As of August 2021, the World Bank found that increases in food prices account for about two-thirds of Armenia’s rise in inflation. The World Bank also pointed to rising transportation and health prices as contributors to inflation. COVID-19’s impact on Armenia has resulted in increases in unemployment, food insecurity and poverty. Accessible medicine and transportation would stimulate Armenia’s economy following its economic shutdown.
Since July 2021, Armenia’s currency has depreciated by 2%. In December 2020, the World Bank estimated that Armenia’s economic reaction to the pandemic could impoverish 70,000 Armenians and cause 720,000 people to experience a downward economic shift.
The pandemic expanded Armenia’s lower welfare group considerably. In 2019, about 26% of Armenia’s population lived below the poverty line. The 2020 economic shutdown will ultimately expand Armenia’s impoverished population. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is not the only stressor on Armenian welfare.
Conflict and COVID-19’s Impact on Armenia
Before the pandemic, Armenia was working to recover from the first Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which lasted from 1988 to 1994. In September 2020, the dispute arose once again and ended after six weeks. Although Russia brokered a cease-fire between Azerbaijan and Armenia in November 2020, the conflict’s effects persist. The second Nagorno-Karabakh dispute exacerbated the effects of the pandemic by displacing 100,000 civilians.
In an interview with UNICEF, Dr. Naira Stepanyan, an infectious disease specialist in Yerevan, compared the sobering effects of the war to the pressures that the pandemic brought on. Together, conflict and COVID-19 place a significant burden on Armenians in need. Additionally, as of October 8, 2021, Armenia has had 269,874 confirmed cases and 5,499 deaths. Reuters estimates that only about 8.7% of the population has been fully vaccinated. Slow vaccination turnout curbs economic recovery.
The COVAX Initiative and the Ministry of Health have spearheaded vaccination efforts in Armenia. In March 2021, the Ministry of Health received 24,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Additionally, UNICEF and USAID united to provide and distribute personal protective equipment and hygiene materials to Armenia.
Armenia also received aid from the World Bank’s development projects. The World Bank has provided 70 ventilators and 80 patient monitors to Armenia. The World Bank’s Country Partnership Framework established the State Health Agency and the Disease Prevention and Control Project in Armenia, creating a more secure infrastructure to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The framework’s goals include:
- Saving lives
- Protecting the vulnerable and impoverished
- Encouraging economic growth
- Reinforcing policies, institutions and investments within the country
Cohesive COVID-19 responses, economic stimulation and international partnerships are working to place Armenia back on the path to recovery.
The Path to Recovery
Although COVID-19’s impact on Armenia has been significant, the path to progress is not far. Despite the increased inflation and unemployment rate, Armenia’s macroeconomic recovery continues to develop. For instance, foreign trade continues to increase along with copper, agriculture and textile exports.
Additionally, Armenia’s government outlined a series of actions to address the pandemic’s economic impact. For instance, Armenia established a loan program aimed to support agriculture, small businesses and tech industries. Armenia’s domestic investments offer stability to citizens in need.
Aid and support significantly shifted the pandemic’s course in Armenia. The World Bank’s continued help through the Country Partnership Framework supports the economy and serves to reduce the unemployment rate. Overall, international aid, domestic investment and growing vaccination rates work to ease the pandemic’s effect on Armenia.
– Dana Gil