More than a year later, there is still no escaping the devastating impact of the 2020 Artsakh War. With thousands dead, thousands more injured, and a majority of Artsakh’s indigenous Armenian population displaced, the region continues to be plagued by a crippling uncertainty. And yet, despite all of this loss, there is still new life being born in Artsakh.
Motherhood has not stopped and neither have the challenges that come along with it. In Artsakh today, there has been a sharp increase in the number of newborn abnormalities and fetal deaths. The need to access safe abortions and the frequency of surrendering children have also increased. Though none of these statistics should be surprising in the brutal aftermath of total war, they illustrate the bleak reality of birthing and raising children in an active conflict zone. In response, the women at the helm of AGBU Hye Geen have extended their renowned approach to maternal health to Artsakh.
Identifying the dire need and coming together from all over the world, the AGBU Hye Geen Committee voted to found their sixth Pregnant Women’s Center in the Children’s Hospital of Stepanakert. With the help of committed partners in Yerevan, and in partnership with Artsakh’s Minister of State—and former Human Rights Defender—Artak Beglaryan, the Committee will bring a new wave of support for women facing the challenges of the region today.
“Women have lost their husbands, their sons, their homes and their livelihoods,” AGBU Hye Geen founder Sona Yacoubian explains. “They must now raise their children bewildered, distressed, and confused.” Prepared for the shifting realities on the ground, the staff of Stepanakert’s new Pregnant Women’s Center will focus attention on guiding and supporting women and their families through these uncertain times.
Since 1994, AGBU Hye Geen has worked to address the needs of Armenian women throughout the world. In Armenia, their signature Pregnant Women’s Centers launched in 2002 in an effort to champion women’s health more directly. At the time, women in both cities and villages throughout the country were in dire need of nutritional, medical, and psychological assistance, especially in the aftermath of the Earthquake and the First Artsakh War. For almost two decades, these centers have been steadily operating in five cities across the country: Vanadzor, Talin, Yeghvard, Charentsavan, and Yerevan.
Despite the tumult and turmoil of the last couple of years, the centers have continued their work, serving women from all backgrounds. Each year, hundreds of women and their families are connected to much needed resources and ongoing support. Improving maternal health and reducing infant mortality rates, the centers also act as community hubs that encourage open dialogue and knowledge sharing. As of 2020, Hye Geen centers have helped 10,000 newborns, moms and their families in Armenia. Now it’s Artsakh’s turn.
Based out of Los Angeles, the AGBU Hye Geen Committee works tirelessly to ensure financial support for the centers and the communities they serve in the homeland. The dynamic group is equally invested in promoting research, education, and advocacy for women in the diaspora, hosting events and creating mixed media platforms that connect Armenian women. Navigating the diversity of experiences in the Armenian community, Hye Geen has maintained steadfast support for its guiding mission of women’s empowerment. This sixth center is their latest endeavor in achieving this increasingly critical mission.
Originally published in the December 2021 issue of the AGBU Magazine.