Armenia 1997-1998

Despite a complicated and fairly volatile internal political situation, Armenia has had a peaceful twelve months. Changes introduced under a reform programme for the disintegrating health service have badly hit vulnerable groups. MSF teams worked in the Noyemberian region until the end of 1997 increasing access to health care for the population with drug distributions, training in prescription techniques and data collection. An extended family planning programme covering three northern districts was launched in February 1998. Contraceptive methods are proposed to women of reproductive age in preference to the previous Soviet-style response: abortion. In Yerevan and in Gyumri, Shirak region, teams are involved in STD/AIDS activities including STD detection, updating treatment techniques in a specialised hospital, blood screening and information. In Vardenis and Sevan psychiatric hospitals, MSF provides occupational therapy, nutritional follow-up, management support and renovation work to improve long-term living conditions for patients. MSF set up a network for all those involved in this field to increase awareness of the need to humanise care for psychiatric patients and help reform their present legal status. A street-children project in Yerevan focuses on children removed from the streets and placed by local authorities in two reception centres. Psychological assistance is provided for 400 children annually as well as material assistance (drugs, clothes, hygiene products) and training for personnel. MSF is again trying to humanise a situation in which abuse has occurred and is fully implicated in a national debate about street children.