SOS Armenians of Artsakh

Acting in the face of the risk of famine, ethnic cleansing and even genocide.

Demonstration in Stepanakert, capital of Artsakh, against Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Latchine corridor. Photo Davit Chahramanyan AFP.

The humanitarian situation has become dramatic for the Armenian population of Artsakh, victim of a total blockade by Azerbaijan, which has cut off the only access route to Armenia, the Latchine corridor, as well as the regular supply of gas and electricity.

Until now, the Russian peacekeeping contingent has been supplying the population since December 22, and the ICRC has been bringing in medicines and evacuating the seriously ill to Armenia.

Since June 15, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, has decided to impose a total blockade, thereby accelerating a humanitarian crisis which he is using as a weapon of war. This is his response to the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) and to the many countries and organizations calling for the Latchine corridor to be reopened in accordance with International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

At a time when the population is suffering from multiple shortages, a supply convoy carrying 361 tonnes of essential goods (1) has been immobilized since July 26 near the village of Kornidzor at the entrance to the corridor.

Trucks blocked at the entrance to the Lachine corridor. Twitter: @Anne_Hidalgo

This has also been the case since August 31 for the convoy of 10 trucks of essential humanitarian goods sent by local authorities in France (2) at the call of the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, with Xavier Bertrand, President of the Grand Est Region, and Bruno Retailleau, President of the LR group in the Senate, accompanied by a dozen elected representatives and the Artsakh representative in France, Hovhannès Guevorkian.

The humanitarian situation of the population is deteriorating dangerously, and time is running out.

The already difficult humanitarian situation is now deteriorating very rapidly for the 120,000 inhabitants of Artsakh, including 20,000 elderly people, 30,000 children, 2,000 pregnant women, 9,000 disabled people, 4,700 people suffering from diabetes and 8,450 people suffering from cardiovascular disease, as Armenia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Ararat Mirzoyan, stated at the United Nations Security Council meeting devoted to Artsakh on August 16.

Speaking at the meeting, Ms Edem Worsonu, Director of Operations and Communications at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said: “International humanitarian law is very clear. The parties to the conflict must allow and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid to all civilians in need”.

The total blockade of Azerbaijan is doing exactly the opposite, as no humanitarian organization is able to bring relief to an isolated population in urgent daily need. The ICRC, the only organization authorized to operate, has seen its work abruptly halted. The last delivery of medicines was on July 7, and food on June 14.

Empty store in Stepanakert. Twitter: @ArtsakhOmbuds

Artsakh human rights defender Gegham Stepanian recently published a report (3). Public health is dangerously deteriorating, as infant formula runs out, medical establishments suffer constant power cuts, and cases of anaemia continue to rise among pregnant women. Agriculture, the main activity, is severely affected by the lack of fuel, fertilizer and feed for livestock, and by the regular firing from Azerbaijani positions, which prohibits harvesting, as happened only recently in the village of Sarushen. Even drinking water supplies are dwindling due to fuel shortages, and intestinal infections among children are on the increase. Waste collection is reaching a “dangerously critical point”, cases of leishmaniasis have doubled, and the absence of public transport will make it impossible for some 20,000 students to return to school.

Avoid the worst now!

For humanitarians, far from any political considerations, the only worthwhile cause is that of saving lives in danger by avoiding the downward spiral of the worst that is underway, according to many observers and eyewitness accounts. The dilemma for humanitarian actors is that they are prevented from helping the population of Artsakh, since Azerbaijan has denied them access.

Far from resigning themselves to the situation, humanitarians can mobilize through strong and rapid advocacy to obtain the dispatch of an international mission to assess the humanitarian needs of the population and the reopening of the Latchine corridor. They can also prepare to help when the corridor finally opens under growing international pressure.

In the name of the duty to protect, humanitarians have not let anyone down in Kosovo, East Timor, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Mali, Libya or Syria, and even in North Korea. They can do the same for the 120,000 inhabitants of Artsakh threatened by starvation and abandonment.

According to a recent report by Luis Moreno Ocampo, former prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the spiral unleashed by Azerbaijan represents a genocidal threat. He adds: “Without immediate radical change, this group of Armenians will be destroyed in a matter of weeks”. The UN’s International Court of Justice made no mistake when, on July 6, it once again called on Azerbaijan to ensure “… the unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles and goods along the Latchine corridor in both directions”, as did numerous countries and international organizations, including the European Union, through its High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borell.

