Healthcare in Armenia
Armenia is a mountainous nation of nearly 3 million people. It neighbors Iran, Georgia and Turkey. Over the past three decades, healthcare in Armenia has undergone a slow reform. The country is transitioning from an inefficient model of centralized healthcare to a modern system focusing on family medicine. Many Armenians feel dissatisfied regarding their healthcare system. However, organizations like the Health for Armenia Initiative and the World Bank are working with the Armenian government to improve options for Armenians.

Armenia’s Healthcare History

Healthcare in Armenia during the Soviet era was a centralized medical system. Experts state that the Soviet system was technologically underdeveloped and inefficient. The healthcare model focused on centralized care in hospitals and medical professionals were highly specialized.

Armenia declared independence in 1991, and healthcare in Armenia underwent radical changes. Local governments took over primary health care sectors while regional governments gained ownership over hospitals. Armenia’s State Health Agency is now in charge of the healthcare system. The government allocates resources to these publicly owned facilities. Since its independence, Armenia has implemented many healthcare reforms. A major piece of legislation called the “On Medical Aid and Medical Services for The Population” created a system that allows patients to help pay for healthcare services. This development plays a role in why Armenians find themselves funding most healthcare expenditures with out-of-pocket expenses.

Armenians in certain years paid up to 89% of healthcare charges in out-of-pocket expenses. This is incredibly taxing, given that Armenians earn an average per capita household income of around $1,500 USD. Their inefficient and expensive healthcare system places a heavy financial burden on impoverished peoples. Patients are slowly transitioning to primary healthcare providers with financial regulations replacing older regulations. However, a lot of work is still ongoing to improve the healthcare situation in Armenia.

How Armenians Feel About Their Healthcare

A 2018 report outlined a recent picture of healthcare in Armenia. Around 400,000 people in Armenia are poor or near-poor. Meanwhile, at least 233,000 of these people are part of a vulnerable group including the disabled, children and the elderly. In 2014, 31.8% of the poorest of Armenians reported that they were sick for more than three days, but they did not seek treatment because of financial reasons. Only 4.2% of the richest Armenians made the same decision.

A public opinion report that BMC published in 2020 outlined the current feelings the Armenian people have towards their healthcare system. The researchers polled over 500 Armenian citizens about the country’s healthcare system. Nearly half of respondents did not believe that citizens had equal access to healthcare in Armenia. Almost 70% of respondents felt that the government should have a larger responsibility towards an individual’s health which included funding healthcare services.

The Healthcare for Armenia Initiative’s Mission

Armenian natives and internationals formed the Healthcare for Armenia Initiative (HAI) in 2016. The initiative’s team focuses on bottom-up reforms to increase rural Armenians access to the constitutional right to healthcare. HAI’s projects focus on developing and maintaining healthcare professionals that can provide services in high-need areas.

HAI defines its work around six pillars, and among these pillars are education, research and leadership. It focuses on these three by holding workshops. It held a two-day workshop in partnership with the National Institute of Health of Armenia where it “[discussed] how to improve health education and healthcare in Armenia.” Organizations like HAI have helped to inform recent changes in government policy that will hopefully address the healthcare needs of the Armenian people.

Recent Changes for Healthcare in Armenia

The Armenian government in partnership with the World Bank published a guideline for the Health System Modernization Project. The main goal of the partnership is to improve access, quality, efficiency and governance for Armenian healthcare. The project focuses on adopting an efficient family medicine model. The transition to a family medicine model requires training new doctors that are not overspecialized.

A major priority of the project was to train the number of healthcare professionals necessary to run a family medicine-style healthcare system. At a final cost of nearly $6 million USD, this project component costs less than the projected $7 million. This key part of the project trained 980 family medicine doctors and nurses. The World Bank reports that these numbers should support 60% of the country’s needs.

Armenia and the World Bank cooperated on three other major components as part of this modernization project. They optimized and renovated the hospital network. The project reorganized the Armenian Ministry of Health so the agency could better function as a regulator of healthcare. These reforms gave the Ministry of Health many monitoring tools to efficiently implement and regulate the healthcare reforms the country is undergoing. Armenia’s government also established the Health Project Implementing Unit (HPIU). HPIU is a part of the Armenian Health Ministry that monitors, reports on and provides strategic planning for the overall healthcare modernization project. All of these developments cost around $30 million USD to achieve.

Where Healthcare in Armenia Stands

Healthcare in Armenia is an inequitable system in the process of reforms and transition. Armenia with the help of national and international institutions is moving to a family medicine system that meets the financial and medical needs of its people.

