On September 19 at approximately 1 p.m., Azerbaijan launched a major military offensive against Artsakh, causing the displacement of tens of thousands of residents. The same people who have been living under a blockade with little to no access to food and basic necessities have now been forced to leave their homes. Many Artsakh residents either have no way to evacuate their villages or are concentrated at the airport in Stepanakert secured by Russian peacekeepers. Thousands are currently being transferred to Armenia (as of 10 p.m. on September 24, 1,050 forcibly displaced persons have entered Armenia).
Humanitarian aid is the foremost important issue at stake regarding the forcibly displaced persons of Artsakh. Armenian Food Bank, a humanitarian aid organization with a clear objective to help those who have been forced to flee, is stepping up to help. Founded in 2020 by Michael Avetikyan, a Canadian Armenian and military veteran, along with his wife, the Armenian Food Bank Charitable Foundation in Armenia has been providing necessary humanitarian assistance to low-income families with children and needy families of veterans.
Michael is known as one of the 15 fastest shooters in the world and among the top five in North America. In March of 2020, he and his wife traveled to Armenia, yet due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were not allowed to travel back to Canada. They decided to put their time to good use and help low-income families affected by the pandemic, which led them to establish the first food bank in Armenia: Armenian Food Bank. The bank also supported the Armenian army and the families of soldiers during the 2020 Artsakh War.
Their foundation has a clear and concise objective: to provide assistance in the form of food aid and necessary clothing to all families in need.
“We are the first charitable food hub and the most accessible food bank in Armenia, serving families in need, individuals, and organizations. Together, we fight hunger and its root causes, because no one should go hungry,” their mission statement says.
Armenian Food Bank also takes care of children from poor families, so they can continue their education and break the cycle of illiteracy that is often prevalent in rural areas of the country. In 2020 alone, it assisted more than 200,000 citizens of Armenia and Artsakh and collected and transferred 12 tons of humanitarian aid to Artsakh, with the help of Diasporan Armenians. The organization functions like a well-oiled machine. Everything is organized and distributed appropriately depending on need. First, the organization makes a trip to the location to determine what people need, whether it is food, clothes or hygiene products. They then return to their site in Yerevan, gather the aid and make the delivery. This method allows for people to receive exactly what they need with no waste.
At present their sole mission, with the help of dozens of volunteers, is to collect and distribute food, clothing, toys and hygiene products to people arriving in Armenia from Artsakh. Approximately 60-percent of donated items come from other countries. Currently, they are collecting much-needed baby formula for women who cannot breastfeed, diapers and hygiene products. Many people are also donating toys for children as well as clothing, specifically warm clothing like coats before the cold weather begins to settle in Armenia. With each day in Armenia, the anticipation for an exodus of forcibly displaced persons from Artsakh grows. An increasing number of people of all ages are donating their time and a helping hand to give back to those in need.
If you would like to support Armenian Food Bank, please do so by visiting their website at https://www.armenianfoodbank.org/