Gagik Hakobyan's family lives in a vacant lot abandoned by a motor depot in the Achapniak district, near the garbage dump. As we have reported, five families live here. Four members of this family live in a dirt-floored, 16-square-meter shack. There are a couple of car-batteries in a corner of the room, with cables running to the ceiling, where a small light bulb is hanging. That is how they light up the room and turn on the radio. "My husband brought the batteries from the garbage dump, he works there. He goes there at seven a.m. and returns late at night. We live with the help of the garbage dump; what can we do? He brings empty bottles, I wash them and we turn them in for 10 drams a piece," says Sima Khachatryan, Hakobyan's wife, as she washes the bottles.
She washes some 150 bottles a day, to get 1,500 drams (less than $3). They heat the cabin by burning old plastic bags and shoes from the garbage dump. Seven-year-old Armine helps her mother - she arranges the bottles. In a corner of the room are the dolls that her father brings from the dump. Armine washes them thoroughly and plays dolls with her friends. She will go to school this year. "I don't know how I am going to manage, yet; my daughter doesn't have a birth certificate. She was born seven years ago in Aparan, my husband is from there. My mother-in-law died at that time and we didn't have any money. When I was leaving the hospital, they asked for 15,000 drams. My husband said we didn't have that amount and could pay 5,000 drams. They said: no, pay 10,000. But we only had 5,000 drams. So they took the child's birth certificate and the 5,000 drams with it. Doctor Mirakyan told us: 'When you bring 5,000 drams, we will give you the birth certificate.' Some 15 days ago my husband went to Aparan to get the birth certificate but Mirakyan again said that they would not give it to us until we paid 5,000 drams. My husband complained to the head physician of the hospital. And he said the same thing: 'Unless you pay the money we won't give you the birth certificate.' So he came back and now we don't know what to do," Sima Khachatryan said, and then asked us, "If you can, help us get the birth certificate. Otherwise we won't be able to send our daughter to school." Armine is not registered at the polyclinic, either, because of the birth certificate. She has never had any vaccinations or checkups.
All we have to say is, Doctor Mirakyan, give Armine's birth certificate back and you can get 5,000 drams from the Hetq office.
Photos by Onnik Krikoryan