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In September 2023 Azerbaijan launched military action in Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave in Azerbaijani territory that had, at the time, a 95% ethnic Armenian population of approximately 120,000 people. The offensive followed a nine-month blockade of the Lachin Corridor, the only road linking the enclave to Armenia, which had resulted in a shortage of food, fuel, medicine and basic supplies. In August 2023, the UN had already declared a humanitarian emergency in the region.

Nagorno-Karabakh is now under the direct control of Azerbaijan and nearly the entire ethnic Armenian population has fled to Armenia.

While the International Court of Justice has issued provisional measures (PDF) ordering Azerbaijan to let ethnic Armenians who fled Nagorno-Karabakh return “in a safe, unimpeded and expeditious manner”, those refugees have remained in Armenia. Most are located in the capital Yerevan and Syunik, Ararat and Kotayk provinces

The organisation Action against Hunger has estimated that, out of a population of 3 million, 1 in 30 people in Armenia is now a refugee, having arrived in the country with practically nothing. More than half are women and girls, nearly one third are children and one fifth are elderly. As such, the group concludes that Armenia “is now faced with an extensive refugee crisis”.

There is widespread concern over the ability of Armenia’s government to address both the immediate humanitarian needs of Karabakhi Armenians but also the challenges of integrating them into Armenian society in the longer term. In January 2024, Marina Nagai, Caucasus Programme Director at the NGO International Alert said “The whole of Armenian society is trying to help, but the magnitude of the problem is simply beyond what Armenia can cope with”.

In October 2023 the UNHCR launched a $97 million Emergency Refugee Response Plan for Armenia setting out relief efforts until the end of March 2024. 

The International Committee of the Red Cross, in cooperation with the Armenian Red Cross, has also been providing support on the ground including healthcare, the provision of food and basic services, and economic assistance to individuals. The World Health Organisation has also estimated that thousands will be in need of urgent mental health support and since September 2023 has been supporting the Armenian Ministry of Health in its refugee response, having launched a $2.9 million emergency donor appeal.

At the end of September 2023, the UK government announced £1 million of funding for the ICRC to support its humanitarian response in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. In February 2024, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said that it continues to liaise with the UN, ICRC and other NGOs to assess humanitarian need in the region.

In December 2023 France announced additional aid for Armenia, taking its total contribution to the emergency appeals of the ICRC, UNHCR and other NGOs to €27.5 million in 2023.

Since September 2023, the EU has provided €17.5 million in humanitarian aid to assist those displaced in Armenia, and the few remaining people in Nagorno-Karabakh, while the United States announced a further $4.1 million in aid in November 2023, taking total US humanitarian assistance to the region to $28 million since 2020.

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