The city of Goris in Armenia currently faces a humanitarian crisis as it becomes an entry point for hundreds of refugees fleeing conflict in Nagorno Karabakh. The breakaway region of Nagorno Karabakh, recognized internationally as part of Azerbaijan, was recently taken back by Azerbaijani forces, prompting a mass exodus of its ethnic Armenian population. The Armenian government reported that over 100,000 people have left Nagorno Karabakh since the Azerbaijani offensive started, underscoring the magnitude of the displacement and the urgent need for international aid and sustainable solutions.
Crisis Unfolds in Goris
Public spaces in Goris are currently serving as makeshift waiting areas for refugees seeking shelter. The influx has been so high that more than 20,000 vehicles have crossed the Hakari Bridge, the only route that links Armenia to Nagorno Karabakh, since the conflict escalated. With most of Nagorno Karabakh's population already in Armenia, few remain in the region. These are mainly officials, emergency service employees, volunteers, and individuals with special needs.
A Plea for International Aid
In response to the crisis, Armenia has reached out to the European Union, asking for assistance to cope with the influx of refugees. The request for aid includes the provision of temporary shelters and medical supplies. Similarly, the United Nations has stated its intention to send a mission to Nagorno Karabakh to assess the humanitarian needs. This will mark the first time in about 30 years that the international body will have access to the region.
Emerging Humanitarian Efforts
As the situation continues to unfold, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) reports that more than 88,700 refugees have arrived in Armenia, mainly in the country's southern Syunik region. In partnership with the Armenian government and various international and non-governmental agencies, the UNHCR is setting up tents, providing mattresses, blankets, hot meals, and other essential items to the displaced community. Moreover, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an emergency appeal for nearly $22 million to provide immediate relief and long-term support to the refugees.
One pressing need highlighted by aid workers is psychosocial support. Many refugees arrive exhausted, hungry, and frightened, facing uncertainty about their future. Moreover, the conflict has exacerbated existing vulnerabilities in the region, with essential goods and services becoming scarce and hospitals reaching their capacity.
The Plight of the Displaced
Many of the refugees are families who have left their homes with very little luggage, and in some cases, children have been separated from their families in the chaos of escape. In response, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and UNICEF are working to reunite separated families and provide psychosocial support to those affected. Furthermore, UNICEF is collaborating with Armenia's Ministry of Education to set up child-friendly spaces in Goris and supply educational materials for children.
As international aid efforts continue to mobilize, the refugee crisis in Armenia underscores the urgent need for a sustainable solution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. With thousands of people displaced and a city grappling with the humanitarian fallout, the situation in Goris paints a stark picture of the human cost of conflict.