WHO Rushes Aid to Armenia as Refugees Flood in From Nagorno-Karabakh 
WHO is rushing emergency health supplies to refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh who have fled over the border to Armenia

WHO said it is racing emergency health supplies to Armenia, struggling to cope with over 100,000 refugees who have poured over the border from the ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh over the past 10 days. 

The enclave, controlled by an ethnic Armenian separatist group since 1994, was retaken by Azerbaijan in a lightning-style military campaign that began on 19 September and lasted about 24 hours.  

The Armenian government said Monday that 100,514 of the region’s estimated 120,000 residents have crossed into Armenia. Eyewitnesses said that the regions capital city, Stepanakert, was virtually deserted. 

In a press release, WHO said that it was rushing emergency health supplies to the Armenian Ministry of Health – to cope with the refugees’ arrival. It is the second such mass exodus event to be witnessed in Europe recently, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. 

“WHO had already pre-positioned trauma supplies to Armenia,” said WHO’s Regional Director for Europe, Hans Kluge.  

“Following the dramatic explosion of a fuel depot along the route taken by those entering Armenia, WHO is dispatching burns kits to support the advanced care needed for severe burns patients,” Kluge said. He was referring to the massive fuel depot explosion on September 25 amid the exodus. The blast killed at least 170 people and injured 200 more.

“We’ve activated our emergency systems and will be sending experts to the country across a range of disciplines including mental health, burns management, essential health services, and emergency coordination following a full assessment of the needs. 

“To support the general health needs of the displaced population, WHO is also sending medicines for non-communicable diseases, that will cover 3 months of treatments for up to 50,000 persons,” Kluge added, saying “The challenges are truly enormous, and we’re there to do all we can.”

A WHO special envoy, Robb Butler, has also been dispatched to Armenia to assess more long term needs. 

“At the first major town the refugees are fleeing to, I saw an immense outpouring of solidarity from the local Armenian community and volunteers, who are doing all they can to provide food, water and shelter,” said Butler.

“But you see the despair on many of the faces of the displaced. They have left everything behind, their homes, their belongings, the graves of their loved ones. There are children, the elderly, women and girls with specific sexual and reproductive health needs. It’s clear that the mental and emotional scars the refugees carry will take time to heal. But it’s also obvious that the staggering speed with which this crisis is unfolding requires all hands on-deck – WHO, our UN partners, civil society organizations – to complement and support the government’s efforts. 

Image Credits: WHO/Nazik Armenakyan .

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