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UN Teams Support Burn Victims Amidst Karabakh Crisis

UN World Health Organization (WHO) teams in Goris, Armenia, are tirelessly working to assist not only the vast numbers of refugees fleeing the Karabakh region but also to provide urgent medical support to individuals grappling with severe burn injuries resulting from a massive fuel depot explosion that occurred last week amidst the exodus.

More than 170 people were killed and over 200 more injured, many with grievous burns and in a critical condition, in an explosion at a crowded fuel depot along the route taken by those entering Armenia last Monday.

‘Heart-breaking’ scenes

WHO Special Envoy Robb Butler, who visited a burns treatment centre in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, described the suffering as “heart-breaking”.

“Every single bed in this 80-bed hospital is occupied with a survivor from the explosion in Karabakh. Health workers here are working hard to treat and rehabilitate them, but this is a small country with limited capacity, and the needs are immense.”

The UN health agency, for its part, is bringing in burns kits as well as mobilizing international support to deploy burns specialist to support the needs there. It is also gauging how it can best support rehabilitation for the survivors in the medium and longer term.

Addressing needs

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Alongside support to the victims of the fire, WHO is providing refugees with vital health services, including mental health and psychosocial support.

It is setting up modular prefabricated clinics, and is supporting the Armenian Government integrate health workers, including about 300 doctors and 1,200 nurses – who arrived as of Saturday from the Karabakh region – into primary healthcare centres and hospitals in Armenia. It is also sending medicines for non-communicable diseases, which will cover three months of treatments for up to 50,000 persons.

Coordinated UN effort

According to latest estimates, about 100,000 people have crossed into Armenia. Working with the authorities and partners, UN teams on the ground are supporting the arrivals.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has established a children’s’ safe space in Goris, serving nearly 300 children every day along with their parents. It offers a space for children to play, a breastfeeding space for mothers, and paediatric support to help with acute concerns.

The World Food Programme (WFP), UN’s emergency food relief agency is providing people with hot meals, food parcels and food cards, while the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is supporting the Government with technical equipment, including laptops and tablets, to facilitate registration.

It also provided essential relief items such as foldable beds and mattresses for refugees.

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