Jacob Richard Bergeron
Photo: Flickr

Higher Education in Armenia
After gaining independence in 1991, Armenia shifted away from Soviet control. The country’s constitution, which Armenia implemented in 1995, determined that Armenia was a democratic state. Since then, the country has placed a significant emphasis on its education system, including university and college education. Here are six facts about higher education in Armenia.

6 Facts About Higher Education in Armenia

  1. Armenia’s Constitution Mandates Free Primary and Secondary Education: Article 39 of Armenia’s constitution grants all Armenians access to education. However, access to higher education can be more challenging.
  2. The Privatizing of Armenia’s Institutions: Armenia has had 22 state and 73 private higher education institutions as of 2010. Most of the institutions reside in the Armenian capital Yerevan where around a third of the population lives. However, as the bulk of higher-level education shifted toward privatization, Armenians have become limited in their options of pursuing a quality university education.
  3. Higher Education is Becoming Less Affordable: In 2013, 11 Armenian higher-level education institutions increased tuition fees by 50%. For example, the lowest-priced university translates to $480 a year, while the Armenian minimum wage translates to $110 per month. This means that many Armenians can no longer afford higher education. However, those who can afford it lack incentive as neighboring institutions can offer higher quality schooling at a lesser price. 
  4. Armenia Has a Low Expenditure on Education: Armenia planned to expand education to cover up to 4% of the total GDP but only 2.5% went toward it in 2016. In 2018, this number dropped to as low as 2.2%. This is problematic because as the number continues to fall, Armenia could have challenges providing the proper resources to keep institutions flowing. The challenges of staffing enough professors to combat the deficiencies in educational funding could become an issue as well.
  5. Armenia Entered the Bologna Process in 2005: The Bologna Process is an intergovernmental higher education reform initiative that expands through more than 40 European countries. By joining this initiative, Armenia has sought to level itself with fellow European nations’ education. Above all, granting oversight and aid ensures that Armenia will not see a regression in the caliber of its education system. Integrating with fellow European countries could also alleviate the incentive for Armenian students to seek college or university education outside of Armenia.
  6. Armenia Adults Had a 99.6% Literacy Rate as of 2012: Armenia does not have a high population of illiterate people. Men and women share a near-identical literacy rate, and Armenia ranks among the highest percentile regarding literacy. The high rates contribute to increased enrollment in primary and secondary education. As many Armenians continue to be well-read, the goal to reach higher education remains high.

Looking Ahead

As Armenia centralized its government post-Soviet rule, it has placed greater attention on sustaining a high level of schooling and taking precautionary measures to ensure education is on the rise. While higher education remains accessible to most, Armenia has room to improve. However, Armenians can feel optimistic that higher education is becoming more accessible and that resources are continuing to improve.

– James Van Bramer
Photo: Flickr

Japan’s Emergency Grant Aid
Armenia primarily controls Nagorno-Karabakh, a portion of land in Azerbaijan. This area experienced a major war conflict. The war has plagued Armenia and Azerbaijan for the past three decades. Additionally, Armenia and Azerbaijan have struggled with humanitarian crises including food insecurity, repairs for local shelters and medical support since 1988. However, the U.S. granted $10 million to humanitarian crises to provide food, shelter and medical supplies to those the conflict heavily affected. Additionally, the European Union provided €3 million in aid for food, clothing for winter and medical supplies. In addition, Japan’s emergency grant aid has helped aid people in Azerbaijan.

According to BBC, Azerbaijan sought to suppress the separatist movement, while Armenia backed it. This led to ethnic clashes and after Armenia and Azerbaijan declared independence from Moscow, a full-scale war ensued. Nagorno-Karabakh remains part of Azerbaijan while still under Armenian control. However, a ceasefire occurred in September 2020 and Armenia and Azerbaijan received additional aid.

Aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan

A study that the country’s Statistical Committee conducted revealed that 23.5% of Armenia’s population was living below the poverty line as of 2018. While much of the population lives below the poverty line, only 1% of the population lives in extreme poverty. However, access to education, security, neglect and freedom of speech factor into what contributes to the impoverished cities in Armenia.

Aid to Armenia’s population can benefit from hospital supplies, winter clothing and food could begin the process of rebuilding Armenia and its people. As a result of the destruction caused by the conflict, many had to flee their homes. Countries provide emergency support to give Armenia humanitarian needs and basic supplies. Furthermore, it can spread awareness to help those in need in Armenia and Azerbaijan. The need for food, shelter and medical supplies is evident.

