Update provided by Gohar Hovhannisyan, MD, Founding Director of the Hanganak Elder Care Program and Clinic, a non-governmental organization which AWWA has sponsored for more than 20 years. After searching village by village in Armenia, our staff has tracked down and has resumed helping nearly all 320 beneficiaries who in September were among 100,000 ethnic Armenians forcibly dislocated from Artsakh, longtime home of our clinic. Working under difficult conditions, our four-person team has been struggling to restore care and support to our beneficiaries. We are continuing to search for 29 beneficiaries who have not been located. We are sad to report that five others have passed away and another 22 have been located within the Russian Federation. Amid the crisis, many of those elders living alone were left without financial resources, meaning much of our work entails connecting these people with resources. The Armenian government has promised to provide pensions to people, but has not yet specified dates. That means our help is the only support for many of our beneficiaries.
One woman’s story
The story of the beneficiary we located most recently illustrates the extreme circumstances of many. Martirosyan Arpenik, 86, had received support from the Hanganak clinic since 2020 and lived in Khnatsakh village of the Askeran region. Recently we were able to track her down in a temporary shelter in Goris. When everyone else was forced out of their homes in Artsakh, she stayed behind. She was in poor health and lingered for several days in her very quiet village. The sound of vehicles in the village prompted her to go outside and discover the arriving Azeris. Arpenik said they were not violent with her, and took her to Stepanakert, where she was kept for several days in the police building. Then she was transferred through the International Committee of the Red Cross to Goris. Arpenik’s story is, sadly, what life has become for many of these elders who lack other resources. We’re grateful for the support that AWWA has provided for more than two decades, particularly the additional assistance since September. The team has been scouring nursing homes for beneficiaries. The conditions in many of these facilities are well below US standards. The scene was one of suffering, unhappiness, and hopelessness. At one nursing home, we located four of our beneficiaries, along with other elders not affiliated with the clinic whose financial lifelines also had been cut off. Our aid efforts have been frustrated. Last month, our team met with Armenian officials to request financial assistance and visitation. But officials repeatedly denied our requests. Our team proceeded anyway to one nursing home in Aghavnadzor where many of those forcibly displaced from Artsakh have found refuge and have been awaiting their promised pensions. At the nursing home we were denied entrance. But some beneficiaries came outside and met with our team. Outside the gates we gave them money for themselves, as well as funds to pass on to the beneficiaries whose mobility issues kept them from leaving the home. As challenging as the situation is, we are committed to continuing to provide assistance to those frail elders who had no choice but to leave their homes in Artsakh. Currently, we are exploring the prospect of establishing a nursing home for our beneficiaries as well as other lonely, elderly people displaced from Artsakh – similar to one operated in Vanadzor by the Fund for Armenian Relief. We remain grateful for AWWA’s assistance and all of the support we have received from the United States. We will continue providing updates on our work.