Medical aid supports the vulnerable in the shadow of conflict

Medicine and surgical equipment from Mission East improves the health of the most vulnerable Armenians in the war-threatened territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

By Svend Løbner, journalist, September 2017

Illness exhausts – physically as well as mentally. And people are particularly weakened when a conflict threatens to escalate into war. This is the situation for Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh – a territory long disputed by Azerbaijan and Armenia. The population is under considerable pressure, and full-scale war can break out at any time. Mission East recently distributed medicine and surgical equipment to two clinics in the area.

“Many thanks for your help,” says chief physician Grigori Gasparyan from the health clinic in Martuni, only 10 kilometres from the frontline. “Many suffer from hypertension. Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the area. That is why we urgently need blood pressure medication,” he adds.

Free medical care

Mission East has provided the clinics in Martuni and neighbouring Mardakert with antibiotics and medicine against hypertension, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and various forms of allergy. Managing Director Kim Hartzner participated in the distribution.

“We are very grateful for the medicine, which we will offer for free to the poorest and most vulnerable patients who receive outpatient care at the clinic,” Gasparyan says.

In Mardakert the most vulnerable are also benefiting from the support of Mission East. “All children below the age of seven, all relatives of deceased soldiers, all refugees and displaced, all patients with disabilities, diabetes and epilepsy are treated free of charge,” chief physician Gagik Ohanyan says.

Cross-border shelling

Since January 2017, there has once again been heavy artillery shelling across the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In April 2016 appr. 200 young Armenian men were killed during the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. The territory has been inhabited by Armenians for centuries, and the present population is almost exclusively Armenian.

From 1988-1994 a bloody war was fought in the territory. The Armenians were fighting for independence and gained it at a very heavy price as thousands of young people lost their lives. Today, the situation is very fragile, and full-scale war can break out at any time, Kim Hartzner says. “That is why every effort must be made to prevent war – politically and by helping the impoverished population take care of itself and stay healthy,” he says.

Ready to assist wounded soldiers

In Martuni close to the frontline the health clinic is preparing to receive wounded soldiers. “The clinic is situated only 5-10 kilometres from a potential scene of escalation. If this happens, many wounded soldiers will need treatment here. When they come, we can operate and give them essential first aid before we send them on to Stepanakert for further treatment,” chief physician Grigori Gasparyan says.

Kim Hartzner recognises this scenario: “I visited Nagorno-Karabakh during the war in 1993 and saw soldiers being carried into a field hospital in miserable conditions. I watched soldiers being operated upon without any form of anesthetics,” he recalls.

Mission East has worked in Armenia since 1992, initially providing medical care to the war-affected population, then founding the ‘Denmark’ hospital in the south of the country. In recent years, children with disabilities have received assistance at three rehabilitation centres.