Japan’s Emergency Grant Aid

Japan implemented a $4.8 million emergency grant aid to help those in Armenia and Azerbaijan in February 2021. Armenia is receiving $3.6 million of Japan’s grant aid whereas the remaining $1.2 million is going towards Azerbaijan. This aid goes toward medical training in six hospitals and supplies medical equipment. Furthermore, there are new hand-washing stations in three elementary schools to ensure safe water access, hygiene kits, renovation repairs to evacuation centers, relief supplies for winter and educational supplies for 15 schools.

The Asian Development Bank states that 5% of Azerbaijan’s population lived under the poverty line in 2018. This country is a developing country facing many issues. Azerbaijan’s healthcare is among the top two priorities in efforts to maintain a well-rounded economy. Budgeting for healthcare has increased by 44.5% since 2019.

Japan’s emergency grant aid of $1.2 million to Azerbaijan goes toward medical equipment for one hospital, access to safe water, relief items for during their winter and food assistance for about 800 people.

– Vanessa Morales
Photo: Flickr

Artsakh War
In the mountainous region between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a conflict has caused many to endure death, injury and poverty. The tension between the two nations has escalated to war, known as the Nagorno-Karabakh War, or the Artsakh War. Many Armenians have fled their homes searching for safety, but still have little or no means to protect themselves. Therefore, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and activists are coming to help and raise awareness.

The Artsakh War

For centuries, the mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh has caused tension between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. Artsakh is an important place for the two countries because of religious and strategic reasons. The Soviet Union drew out the borders of Armenia and Azerbaijan. In the late 1980s, the two nations first started the war. Armenians in Artsakh voted to be a part of Armenia, but Azerbaijan refused to accept the results. After 20,000 deaths, Armenians declared victory claiming the region; it called it The Republic of Artsakh. However, the United Nations member states do not recognize the Republic of Artsakh’s sovereign status, and thus, it remains part of Azerbaijan. Nonetheless, ethnic Armenians still claim autonomy, and for the most part, the two countries have been peaceful since the end of the War in 1994.

A New Outbreak

On September 27, 2020, violence erupted again in the region. Azerbaijan began with air and ground attacks on the Nagorno-Karabakh Line of Contact, the border that separated Armenian and Azerbaijani militaries. Consequently, thousands died, got injured or had to flee in search of safety. The Azerbaijani military made advances into Artsakh, eventually seizing Shusha, the second biggest city of Artsakh. Furthermore, the Azerbaijani control of Shusha made Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan quickly agree to a cease-fire agreement with Azerbaijan.

Fears existed that the Azerbaijan military would take over Stepanakert, Artsakh’s capital. The fighting nations drafted the agreement for a ceasefire with Russian oversight to ensure Armenia and Azerbaijan end the Artsakh War, and on November 10, 2020, it was officially over. Azerbaijan still holds full control of Artsakh, and Russia is deploying peacekeepers to ensure a non-violent zone. Many saw the resolution as a victory for Azerbaijan and a defeat for Armenia.

Displaced Armenians

Of the more than 140,000 people that live in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, half experienced displacement because of the Artsakh War. Furthermore, women and children disproportionately had to flee for safety. Around 90% of women and children had to flee their homes and are now in dire need of assistance and help.

Mary Paronyan is an Armenian-American journalist. In an interview with The Borgen Project, she described how her community felt once they heard about the outbreak of violence in their homeland. “I do not wish to see history repeat itself; no Armenian does. The Armenian Genocide was happening all over again in front of our eyes. Seeing clips of Armenians getting beheaded, skinned to death and have their eyes pulled out affected our mental health. We all united as one big patriotic family. Not just me, but every Armenian outside of Armenia has a strong connection to our ancestral land.”

Paronyan, like many of her community, organized, protested and volunteered to raise awareness about the atrocities of the Artsakh War. Moreover, many NGOs immediately mobilized to help those in need.

3 Organizations Helping Armenians

The first NGO that stepped in to help those in need during this challenging time was OneArmenia. The organization supports many projects to elevate Armenian lives, such as employing women of the Artsakh region, helping wounded soldiers and providing nutrition to children who experienced the war. About 388 women have benefited from employment opportunities, 500 children now receive emergency food assistance and 300 veterans will soon get free quality rehabilitation care. Furthermore, OneArmenia has raised nearly $6 million to help fund projects that will positively impact Armenians.

Kooyrigs is another organization on the frontlines providing aid to those the war negatively impacted. Kooyrigs currently runs a grassroots campaign called Looys, or “light,” where it delivers food, medicine and clothing. Moreover, Kooyrigs is also partnering with YES Armenia to provide educational resources for the displaced population.

An NGO providing educational and leadership opportunities to Armenians is the Higher Road Initiative. As soon as the Artsakh War broke out, The Higher Road Initiative began to mobilize help and successfully provided aid to many families. Its Holiday Backpacks project for Artsakh provided over 4,000 backpacks to children who the war displaced. The backpacks contained school supplies, personal care items and clothing.

