individuals from around the world and the Open Society Foundations-Armenia, Aleppo-NGO was able to provide cash assistance (ranging between $63 and $500) to more than 260 Syrian, local, and Lebanese-Armenian families. The beneficiaries were selected based on the results of an ongoing Needs Assessment review conducted by Aleppo-NGO’s staff between March and August 2020 with more than 700 families in Armenia.
121 Syrian refugee families received two-time cash assistance (ranging between 30,000-50,000 AMD) funded by the Open Society Foundations-Armenia ($20,000), while more than 140 other Syrian, local, and Lebanese-Armenian families received one-time cash assistance (ranging between 20,000-235,000 AMD) raised through generous contributions from individual donors like Dr. Robert Österbauer and Ms. Nyree Tanielian (United Kingdom-$10,000), Mr. and Mrs. Edward and Carmen Gulbenkian (United States-$5,000) and others from around the world.
Free Lunch for Medical and Social Workers:
In June 2020, with the financial contribution of the Open Society Foundations-Armenia, Aleppo’s Cuisine Center distributed free lunch meals (335 lunch meals) to medical professionals (doctors, nurses, volunteers, and administrators) who have been on the front-line of Armenia’s struggle against the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The lunch meals were distributed to 55 medical professionals stationed at the Royal Hotel, which had been converted into a medical center where COVID-19 patients displaying mild symptoms were being treated.
In July 2020, the cuisine center continued the distribution of free lunch to 45 social workers and medical professionals working at the “Dzorak” Care Center for People with Mental Disorders (State Non-Commercial Organization) and 69 social workers and beneficiaries of the Center of Home Social Service Provision for Single Elderly and Disabled People (State Non-Profit Organization-SNPO).
Food and Hygiene Vouchers and Packages:
To ensure access to PPEs and other hygiene supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic and the food security of Syrian refugees and other vulnerable persons in Armenia, Aleppo-NGO designated more than $13,000 towards the acquisition and distribution of food and hygiene vouchers (ranging between 10,000-30,000 AMD) to more 280 Syrian, local, and Lebanese-Armenian families. Moreover, 20 Syrian families primarily consisted from elderly and person with disabilities received food and hygiene packages delivered to their home.
To launch the food and hygiene voucher program, Aleppo-NGO requested bids from Yerevan City, SAS Supermarket, Carrefour Supermarket, Parma Supermarket and Nor Zovq Supermarket chains. The winner of the bidding process was Carrefour Supermarket, which offered additional vouchers on top of the ones Aleppo-NGO paid for as part of their social corporate responsibility.
In May 2020, within the framework of the “Bright Future for Youth in Armenia” project, funded by the World Council of Churches-Armenia Round Table Foundation (ART), Aleppo-NGO allocated 46 scholarships to local, Syrian, Iranian, Iraqi and Lebanese-Armenian university students completing their Bachelor’s, Master’s and PHD degrees at numerous universities and colleges across Armenia.
The 46 scholarship recipients were selected from a pool of 102 applicants, whose applications were reviewed by a selection committee consisting of representatives from the Armenia Round Table Foundation, Aleppo-NGO and the My Step Foundation. The recipients were required to have a GPA of at least 3.0/4.0 and/or provide proof of employment and vulnerability.
Paid-Internships for Youth:
Since June 2020, 21 Syrian, local and Iranian youth have been participating in Aleppo-NGO’s paid-internship program, implemented within the framework of the “Bright Future for Youth in Armenia” project funded by ART.
The 21 participants were selected from a group of 46 applicants. The selected youth have been placed at various public institutions and private companies which match their educational background and professional experience. The program is designed to provide youth (3rd or 4th year Bachelor’s Degree Students, Master’s Degree Students, or recent graduates) work experience within the Armenian labor market with the aim of enhancing their resumes/CVs and paving the way for full-time employment.
The interns have educational and professional background in architecture, accounting, political science and international relations, IT, economics, medicine, ,marketing, etc. and are interning at numerous reputable institutions such as:
Office of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia;
Hematology Center after Prof. R. Yeolyan;
Whiz Code Academy;
Urban Unit, Storaket, Al Hamra Architectural Studios;
University Stomatology Clinic:
Hygiene Items and Optical Eyeglasses Distributed to More than 500 Families
With the ongoing support of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, Aleppo-NGO has distributed hygiene items and optical eyeglasses to more than 500 Syrian, local, and Lebanese-Armenian families in Armenia. In the framework of this mass distribution, some families with children also received school supplies, clothing items and other items donated by individuals from across Armenia.