Armenia: Winterization support to the refugee-like population displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh - Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA), DREF Operation n° MDRAM008


A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

The Escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict in 2020 resulted in the influx of up to 90,000 people from the NK to Armenia, the vast majority of whom are older people, women and children. Currently, 20,433 displaced people are still living in the refugee-like situation in Armenia, sheltering with host families, collective shelters, and rented accommodation across 11 provinces (see Table 1 below). While the absolute majority of the refugee-like population are already facing needs in the areas of shelter, livelihoods, household items, employment, and food, the winter season is expected to further exacerbate their living conditions due to the increased expenses associated with heating and purchase of winter apparel, inflation on the housing market in Armenia, decreasing support from the host communities and the cessation of the Government Cash Assistance Programs. Data1 shows vulnerabilities among the refugee-like population, including approximately 14% having disabilities/special needs, 11.5% infants (0-59 months), 24% children aged 5-17 years and 12% older people (50+). To prevent the humanitarian crisis and also to ensure the gradual transition from humanitarian-aid to longer-term recovery interventions within the DREF Operation, the Armenian RC, with the support from the IFRC, will provide unconditional cash assistance to 6,120 individuals, including the people with disabilities and children under 18, to help them meet the basic winterization needs of their households, according to their priorities.

The population living in refugee-like conditions are staying with relatives, host families, and in makeshift collective centers. Assessments show that a large part of this population continues to live in dire economic situations, struggling to cover basic needs and day-to-day costs. During the coming winter months, heating will increase expenses while there are less employment opportunities. At the same time, significant inflation in the housing market will likely lead to increased rental expenses in the coming months. The same factors will also impact host communities whose resources have been depleted too, likely leading to their support decreasing. Forecasts indicate a regular winter for 2021/2022 which, on average for all of Armenia, means mean temperatures between -2.4 and 0.6 degrees Celsius during December, January and February, and sustained sub-zero temperatures at higher elevation.

Based on the information from Unified Social Service, a vast majority (20,139 of 20,433) of the displaced population are those who have lost property in NK and are eligible for the Government introduced cash intervention of AMD 25,000 (for men/women and pensioners) and AMD 50,0004 (for the people with disabilities in the 1 st and 2nd groups and children under 18).

The majority of the refugeelike population are sheltering in Yerevan and surrounding areas with relatives, host families, and 205 individuals are still staying in makeshift collective centers that include hotels, hostels, boarding houses, old sanatoriums, kindergartens, and communal buildings with poor or nonexistent heating, water, and sanitation facilities.

According to the Economic Resilience Assessment of the refugee-like population in Armenia prepared and published by REACH in September 2021, the conflict-affected communities continue to struggle financially. They have a hard time covering basic livelihood needs and balancing such needs as utility payments, food and clothes, healthcare, and education costs. Due to its complex mountainous terrain and geographical location, Armenia has several climate zones. The varying altitudes, from 375m to 4090m, strongly influence the climate, and with winter approaching, the refugee-like population already anticipates facing additional challenges covering everyday costs. To a large degree, this is caused by increased household expenses associated with heating and the decline in the availability of seasonal working opportunities, and depleting resources of the host communities.

Since the onset of the emergency in the fall of 2020, the Government of Armenia, at both the national and local levels, has provided critical support to the new arrivals, including space in communal shelters and 18 different cash assistance programs. Host communities also played a critical role in welcoming and accommodating the refugee-like population, sharing their housing, food, and other resources. However, the conflict severely impacted the refugee-like and host community populations in Armenia, with a notable increase in reported physical, social and mental trauma and financial challenges. In this context, the Government and humanitarian community faced increasing difficulties coordinating, financing, and addressing essential needs. Notably, on 18 November 2021 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) of Armenia made a request to the IFRC during the meeting between the IFRC Head of South Caucasus Country Cluster Delegation and the MoFA Head of Human Rights and Humanitarian Division, concerning the assistance required for supporting the winterization of the refugee-like population. Following this meeting and the request, the the feasibility of supporting the cash programme was explored, including options for financial service providers, and Movement coordination took place to confirm a complimentary approach. This process resulted in a tentative positive response to the authorities in the second week of December and the launch of this operation two weeks later.