Protect children threatened by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
The long running and often violent conflict situation in the region of Nagorno-Karabagh (self-proclaimed republic of Artsakh), located in the Southeast of Azerbaijan next to the Eastern border of Armenia escalated since September 27th. There has been an increase in the use of heavy and explosive weaponry in populated areas. Hundreds of homes and key infrastructures like hospitals and schools have been destroyed or damaged by heavy artillery fire and by airborne attacks including missiles. Other infrastructures such as roads, electricity, gas, and communication networks have also been damaged. Families are on the move looking for safe shelter, while others have retreated underground to unheated basements sheltering day and night from violence (reliefweb.int)
According to the official information of the Artsakh authorities there are around 150,000 people living in Artsakh. The current crises caused displacement of around 20,000 women, children and elderly from the villages and cities next to the contact line.
SOS Children’s Villages has been present in Azerbaijan since 2000, when the first programme started in the capital city of Baku. At present the organisation supports children, young people and families in three locations in Azerbaijan; in 2006, SOS Children’s Villages started working in Ganja about 400 kilometres west of Baku and in 2010 in Sumgait to the north of Baku. There are two SOS Children’s Villages, one SOS Kindergarten, one SOS Youth Facility and five SOS Social Centres in Azerbaijan.
In Armenia, SOS Children’s Villages started to work in Kotayk in 1990 by building a SOS Children’s Village, followed by a SOS Kindergarten in 1995 and several family-strengthening programmes in 2006. In 2014, 300 children from 150 Syrian-Armenian refugee families arriving in Yerevan were assisted with housing and medical care, educational and economic support.
In response to the pressing needs of displaced families and children, SOS Children’s Villages Armenia and Azerbaijan intend to provide access to humanitarian aid (tents, water, food and non-food items, masks, hygiene items, vouchers…), psychological support and interim alternative care to unaccompanied and separated children and their families by establishing Child Friendly Spaces or taking in children in the SOS Children’s Villages in both countries.
Tom Malvet, International Director Region CEE/CIS/Middle East of SOS Children’s Villages states: “All children and caregivers from the SOS Children’s Village in Ganja, a city affected by bombings, have been evacuated and are now safely accommodated in the SOS Children’s Village in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. SOS is providing psychological first aid to the evacuated and traumatized children and plans for engaging additional qualified staff and school supplies to ensure the children’s uninterrupted education. Strict COVID-19 protective measures are in effect”. (excerpts)
Halida, a mother of five children who fled with her children from the SOS Children’s Village Ganja to Baku, tells “There was an explosion near our SOS Children’s Village. It was 2 am. The children woke up and started to run. I tried to calm them. I only fear for my children. They are so young and already know war. I tell them I won’t allow anything to happen to them. But, they saw and felt war. Last week all of us slept in one room on the ground floor. We slept in our regular clothes, not in pajamas, to be ready to run if bombing starts. The house was shaking from the sound of flying bombs. There was rocket debris all around. My children worried the bombs may kill us or their friends. Those images are imprinted in my children’s minds. Now they jump with fear even at a chair squeak. The fear of dying during bombing is still with them. My 15-year-old Salima is crying all the time. This year has been very traumatic for my children. First, we had months of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Then war started and we had to flee our homes. Now my children need peace and coziness. We are all safe here in Baku, but our life is back in Ganja. We only packed essentials. Our clothes, books, toys, household items, are all in Ganja. Can you imagine having to leave everything you have and everyone you know?”
Story & Photos ©Elvira Mustafayeva, Katerina Ilievska, SOS Children’s Villages Azerbaijan
Humanitarian Appeal : to support the children affected by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, you can make an donation by filling the form below. You can also make it to our bank account CCPL IBAN LU65 1111 0050 0053 0000 (communication EP Karabakh)