A Humanitarian Crisis with Hope

Since The Republic of Artsakh does not have international recognition as a nation, others cannot consider its people refugees. Thus, receiving aid and recognition from intergovernmental organizations like the U.N. is difficult. Nonetheless, it is positive that the Armenian Government has tried to make it easier for displaced Artsakh Armenians to integrate. Moreover, NGOs and civilians have taken a more active role to ensure that families are safe and receive proper assistance.

Paronyan states, “we grew during this war. We turned into one big family. Even though some of us didn’t know each other, we would cry for the loss of one another’s family member because we viewed it as our own. We can help one another by spreading kindness. That’s truly all that is needed. Kind actions will bring kindness forth to those who spread it. Life is extremely short.”

– Andy Calderon Lanza
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in ArmeniaHundreds of thousands of civilians fled in search of safety when violence broke out in Nagorno-Karabakh on Sept. 27, 2020. Following these first violent clashes, organizations stepped up to provide humanitarian assistance for displaced civilians arriving in the capital Yerevan. The extensive damage to infrastructure and disruption of daily life, coupled with a harsh winter climate and COVID-19, will require help from the international aid community for many months to come. One area that this incoming aid will go to is mental health education and support. In 2019, the World Health Organization reported that one in five people in conflict-affected areas lives with a mental health issue. The longer a person lives with acute stress, anxiety or other mental health challenges, the more difficult it is for them to successfully secure basic needs. Aid groups are addressing the issue of mental health in Armenia with various programs.

Mental Health Support for Armenia

The Armenian Red Cross Society is providing humanitarian assistance to help people with basic necessities. This includes psychosocial support for returning soldiers and civilians. As of late December 2020, it had provided around 1,000 psychological services to wounded soldiers and their families.

The International Medical Corps, another emergency aid response group, is working with the Armenian Ministry of Health to assess current needs. In October 2020, the organization expressed its plans to provide training in psychological first aid for frontline healthcare workers. The organization will also provide mental health and psychosocial assistance to people who need it.

UNICEF Addresses Child Trauma

The UNICEF Armenia team and a local arts and music school called the Nexus Center for the Arts offer art and music-based support groups. These support groups give children and teenagers a chance to express themselves without having to talk. UNICEF reported testimonials of students who upon arriving were too afraid to open up but after participating in the support groups felt ready to talk about the trauma they had experienced. The groups also give students a chance to hang out, decompress and enjoy music in a comfortable and safe environment.

To help school teachers, UNICEF partnered with several civil society organizations to teach them how to address trauma in the classroom. UNICEF offered virtual lessons on trauma-informed teaching. The lessons gave 150 school psychologists and 900 public school teachers the skills to work in high-pressure situations and strategies to provide better psychological support to their students.

UNICEF Armenia also put together a psychological first aid guide. This guide has clear and concise information on how to respond to children in a mental health crisis. It emphasizes the importance of responding to children in an age-appropriate and individualized way.

The Increased Need for Mental Health Support in Armenia

Mental health in Armenia, especially following the conflict, is an issue that requires prioritization. The conflict and displacements have left 39,000 children out of school. The trauma caused by displacement has affected children in multiple ways. Ensuring the well-being of these children is a top priority for UNICEF and other organizations addressing mental health in Armenia. The hope is that these initiatives will combat the negative impacts of traumatic experiences in conflict-ridden areas like Nagorno-Karabakh.

Caitlin Harjes
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid in Nagorno-KarabakhNagorno-Karabakh is a region in the country Azerbaijan and is home to an Armenian majority. While the region is within Azerbaijan’s borders, Armenia has claimed the region for itself. The first intense conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region was in 1988 when the Soviet Union was nearing the end of its existence. Recently, conflict in the region began again in late September 2020 and lasted for about a  month until a ceasefire was brokered by Russia. Additional ceasefires were brought into fruition by France with the help of Russia and the United States. Despite the ceasefires, the conflict in the region is continuing. The fighting in the region has drastically impacted the civilian population of the region. This has in turn created a strong need for humanitarian aid in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The European Union Assists

The European Union (EU) is actively providing aid to the civilian populace affected by the conflict and has done so since early October 2020. The initial amount of aid provided by the EU was €900,000. Then, in November, the EU commissioned an additional €3 million to the civilians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. According to the EU, this humanitarian aid will provide the necessary assistance that humanitarian organizations partnered with the EU need to carry out their duties. This includes providing food, winter clothing and medical assistance.

