On 27 September 2020, heavy clashes were reported along the line of contact (LoC) in and around the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, marking the first full-fledged escalation in the region since 2016. According to official figures, about 90,000 individuals have since been displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia as a direct result of the conflict. Several internationally negotiated attempts to end the conflict had failed to materialize, until a 9-point statement on cessation of hostilities was signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation on 9 November, effective as of 10 November.
During the six weeks of conflict, civilian casualties have been reported on both sides of the LoC and beyond, with the destruction of many houses and public infrastructure in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, such as schools, roads and communication networks. Due to heavy damages of civilian infrastructures and the harsh winter months ahead, it is likely that the majority of the displaced will not be able to return in the coming months, adding pressure on already limited resources and capacities of the receiving municipalities to host this population. In addition, and while an estimated 20,000 people have returned since mid-November, Armenian authorities continue to report a growing number of new arrivals. To date, around 90,000 people in a refugee-like situation remain in need of life-saving assistance.
Most of the arrivals are women and children (88 per cent of the overall displaced population), the majority being hosted with relatives and host families, but around one third are under more precarious living conditions in collective shelters, such as hotels, sanatoriums, kindergartens and communal buildings with poor or non-existent heating, water and sanitation facilities. Some GBV concerns have also been identified, due to the high prevalence in such context. Congested living conditions in both host and communal accommodation, and a fragile health system in the region, are contributing to the drastic increase of COVID-19 in many areas.
In response to the unforeseen humanitarian emergency resulting from the crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh, the UN system in Armenia has established a coordination structure under the lead of the RC Office with UNHCR support to address immediate humanitarian relief efforts. Given the paramount life-saving needs identified through joint rapid needs assessments (RNAs) particularly in the areas of shelter, NFIs, protection (including child protection, SGBV and support to education), health and food, and based on the list of prioritized needs provided by the municipalities, UN agencies and partners have initially responded to needs of approximately 9,512 arrivals, notably with the distribution of core relief items, including beddings items, towels, hygiene supplies, and household items, as well as food assistance.
To exchange and coordinate information flow, UNHCR has established the Armenia Response Portal which serves as an operational information exchange platform among working groups and operational partners involved in the humanitarian response. The Armenia Response Portal also enables quick and easy access to all documents and information that is pertinent to the humanitarian response.
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