The delegation of French elected representatives in front of one of the trucks supplying essential goods. Twitter: @Anne_Hidalgo

The delegation of French elected representatives in front of one of the trucks supplying essential goods.At the French Ambassadors’ Conference in Paris at the end of August, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that “we will again take a diplomatic initiative in this direction on an international level”. How can we not expect the Latchine corridor to be reopened to humanitarian aid?

The stakes are high, as there are only two possible options in the face of the accelerating deterioration in the living conditions of the people of Artsack. Is it the Azeri President Ilham Aliyev who will impose a lasting blockade with all its disastrous consequences, or is it all those who demand respect for International Humanitarian Law to save the population from a famine that could resemble that practised by Stalin in the years 1932-1033 in Ukraine under the name of Holodomor!

Today, time is running out for the 120,000 inhabitants of Artsakh. Diplomacy’s time is running out. It must succeed to avoid the worst to come and preserve peace. Without rapid humanitarian aid for Artsakh, not only will there be no peace, but war will undoubtedly return. Conversely, reopening the corridor to humanitarian aid is a prerequisite for a peaceful political solution negotiated within an international framework.

After the genocide in Rwanda, who today would be prepared to take responsibility for a famine followed by ethnic cleansing and a possible genocide of the Armenians in Artsakh?

 

Alain Boinet.

President of Défis Humanitaires

  1. This convoy of 19 supply trucks contains foodstuffs and pharmaceutical products, including 60 tonnes of powdered sugar, 40 tonnes of oil, 100 tonnes of flour, 80 tonnes of pasta and starch, 20 tonnes of salt, 40 tonnes of powdered milk, 12 tonnes of infant food and 9 tonnes of medicines.
  2. Joint statement to the President of the Republic calling on France to support the Armenians of Artsakh
  3. Report in English on the humanitarian situation of the Artsakh Human Rights Defender

 

Discover the 80th edition of Défis Humanitaires:

UN drinking water: some progress, a lot of catching up to do!

Summary of the UNICEF-WHO JMP Report (2020-2022).

Children walking to a nearby river for water in Laos @ADB

The “Progress Report on Drinking Water and Sanitation and Hygiene” is the reference document for monitoring Goal 6 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2015-2030. It is a survey of data from as many countries as possible, carried out jointly by WHO and UNICEF under the Joint Monitoring Program (JMP), which is the repository of global data on water supply, sanitation and hygiene. Every three years, the JMP produces a report on progress in this area, publishing reliable data.

The latest report, published on July 6, 2023, shows the progress made in terms of access to water, but also the progress that still needs to be made to achieve the MDGs, while also presenting the challenges that come under MDG 5 on gender equality. This summary follows the same structure as the report, providing an overview of the key data collected and putting them into perspective in relation to the 2030 targets.

Progress to be stepped up…

This report presents updated national, regional and global estimates of household access to water, sanitation and hygiene for the period 2000-2022. Universal and equitable access to safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation by 2030 is one of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN and its member countries.

To reach the targets of MDG 6 by 2030, it will be necessary to multiply by six the current rates of progress for safe drinking water, by five for safe sanitation and by three for the provision of basic hygiene services.

In low-income countries, achieving universal coverage of basic WASH services by 2030 will require a dramatic acceleration in current rates of progress.

…To achieve joint goals

Progress in drinking water, sanitation, health and hygiene is essential to achieving MDG 5, which aims to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, and this report focuses on gender to reflect this.

Indeed, there are many links between these two SDGs:

  • 1.8 billion people obtain their drinking water from sources outside the home, and in seven out of ten cases, women and girls are primarily responsible for collecting water.
  • In almost all countries with comparable data, the burden of water transport remains significantly heavier for women and girls than for men. The report’s estimate includes collection from both improved and unimproved drinking water sources.
  • More than half a billion people share sanitary facilities and water points with other households. Emerging data shows that among these people, women are more likely than men to feel uncomfortable or unsafe with sanitation facilities, particularly when walking alone after dark.
  • The absence of hand-washing facilities has a greater impact on adolescent girls and women, who are the main carers for children and household chores in many countries around the world.
  • Inadequate water-sanitation-hygiene (WASH) services limit the ability of adolescent girls and women, as well as other menstruating individuals, to manage their periods in safety and privacy.