The United States’ Aid

The United States is also providing its share of financial assistance. In total, the United States has provided around $10 million in humanitarian assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan since the 2019 fiscal year. Of the $10 million, $5 million has been allocated to the International Committee of the Red Cross and similar humanitarian organizations to help civilians caught in the crossfire of the conflict. Assistance coming from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will also be used for humanitarian aid in Nagorno-Karabakh. The support these two institutions will be providing will come in the form of food, shelter and medical support for the people impacted by the conflict.

People in Need

There are also NGOs that have provided humanitarian aid in Nagorno-Karabakh as well. One organization, People in Need, has done just this. People in Need is an organization dedicated to providing immediate aid to countries should a natural disaster or war take place.

People in Need has provided support, not to Nagorno-Karabakh, but to the city of Goris in Armenia. People in Need directed its humanitarian aid to this Armenian city because many of the displaced civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh have gone there for refuge. The displaced people either move on or stay in the city. People in Need have been able to provide hygienic supplies to 1,200 displaced families in Goris. Additionally, People in Need have provided 480 children, 600 women and 110 seniors with their own individual hygienic kits. People in Need have also taken into consideration the psychosocial needs of children impacted by the conflict. To help these children, People in Need opened a child-friendly space in the city library where children can engage with other children and partake in other activities.

While the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh continues, international institutions, individual countries and humanitarian organizations are trying to provide all the support possible to help the civilians impacted by the conflict.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Elderly poverty in Armenia
Armenia is not a country at peace. For the past three decades, tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan have increased. As the border dispute turned deadly in September 2020, rumors emerged of potential involvement from outsider countries, such as Turkey and Russia. However, the country struggles with a concurrent problem. Elderly poverty in Armenia is a stifling issue in the country, which needs just as much attention.

The Current Crisis

In addition to a looming war, Armenians have suffered a vast diaspora. More Armenians live outside Armenia than inside the country. Armenians who live outside the country total anywhere from double to quadruple the number of those living within Armenia. The older generation is the main group still residing within the border. One reason is that older groups have fewer professional opportunities outside of Armenia, so they often stay put. This affects a large portion of society. Over a quarter of Armenia’s population is over 54, one half of this demographic is over 65 years old.

The global recession of 2008 led to increased poverty rates across all demographics in Armenia. At that time, the rate of extreme poverty among Armenians above the age of 65 was 2.0%, and the rate of non-extreme poverty for this group was 29.5%. By 2017, the rate of extreme and non-extreme poverty had fallen, for Armenians over 65, but either increased or remained the same for Armenians between the ages of 50 and 59.

All of these crises leave the elderly in Armenia underserved. However, there are organizations fighting on behalf of this group.

Armenian Caritas

Armenian Caritas, a community-based NGO, operates in Shirak, Lori, Gegharkunik, Ararat, and Yerevan. Over a third of its staff are volunteers, and the organization’s goal is to provide “social inclusion and care of the elderly.”

Armenian Caritas uses a comprehensive method to address elderly poverty in Armenia. Since 1995, the NGO has taken a long-term approach to anticipate the needs of its clientele. Thus, it recognizes that by 2050, a quarter of Armenia’s total population may be between the ages of 60 and 64.

Armenian Caritas focuses on providing “rehabilitative items,” like crutches and moving toilets, to elderly patients. Similarly, they offer psychological and physical health care to patients with chronic diseases. These tactics are part of a larger strategy of social inclusion.

Elderly Armenians represent a large and growing percentage of Armenia’s domestic population. As such, Armenian Caritas works to ensure that elderly Armenians are never marginalized. The organization shares its methodology of elderly care with Armenian medical colleges and institutions. In this way, elderly care is woven into an Armenian practice — the tradition of caring for its vulnerable and aging populations.

An End to Elderly Poverty

A solution to the border skirmish between Armenia and Azerbaijan will hopefully be resolved through international mediation and earnest peace talks between the belligerents. Since the economy is still recovering and has continued to focus on growth, the government must address the diaspora by providing opportunities to draw the younger generations back to the country. In the midst of all of that, the country must not forget about older Armenians. There is hope for an end to elderly poverty in Armenia. However, it needs concerted, sustained efforts to address it.

Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Nagorno-Karabakh
The news has spotlighted the region of Nagorno-Karabakh once again as conflict has erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Nagorno Karabakh is a landlocked territory in the South Caucasus in Eurasia between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Some also know it as Artsakh, the (unrecognized) Republic of Artsakh or the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. Additionally, not everyone views it as a country. For example, Azerbaijan does not recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state and claims the region is Azeri territory. Here is some information about poverty in Nagorno-Karabakh and its challenges to date.

