Armenian families of soldiers killed in Karabakh war offered fertility treatment
Free fertility treatment for parents of killed Armenian soldiers
In Armenia, families who lost their sons during the second Karabakh war in 2020 and decided to give birth to a child again will be provided with free fertility treatment including artificial insemination.
The Human Reproduction Center is one of five medical clinics where parents who lost their sons during the 44-day war are offered the help of so-called applied reproductive technologies.
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The story of one family
In the Human Reproduction Center, in front of one of the offices, women sit on chairs in a row, waiting in line for an appointment. Among brightly dressed, young women, one stands out – she silently sits with her head bowed, all in black.
Siranush is no more than 45. From time to time, she looks up and watches a man who restlessly walks from corner to corner. He seems to be the same age as her, but with a very aged face. The woman says her husband grew old in one day, as soon as he learned about the death of his son. Hayk was 25 and died during the recent 44-day war in Karabakh.
The couple also has a younger daughter, she is married, and will soon have a child. But the parents nevertheless decided to have a child again themselves – and at any cost.
“Hayk cannot be returned. And no one will replace him. But we need strength to live on. I’m sure Hayk would like us to be able to live on,” Siranush says.
Soon a woman in a white coat comes up to her and invites her to the doctor’s office. The noisy company falls silent for a moment: “God help me,” each of those waiting in the queue utters barely audibly.
There are still no final figures on the casualties on the Armenian side during the 44-day war. In the latest list published by the Ministry of Defense, there are 2,442 names. The Ministry of Health reports that 3,684 forensic genetic examinations have already been carried out, following their results, 1,972 bodies have been identified. The search for the remains of the dead and missing persons continues.
How it all started
The head of the Association for Reproductive Medicine Eduard Hambardzumyan says that the doctors thought about providing assistance to the parents of the dead soldiers after the war, when they themselves began to apply for the birth of a child:
“Two weeks after the war, the first couple approached us, they told us literally the following: ‘The hearth in our house went out. We need to light it up again.’ When it became clear that this was not the only couple who had such a desire, we decided to give the issue a systemic solution.
It has never happened before that the parents of soldiers who died in the war turned to reproductive medicine in order to give birth to a child again. This requires superhuman strength, and the strength of these people helps us to do everything possible and impossible to help them.”
Nune Pashayan, head of the maternal and child health department, says that in the case of the first few married couples, the issue was decided by individual orders from the Minister of Health. And already in February, the corresponding changes were made to the law “On reproductive health and reproductive human rights.”
Prior to this, the law provided for free medical care for
- residents of border areas,
- military personnel and those equated to them,
- people with disabilities,
- citizens receiving family benefits.
However, the war and the situation that developed after it forced us to make adjustments.
“Prior to that, the law established that applicants should not have children. For women, the maximum age threshold at the time of treatment was set at 35 years. In addition, an officially registered marriage was a prerequisite.
The law previously provided for support for parents of military personnel who died during the service or for reasons related to the service, but this did not apply to volunteers and mobilized during the war. As a result of the latest amendments, in the case of the parents of the deceased children, all restrictions have been lifted, including age restrictions,” says Nune Pashayan.
According to her, too little time has passed since the amendments to the law were made to provide figures and statistics, but it is already obvious that many are ready to take advantage of this opportunity:
“We already have couples who have passed the necessary checks and the preparatory stage. We have already started referring them to the appropriate clinics.”
Nune Pashayan says that 49 fertilization procedures were performed within the framework of the program for the entire 2020, and 44 fertilization procedures were performed in the first three months of 2021. Moreover, this year 917 million drams [$1.7 million] were allocated for the program, which is three times more than last year.
In Armenia, the birth rate today is 1.6, and the normal reproductive rate is at least 2.1. 14.9% of women and 9.5% of men face the problem of infertility. If these indicators remain the same, in 70 years the population of Armenia will be reduced by half.