There was arguably no year more crucial for FAR’s Healthcare Program than 2020. With a global pandemic affecting every facet of life that was compounded by a war in Artsakh, greater knowledge about public health, education, and connection, partnership, and networking, was literally lifesaving. FAR’s Healthcare team was once again at the forefront, offering crucial support, both emergency and long-term.
Healthcare Program Highlighted Beneficiary
Dr. Narine Danielyan
In 2019, Dr. Narine Danielyan participated in the Continuing Medical Education Program (CME) where she focused on the response to and treatment of infectious disease, primarily with elderly patients, at Nor Nork Infectious Disease Clinic. She didn’t anticipate how incredibly useful her CME experience would actually be.
“Previously, I felt that I had a gap in expertise whenever I treated elderly patients,” said Dr. Danielyan. “Thanks to the program and the month I spent working with the elderly, I learned a lot. It has helped me to better do the work I’m doing now and better respond to their specific needs.”
When the first cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in Armenia, Dr. Danielyan began dividing her days between Vanadzor Hospital, where she spent her mornings, and Spitak Hospital. She said her CME training helped her to better understand and enforce proper protective measures from the get go, including wearing protective gear and social distancing. Her experience also enabled her to more effectively communicate with people who were scared or uneasy, particularly those with more fragile health conditions. She was more able to help them understand the importance of these measures and the role social distancing played in public health at this time of crisis. Above all, she encouraged patients to keep calm and not panic.
Her connection with the CME network was also a welcomed source of support, she said, something she was particularly grateful to have during a period like no other.
During 2020, 61 physicians (58 from Armenia and 3 from Artsakh) participated in FAR’s Continuing Medical Education Program (CME), despite the fact that CME had to pause from March until May due to the pandemic.
CME aims to elevate the level of quality and care of the healthcare system by providing opportunities for professional development to doctors who primarily work in rural and underserviced areas. Through the program, doctors based in rural areas undergo a month-long mentorship program with doctors in Yerevan where they can hone their skills, deepen their knowledge of their specialization or even explore a new area of focus.
The program also connects participants to a large network of healthcare providers, which they can continually turn to after completing their training. Since CME began in 2005, 1,170 doctors, including 270 who practice in Artsakh thanks to FAR’s partnership with the Armenian American Health Professionals Organization (AAHPO), have been assisted through CME.
During this time of crisis, the likes of which we had never seen, FAR also became a public health information hub. The FAR Healthcare Program team managed and coordinated all information from sources including WHO, AAHPO, UNICEF, Ministry of Health (MoH), NIH, etc. in order to disseminate it as widely as possible to more than 1,000 healthcare providers throughout the country, in addition to project staff and beneficiaries, as information became more widely known during the pandemic.
FAR’s team in collaboration with Armenia’s MoH also organized online trainings for 500 healthcare providers from Yerevan and other provinces, plus 70 from Artsakh, about COVID-19. More than 850 physicians and healthcare professionals from around the world also participated in the “COVID Pandemic: Lessons Learned” virtual conference in July, which was supported by FAR and organized by the AAHPO.
In addition, more than 250 primary care physicians participated in a series of separate FAR-sponsored online trainings on non-communicable diseases.
FAR distributed 5,000 Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and other supplies, including 25,000 face masks and protective gloves, 500 face shields and glasses, and 50 thermometers to frontline healthcare workers for hospitals and clinics in Yerevan and in remote regions that treated the nation’s confirmed COVID-19 cases. This was an enormous help in the places where, at one point, responders often had to reuse the same protective suits for a couple of days. FAR with help from Ayo! also helped to procure reagents for 50,000 COVID-19 tests.
During the Artsakh War, FAR’s Healthcare team also procured PPEs for 40 nurses assisting on the frontlines.
Artsakh Nurses Training Program
The Artsakh Nurses Training Program completed its third year having trained a total of 450 nurses in Artsakh. During 2020, 30 nurses, 15 from Askeran and 15 from Martuni, participated in the project which helps strengthen the skills of those who are often the de facto primary healthcare providers in their regions.
Combatting Malnutrition Program
FAR’s projects focused on combatting childhood malnutrition in Armenia also adapted to the unique conditions of the pandemic. With daycares closed for much of the year, meal programs under both the Child Health & Malnutrition Component of Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP) and Transforming Children’s Health and Development were temporarily adapted to monthly distributions of dry food packages comprised of products recommended by the World Food Program.
Twenty daycares in Armenia’s Tavush Province, where FAR implements BCPP, and three daycares in Aragatsotn Province received food packages, benefitting 1,335 children and their families. Packages also contained educational materials from FAR’s healthcare team on topics relevant to the pandemic, including respiratory and infectious diseases.
In addition, children reached through this project were also assisted in other ways. Nine children from Aragatsotn who were identified as having different musculoskeletal issues received rehabilitation services at the Kosh Children's Rehabilitation Center.
Two hundred and fifty children with diabetes received support through the provision of 60,000 diagnostic tests, which will cover their needs until July 2021.
In addition, 100 children with bronchial asthma were assisted with access to their needed medication. Both of these last two initiatives targeted children under the age of 5, who are considered the most vulnerable.
By the Numbers
doctors, including 270 who practice in Artsakh, have been assisted through CME since it started in 2005.
healthcare providers received continuously updated public health information.
physicians participated in FAR’s CME program in 2020.
PPEs and other supplies were distributed by FAR, including 25,000 face masks and gloves, 500 face shields, and 50 thermometers to frontline healthcare workers and centers.
nurses participated in the Artsakh Nurses Training Program during 2020.
children from 23 daycares in Tavush and Aragatsotn provinces were supported by FAR’s Combatting Malnutrition Program.
Armenian American Health Professionals (AAHPO)
Dr. John Bilezikian, Columbia Presbyterian
Dr. Raffy Hovanessian Medical Education Fund
Dr. Richard Deckelbaum, Columbia Presbyterian
Levon & Claudia Nazarian Family Foundation
Nazarian Family Foundation, Inc.
SJS Charitable Trust