The Conflict

One can trace the roots of the current conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan back to before the formation of the Soviet Union. However, tensions resurfaced in the late 1980s and early 1990s after the Soviet Union’s collapse. Prior to this, the Soviet Union had established the region of Nagorno-Karabakh as within Azerbaijan. Around 95% of Artsakh’s population is Armenian and has been resistant to Azeri rule and continues to receive support and backing from Armenia. In 1992, a full-scale war called the Nagorno-Karabakh war broke out, which killed around 30,000 people and displaced a million. Eventually, Russia brokered a cease-fire between the two countries, and by 1994, Armenia had established some amount of control in Artsakh, though it still had international recognition as a part of Azerbaijan. In 2016, skirmishes reemerged and several soldiers lost their lives in an exchange of artillery fire.

Shelling and combat broke out along the outskirts of Azerbaijan and Armenia in late September 2020. Disputes have occurred over who started the hostilities as both parties insist the other was responsible. The violence that ensued has already claimed the lives of more than 200 people, both civilians and soldiers.

Poverty in Nagorno-Karabakh

The National Review on Implementation of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) in the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh Republic) reported the following statistics as of 2019:

  • About 21.6% of the population lives under the national poverty line of $2.40 USD a day out of which over 6.1% live under the national extreme poverty line of $1.60 USD a day.
  • Nagorno-Karabakh has a low preschool enrollment and a high school dropout rate.
  • There is a lack of access to sanitation and waste disposal in rural areas.
  • About 22% of the employed population is still poor.
  • There is a high rate of non-communicable diseases and cardiovascular diseases were the cause of 67.4% of deaths in 2018.
  • Poverty levels are higher in regions that refugees inhabit.

There are also positive statistics that have showcased Artsakh’s progress towards achieving the SDGs:

  •  All citizens of Artsakh have some level of education with around 30% having higher education.
  • More than 90% of households have access to safely managed drinking water services.
  • About 97.1% of the population has access to reliable energy.
  • The average economic growth rate in the last decade was 10.2% annually.
  • About 81.7% of the population lives in their own houses.

Internally Displaced People and the Economies of Azerbaijan and Armenia

The wars in the region have no doubt played a hand in the quality of life of the locals. The conflict has created thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons. As of 2017, more than a quarter of Artsakh’s population are refugees and IDPs. Displaced people are especially vulnerable as they lack protection from international organizations and, when living in conflict areas, may not have access to humanitarian aid and support. Many of these refugees and IDPs are Armenians who fled Azerbaijan in the 80s and 90s during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Others have experienced displacement because of subsequent conflict in the region. The current flare-up is likely to increase their numbers.

The Nagorno-Karabakh war, which ended in 1994, also took a toll on the economies of Armenia and Azerbaijan. The United Nations assessed at least $53.5 billion in economic damage. Despite this, Azerbaijan was able to recover and achieve a high GDP growth due to its oil resources and trade. In Armenia, however, poverty increased to 55% in 1996, and its economy was vulnerable and unstable. The disparity between Armenia and Azerbaijan’s economies shifted power in the region and made Azerbaijan a more militarily powerful country.

The Future of the Region

Resolving the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Artsakh will go a long way to alleviating poverty in Nagorno-Karabakh and ensuring a safer and more secure livelihood for the locals. A potential war makes the future of civilians in Artsakh uncertain. However, mediation efforts seem more plausible and many local organizations are working to provide them with humanitarian relief and financial support. The Armenian General Benevolent Union (ABGU) and the Hayastan All Armenian Fund have launched a global emergency fundraising campaign for Artsakh. The Armenia Fund has also been providing ongoing assistance to the people of Nagorno-Karabakh through infrastructure development and humanitarian aid.

Most of the nonprofit work occurring in Artsakh has involved relief work and humanitarian aid due to the fact that it is a conflict-prone zone and home to many refugees. However, this is changing. In January 2020, World Vision Armenia and the My Step Foundation began working together with vulnerable families in the Republic of Artsakh living in poverty. This is an extension of work that World Vision Armenia had already been conducting in Armenia where it helped families improve their socio-economic condition through life-skills training and coaching from professionals, mentorship and monetary support in order to be more self-reliant.

Months of this social work proved to have positive effects as 48% of the families they worked with were able to overcome extreme poverty and there was a noticeable improvement in the quality of life for 82% of the families. The organizations are hopeful that their partnership will yield similar successful results in Artsakh where its priority is child well-being. The recent conflict has only made the implementation of this program more urgent and has the potential to give many families hope for the future and reducing poverty in Nagorno-Karabakh.

