Nagorno-Karabakh: MSF responds as 28,000 people flee to Armenia
On Tuesday 19 September, Azerbaijan launched an attack on several locations in Nagorno-Karabakh – a region internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but mainly populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
Twenty-four hours later, a ceasefire was announced by all parties. This was followed by a mass movement of people searching for safety, heading towards areas both inside and outside of the region.
Armenian authorities reported on Wednesday 27 September that over 28,000 people have already crossed the Lachin corridor – a route between Nagorno-Karabakh and the Armenian border – seeking safety and assistance in Armenia.
On Thursday 21 September, Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) sent a team to Goris, in Syunik province, southern Armenia, to provide aid to people fleeing from Nagorno-Karabakh after several months of living under siege.
MSF teams are preparing to provide mental health support to those affected, while we remain ready to adapt to evolving needs as more people arrive.
“The people of this region have endured nine months of isolation, cut off from crucial material, food supplies and medical and humanitarian assistance,” says Franking Frias, Head of MSF in Armenia.
“They found themselves trapped amidst bombardments and gunshots, forced to make heart-wrenching choices between risking their lives staying at home or leaving everything behind looking for safety.”
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Since 12 December 2022, the Lachin corridor, a critical lifeline for the Nagorno-Karabakh region, has been subject to a blockade.
This has resulted in severe shortages of essential supplies including food, medicines, fuel, and other basic necessities for the approximately 120,000 people living in Nagorno Karabakh.
“It is crucial that people who wish to leave the territory are granted a safe passage out from Nagorno Karabakh,” says Frias.
“This is to avoid further victims of the escalation of the conflict in the region and prevent them from facing other risks to their health, dignity and safety on their way out.”
In Nagorno-Karabakh, before 19 September 2023, MSF was supporting the provision of mental health services in public health facilities.
MSF, refugees and displaced people
An unprecedented 108.4 million people around the world have been forced from their homes, according to UNHCR.
The reasons vary, but violence and conflict; natural disasters; or extreme weather events can all mean that it is no longer safe to stay where you are.
An estimated 35.3 million of these displaced people are refugees: people who have had to travel to a new country to find safety. Worldwide, over half of all refugees are under the age of 18.