Recent escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict worsens, with civilians bearing the brunt of the surge in violence. Despite recent negotiations for a humanitarian ceasefire, the situation remains volatile. Several hundred civilian deaths and many more injuries have been reported on both sides of the line of contact, including volunteers from the Azerbaijan Red Crescent, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Homes, hospitals and schools have been irreparably damaged by artillery. People are moving locations looking for shelter and safer terrain, but the scale of displacement is not known at this time. Ever present is also the threat of COVID-19, as people try to protect themselves and their families from the virus.
“Since the onset of the escalation at the end of September, the ICRC has urged the sides to take all feasible measures to protect and spare civilians and civilian infrastructure like hospitals, schools, markets and cultural property. These are not voluntary gestures. These are obligations under international humanitarian law. The ICRC is in contact with the sides in bilateral, confidential dialogue to remind them of their obligations under international humanitarian law. The appalling scenes that we are seeing cannot continue.", said Martin Schuepp,ICRC’s Eurasia Regional Director.
The ICRC is the arm of the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network that assists victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence. As with all Red Cross entities, it is an independent, neutral organization ensuring humanitarian protection.
In addition to the ICRC, the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies are responding to the ongoing needs on the ground. The Armenian Red Cross is aiding people with food, hygiene items, basic necessities, first aid kits, wheelchairs, walkers and mental health support. It is also supporting hospitals with hygiene items, blankets and pillows. Volunteers are also donating blood to replenish stocks at the blood bank and help with organizational issues.
The Azerbaijan Red Crescent has mobilized more than 200 members of its emergency team to provide immediate first aid and mental health support to affected people. More than 1,500 displaced households receive daily assistance with food, water and other aid. Staff and volunteers are helping transport the wounded to hospitals and participate in blood collection.
The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) is supporting both societies to address their most urgent needs. IFRC is providing immediate food assistance. It is also supporting households with hygiene items, fuel, bedding, kitchen sets and winter clothing.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has distributed emergency cash to more than 3,000 families who have been uprooted from their homes. Teams have also distributed medical supplies, equipment and blankets to hospitals. Food items and hygiene kits have been delivered to affected people through the local social care services. And recently, the ICRC visited detained prisoners of war (POW) and civilians.
"People have been in touch with the ICRC who are terrified for themselves and their families and at a loss as to where to go or what to do to stay safe. They are caught in the crossfire and deeply fearful for their safety and future. We are committed to helping all those who are feeling the impact of this escalation in violence. We call on the sides to protect civilians and the key infrastructure and services they need to survive, and abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law," said Martin Schüepp, ICRC's Eurasia regional director in Geneva.
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