– Manika Ajmani
Photo: Flickr

homelessness in armenia
Though there is little data on homelessness in Armenia, existing research indicates that it is a serious problem affecting many Armenians. Homelessness is apparent across the country, especially in the capital city of Yerevan. However, more research is necessary to fully understand the gravity of homelessness in Armenia and how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted it. Here are five facts about homelessness in Armenia.

5 Facts About Homelessness in Armenia

  1. There is no official data on homelessness in Armenia. In 2014, Hetq Online published an article estimating that 1,000 people are homeless in Yerevan. Homelessness does exist elsewhere in Armenia, but a lack of data on the topic implies that the issue is not getting the attention it needs. In light of the worldwide economic challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, it seems likely that the problem has gotten worse since Hetq’s report in 2014.
  2. There is only one homeless shelter in Armenia. The shelter, called the Hans Christian Kofoed homeless shelter, has a capacity of approximately 100 people. When compared to the estimated number of those homeless in Armenia, it is clear that a single shelter is not meeting the country’s needs. Though the work of the Hans Christian Kofoed shelter is helpful, it is only able to house 10% of the Yerevan homeless population on any given night.
  3. Demands on the shelter fluctuate by season. An Armenian news outlet called Panorama.am reported that the demand for the shelter rises each September as homeless people seek protection from colder weather. The publication also explained that the homeless population has been increasing in recent years as a result of “poor social conditions and low wages of the people.” In light of the COVID-19 crisis and ongoing conflict at the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, it is particularly important to monitor the growing rate of homelessness more closely.
  4. The Armenian government has no system for counting homeless persons. When the USSR broke down in 1991, Armenia gave up the registration system that previously helped it keep track of housed versus homeless individuals. This means there is no official way to know how many Armenians have no formal residence. As a result, homelessness in Armenia is largely undocumented.
  5. There are many factors that contribute to homelessness in Armenia. These factors include the fall of the USSR, the 1988 earthquake, an influx of refugees and landslides. From natural destruction to refugee crises, the issues causing homelessness in Armenia are important to recognize.

Solutions

There are several organizations working to combat homelessness in Armenia. The Armenian Relief and Development Association has worked to create temporary shelters for homeless families and individuals. Similarly, the Armenia Fund’s Gyumri Housing Project works to secure housing for families in Gyumri, Armenia’s second-largest city. The project works to purchase and furnish apartments and give them to families experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity.

Those who are homeless in Armenia suffer from a lack of shelters and other forms of relief, but they also suffer from invisibility. Uncounted and under-researched, they are largely unseen by the international community. Relief organizations provide crucial support, but more is necessary to make the suffering of Armenia’s homeless quantifiable and visible. What the world cannot see, count and understand, it cannot fix.

– Sophia Gardner
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About the Armenian Genocide
On Oct. 29, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to acknowledge the Armenian genocide that occurred at the hands of the Ottoman Turks during the First World War. Armenian-Americans have long-awaited this action, which was taken at a time of worsening U.S. and Turkey relations. The Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, lauded the motion on Twitter and called it “a bold step towards serving truth and historical justice.” Here are 10 facts about the Armenian genocide to further contextualize this important decision.

