With jobs and income affected by the pandemic, parents struggle to make ends meet Ila Tovmasyan, 48, prepares a salad in the kitchen of her home in Yerevan, Armenia. Ila, a Syrian Armenian, fled the war in Syria in 2015 which took the life of her husband. She worked in Yerevan as a tailor until March 2020 when the pandemic first hit. She was left without a job when her studio closed down due to a lack of orders.
She and her family live in an apartment costing around $200 per month. “The pandemic has been very difficult for me,” Ila says. “How do I pay my rent when all places have closed down and I have no job?”
The economic crisis resulting from the spread of Covid-19 has hit Armenian small and medium businesses considerably hard. More than 82 percent of small businesses surveyed by UNDP indicated that they were negatively impacted by the crisis. Job reductions have impacted women more than men, increasing the burden on women across the country.
All of Ila’s family has been affected by the pandemic in different ways. Her eldest son Hakob, 24, is struggling to find jobs in Amsterdam where he lives. Her son Aram, 19, lost his job at a local car shop as soon as the pandemic began. Her youngest son Garo, 11, is struggling with online education. And Varduhi, her 22-year-old daughter, who has been married for two years, has been unable to see her husband, who is working in Finland.
The couple has not been able to meet for the past 10 months due to pandemic-related travel restrictions. Although her husband is a resident of Finland, he is not allowed to travel to Armenia, where a second wave of the virus is now on the rise. Meanwhile, Varduhi cannot visit her husband, as the embassies are not issuing tourist visas.
“A lot of time has passed, and my daughter is missing her husband,” Ila explains. “It will happen, but they are young and impatient.”
Varduhi is sympathetic towards her brother Garo’s struggles with online education. He is the best in his class at math, she says, but since the pandemic started, he has faced a lot of learning challenges. “It has been very difficult for him, it gets on his nerves,” she remarks. “I would help him, but there has been a lot he felt he could not understand.”
The economic crisis extends beyond the capital and has hit other families in smaller cities and villages too. In the Madan village of Armenia, Gayane Hakobyan, 30, lives with her husband and their four children. Two of Gayane’s children are school age – eight and six. They are currently on a fall break from school, which has been extended because of the pandemic’s resurgence.
Living in a rural area brings its own challenges. “There is no store, no school, no kindergarten here,” Gayane explains. “The children are at home the whole day.”
The crisis has worsened pre-existing education disparities by reducing the opportunities for many of the most vulnerable children around the world. For Gayane, too, the biggest impact of the virus has been on the children and their schooling. Schools re-opened on 7 December, but with Covid cases on the rise, it is not clear howlong the schools will be able to stay open. Gayane is hoping for it. “I hope they can keep going to school,” she says. “It is difficult with four children at home.”
Her daughter Mane has good grades in school but Gayane is worried about her progress with remote learning. “Going to school is better. At home, I cannot explain as well as their teacher can. To me, it’s clear that children should be educated at school.”
Gayane recently gave birth to her fourth daughter, Milena, in October. When going to the hospital for the birth, she was worried about the risk of Covid, but she had no other choice and said the best she could do was wear a mask.
Read more: http://voyages.eurasia.undp.org/exposure/surviving-covid-armenia-families