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Refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh and Ukraine Fleeing to Armenia

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Refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh and Ukraine Fleeing to Armenia

WiRED and Partners in Armenia Developing Programs to Help

By Allison Kozicharow; Edited by Elizabeth Fine

World events have converged in the past year to cause tens of thousands of refugees escaping conflict to seek asylum in Armenia, the majority coming from Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan. The refugees are in need of basics such as food, clothing, medicine and shelter, which Armenia, a country of less than three million people, is struggling to supply.

UNICEF reports that “Between late September and early October 2023, over 100,000 ethnic Armenians — including 30,000 children – fled to the Republic of Armenia following a hostile military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh.” Armenia has been engaged in a border conflict with Azerbaijan since May 2021, with hostilities reaching back at least 30 years.

Adding to the humanitarian burden for Armenia is the addition of Ukrainian refugees, mainly of Armenian descent, evading their country’s invasion by Russia. The number of Ukrainians seeking refuge in Armenia is uncertain, although the count reported last July by the UN Refugee Agency was more than 600. Their numbers stand to increase as the war continues and conditions in Ukraine grow more dire.

Armenia is a country with scant economic resources and an overburdened health system, where every third child is living in poverty. Armenia can’t handle the refugee crisis alone, so the government is being aided by nongovernmental organizations and international agencies such as the World Health Organization.

Outside aid is no long-term solution for the refugee emergency in Armenia. In response, WiRED International has been working with people and organizations on the ground to develop a community health worker (CHW) training project. WiRED reported on its progress in a recent story about a pilot lecture series, which explored the possibility of a CHW program in Armenia. Such an undertaking will support the integration of refugees into Armenia as well as helping to elevate the health of all Armenians.