10 Facts About the Armenian Genocide

  1. The Armenian genocide refers to the systematic, premeditated massacre and forced deportation of more than one million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire. While the number of victims of the genocide is disputed, some estimates, such as one from the U.S. Congress, puts the number of Armenians killed by the Ottoman Empire at 1.5 million Armenians between 1915-1923. The genocide was an attempt by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire to eradicate the Armenian people.
  2. Prior to the twentieth century, the Armenian people had resided in the Caucasus region for approximately 3,000 years. The Armenians are predominantly Christian and in the fourth century A.D., the kingdom of Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion. In the 1400s, that empire was that of the Ottomans. Led by Muslim Turks, the Ottoman Empire was suspicious of the Armenians who they feared would be more loyal to Christian governments. Nevertheless, the Armenians thrived under the empire until its decline, beginning in the late 1800s. Ottoman discrimination towards the Armenians reached a new high as the empire grew weaker. By the 1890s, the regime was already committing mass atrocities, including the killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians.
  3. In 1908, the Young Turks, a nationalistic reformist group, overthrew the Sultan and formed a constitutional government. The Young Turks wanted to “Turkify” the empire and viewed the Christian non-Turks of Armenia as a threat to their regime. Indeed, when the Ottoman Empire entered the First World War on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary, the Turks declared war on all Christians with the exception of their allies in the war. World War I was the immediate backdrop of the Armenian genocide. The Turks used it as justification for their persecution of the Armenians, whom the Turks called traitors. As the war dragged on and some Armenians sought to aid the Russian army against the Ottomans, the Turkish regime set out to remove Armenians from their Eastern front.
  4. Historians consider the beginning of the genocide to be April 24, 1915. On this day, the Turks arrested and killed between 50 and more than 100 of Armenian intellectuals. After that, the Turkish government sent thousands of people on death marches and deprived them of basic needs, such as food and water. Often, Armenians were forced to walk naked until they died. The government had other gruesome ways to kill Armenians, including burning people alive.
  5. Most of the killings occurred between 1915-1916, during which period the Ottoman Empire systematically slaughtered and terrorized Armenians by raping, starving, shooting, drowning and maiming them. Many Armenians died from disease or were subjected to mass deportations as well. Even after World War I, the Turkish nationalist government continued its persecution of Armenians and other ethnic minorities in Cilicia, Smyrna (Izmir) and the Armenian highlands. The nationalist regime confiscated property from Armenians in order “to finance the ‘Turkification’ of Anatolia” and to incentivize ordinary Ottoman citizens to take part in the ethnic cleansing campaign.
  6. Ottoman forces sought to rid of the region of Armenian landmarks such as churches, homes and other cultural sites by destroying or confiscating the properties. According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, “tens of thousands of Armenian children were forcibly removed from their families and converted to Islam” because the Ottoman government wanted them to assimilate into Turkish society. In some cases, children could convert to Islam in exchange for staying alive. In addition to the Armenians, the Ottoman government targeted non-Turkic minorities, namely Yezidis, Assyrians and Greeks.
  7. Turkey refuses to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, though the Turkish government acknowledges that some atrocities happened. However, the government argues that the killings of the Armenians were not systematic or premeditated and were an unavoidable consequence of the war. Recognition of the Armenian genocide is illegal in Turkey, as it is considered to be “insulting Turkishness.”
  8. Recognition of the genocide by the U.S. is controversial because of the United States’ alliance with Turkey. For the first time in decades, the entire U.S. House of Representatives considered and decided to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. At the time of the ethnic cleansing and since then, the U.S. has condemned the Turks’ genocidal activities on various occasions. U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire (1913-1916), Henry Morgenthau, declared the Ottoman’s actions as a “campaign of race extermination” and organized protests by officials against the Ottomans. The U.S. government officially recognized the genocide in May 1951, April 1981, 1975 and in 1984.
  9. The Armenian genocide still has consequences to this day. There are 7-10 million people in the Armenian diaspora, and 3 million people in Armenia, who are descendants of the genocide. The genocide is, for some, core to Armenia’s identity. Yet others would like for Armenia to move and focus on problems in their own country. Turkey’s refusal to recognize the genocide affects its politics today and its relations to Armenia. However, there are groups (including liberal intellectuals and Kurdish groups) in Turkey that have acknowledged and apologized for the genocide.
  10. Denial of the genocide has far-reaching implications. Turkey’s denial of the genocide has hindered peace between Turkey and Armenia. This denial undermines the commitment to preventing future genocides and atrocities. The institutionalized denial shields the perpetrators of the genocide from blame. The U.S. has refused to acknowledge the genocide as such, under the argument that doing so would threaten regional security and U.S. interests in the Middle East. Turkey’s genocide denial has perpetuated the distrust and resentment Armenians have towards the Turks, as well as anxiety Armenians have that they are still under threat.

H. Res. 296: Affirming the United States Record on the Armenian Genocide

The House of Representatives recently passed a resolution acknowledging the genocide. This action is significant, as the previous U.S. attempts to recognize the genocide have resulted in renewed bilateral talks between Turkey and Armenia. Another positive effect of the United States’ recognition of the genocide is that it is front-page news across Turkey. Thus, recognition of the Armenian genocide brings greater awareness to it, especially to Turks who never knew it occurred since the history of the mass killings was omitted from school books.

On April 8, 2019, Representative Adam Schiff [D-CA-28] introduced H.Res. 296 which had 141 cosponsors, including 120 Democrats and 21 Republicans. The House passed the resolution on Oct. 29, 2019, by a margin of 405 to 11. In the weeks leading up to the vote, Turkey outraged members of Congress by its ground offensive against the Syrian Kurds and U.S./Turkey relations have continued to sour since then.

On Dec. 12, 2019, the Senate unanimously voted to affirm the Armenian genocide, despite the Trump administration’s objections.

The Armenian genocide was a horrific tragedy that led to the deaths of one and a half million people, yet many people still deny the reality of the genocide for political reasons. As these 10 facts about the Armenian genocide prove, the mass ethnic cleansing did happen, and its effects are felt to this day.

– Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr