Armenia is a one of the world’s oldest civilizations with a rich cultural heritage. It is situated in the South Caucasus. The country is about the size of Belgium with three million inhabitants. Armenia is also famous for its picturesque mountain landscapes. The highest peak is the extinct volcano Aragat at 4, 090 m above sea level.
The name Armenia was first mentioned in an inscription of the Persian King Darius in 521 BCE. Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as the state religion in 301 AD.
In the Ottoman Empire Armenians experienced multiple persecutions. In April 1915, up to 1.5 million Armenians were massacred. This attempted destruction of the Armenian people by the Ottoman Turkish Government is considered as the first genocide of the 20th century. This trauma is felt in the Armenian population until today.
During the Soviet times, Armenia was a socialist republic. It became independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The country is bounded by Turkey on the West, Georgia on the North, Azerbaijan on the East and Iran on the South.
Poverty is pervasive in Armenia, and very depressing. The conditions for economic development are difficult. Armenia has closed borders with two of its neighbors, Turkey and Azerbaijan, which damages the country’s economic growth. With its limited agricultural areas and natural resources Armenia depends on outside supplies of raw materials. Many areas are characterized by inadequate or poor provision of infrastructure such as water, electricity, heating, as well as hospitals, schools and roads. Health care is free of charge only for children up to 7 years old but even in these cases only for a basic treatment.
Medical treatment is expensive and not affordable for many people.
Unemployment is one of the main problems Armenia, especially in the region of Shirak. In 1988, the devastating earthquake struck Gyumri, the capital of the region. Nearly three decades later the city is still suffering. Up until today, countless people still live in unheated metal containers without water, electricity and heating․The lack of professional or social perspectives drives people into depression and moral hopelessness.
Why has so little changed after so many years?
Although the reconstruction already started four weeks after the earthquake, many construction sites were brought to a standstill very soon because of bureaucratic problems, incomplete planning documents and problems with the supply of building materials. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Armenia, which had previously been part of the Republic of the USSR, had to build its own political system. The conflict with Azerbaijan over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh escalated into a full-scale war in 1992. Despite the ceasefire agreement signed in 1994, clashes continue up until today.
Until now no social support system exists in Armenia for its own population. Unemployment is enormous, leaving people without even the minimum income. Pensions for the elderly are much too low to live decently. Medical care is not affordable. Above all, as in all poor countries, corruption also impedes any progress or economic growth. People are leaving the country in search of a better life. Mainly, the elderly and the poor stay in Armenia.
Built in 1992 through funding provided by Austria, Austrian Children's Hospital is one of the few institutions where especially young patients can receive free medical care. Since 1992, this hospital is run with the assistance of Austrian donations and different medical projects have been implemented here to help people. We intend to continue some of these medical activities. Through these projects we want to fill people’s hearts with hope and encourage them to never give up even under the most difficult conditions.