Drinking water services

Since 2015, managed drinking water coverage has risen from 69% to 73%, from 56% to 62% in rural areas and from 80% to 81% in urban areas.

In 2022, one person in five lacked access to safe, managed drinking water, and this access varied widely around the world.

Some key data:

  • By 2022, 73% of the world’s population will be using safely managed drinking water services, 62% in rural areas and 81% in urban areas.
  • 2.2 billion people do not have access to safely managed drinking water, including 1.5 billion with basic services, 292 million with limited services, 296 million with unimproved services and 115 million with surface water.
  • Estimates of safely managed services are available for 142 countries and six of the eight SDG regions, representing 51% of the world’s population.
  • Achieving universal access to safely managed services by 2030 will require a six-fold increase on current rates of progress (20 times in least developed countries, 19 times in fragile contexts).

Sanitation services

Since 2015, sanitation coverage has risen from 49% to 57%, from 36% to 46% in rural areas and from 60% to 65% in urban areas.

In 2022, two out of every 5 people had no safe access to sanitation, and this access varied widely across the world.Some key data:

  • By 2022, 57% of the world’s population will be using safely managed sanitation services, 46% in rural areas and 65% in urban areas.
  • 3.5 billion people do not have access to safely managed sanitation services, including 1.9 billion with basic services, 570 million with limited services, 545 million with unimproved services and 419 million practicing open defecation.
  • Estimates of safely managed services were available for 135 countries and seven of the eight SDG regions, representing 86% of the world’s population.
  • Universal access to safely managed services by 2030 will require a five-fold increase on current rates of progress, a 16-fold increase in the least developed countries and a 15-fold increase in fragile contexts.

Hygiene services

Since 2015, coverage of hygiene services has increased from 67% to 75%, rising from 53% to 65% in rural areas, but has remained largely unchanged at 83% in urban areas.

In 2022, one in four people will not have access to basic hygiene services, but four regions do not have sufficient data on the subject.

In 2022, one person in four will lack access to basic hygiene services (some regions do not provide data).

Some key data:

  • By 2022, 75% of the world’s population will be using basic sanitation services, 65% in rural areas and 83% in urban areas.
  • 2 billion people lack basic sanitation services, including 1.3 billion with limited services and 653 million without facilities.
  • Estimates of basic services were available for 84 countries and four of the eight SDG regions, representing 69% of the world’s population.
  • Achieving universal access to basic hygiene services by 2030 will require a three-fold increase on current rates of progress (12-fold in least developed countries and eight-fold in fragile contexts).

Menstrual health and hygiene

53 countries had data for at least one menstrual health indicator in 2022, and three-quarters of these were low- or lower-middle-income countries.

Adolescent girls and women have access to sanitary protection and a private place to wash and change in most parts of the world. However, they do not participate in school, work or social activities during their periods.

Some key data:

  • 53 countries have data for at least one menstrual health indicator in 2022, and three-quarters of them were low-income or lower-middle-income.
  • Adolescents and women living in rural areas are more likely to use reusable menstrual equipment or no equipment at all.
  • Adolescents and women in the poorest wealth quintile and those with material difficulties are more likely to lack a private place to wash and change at home.
  • Many adolescent girls and women do not participate in school, work or social activities during menstruation, but there are significant differences between and within countries.

Where do the study data come from?

This is an important question, as not all countries take the same measurements, and some regions of the world are unable to provide data on specific issues. There is a disparity between countries according to their level of wealth, but also by theme. As a result, there is not the same amount of data available, measurable or accessible in all areas.

Ultimately, there is still a great deal of progress to be made to achieve the goals by 2030.

The UNICEF/WHO JMP Report has the immense merit of existing and indicating what remains to be achieved to reach Goal 6 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) decided by UN member states in 2015. Will the World Summit on the SDGs, to be held in New York on September 18, meet the expectations and proposals of water stakeholders to achieve these goals, without forgetting anyone! To be continued in a future issue of Défis Humanitaires.

 

This summary presents the main findings of the study, while the full report is available here: https://washdata.org/reports/jmp-2023-wash-households-gender-pullout-launch

Summary by Camille CHAMBON