Armenia: MSF sends team to aid people fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh

Following an attack launched by Azerbaijan this month, MSF is preparing to respond to the needs of people fleeing for safety in Armenia.

White flag with red logo of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) against sunny blue sky

© Valérie Batselaere/MSF

On September 19, Azerbaijan launched an attack on several locations in Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but mainly populated and governed by ethnic Armenians. Twenty-four hours later, a ceasefire was announced. Today, Armenian authorities reported that more than 28,000 ethnic Armenians have crossed the Lachin corridor between Nagorno-Karabakh and the Armenian border, in search of safety and humanitarian assistance in Armenia.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has sent a team to Goris, a town in Syunik province in southern Armenia, to provide aid to people fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh after several months of living under siege. We 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 and food supplies, as well as medical and humanitarian assistance,” said Franking Frias, MSF's head of mission in Armenia. “They found themselves trapped amidst bombardment and gunshots, forced to make heart-wrenching choices between staying and risking their lives or leaving everything behind to look for safety.”

The Lachin corridor is a critical lifeline for the region, but since December 12, 2022, it has been subject to a blockade resulting in severe shortages of essential supplies including food, medicines, fuel, and other basic necessities for the estimated 120,000 people who live in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“It is crucial that people who wish to leave the territory are granted a safe passage from Nagorno-Karabakh,” said Frias.

MSF in Armenia and Azerbaijan

MSF has been working in Armenia since 1988, initially to respond to medical needs following the Spitak earthquake and later to treat people with drug-resistant tuberculosis with new, effective drugs. Since the beginning of 2023, MSF teams have focused on providing hepatitis C treatment to people living in vulnerable circumstances, including incarcerated people. The project offers access to timely screening, diagnosis, and treatment at a general health care facility in Yerevan.

MSF started working in Azerbaijan in 1989. During the 1990s, our teams rehabilitated public health structures in the country. We also provided an immunization program and worked on preventing sexually transmitted diseases in clinics in the Imishli, Saatli, and Fizuli regions located in the country’s southwest, until January 2001. In the early 2000s, we provided free basic health care in clinics just outside Sumgayit, on the Caspian Sea coast.

Before September 19, MSF was supporting the provision of mental health services in public health facilities in Nagorno-Karabakh.