How the Nagorno-Karabakh blockade is driving food scarcity

How the Nagorno-Karabakh blockade is driving food scarcity

Residents of Stepanakert have been queuing at night for bread and water in Nagorno-Karabakh since access to the region was blocked by Azerbaijan. © Mary Asatryan

The only road connecting Armenia to the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh – a breakaway region disputed for decades between Armenia and Azerbaijan – has been blocked by Azerbaijan since July. A resident talked to the FRANCE 24 Observers team about the food and water shortage affecting the region.

‘The stores are completely empty’

Mary Asatryan works as an assistant to the Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman) of Nagorno-Karabakh in Stepanakert. For months, she has been documenting her daily life on Instagram, where she posts photos and videos of the queues in front of bakeries, the 20-kilometre journey she makes to fetch water bottles, and the locals helping each other.

At the moment, you cannot buy anything at the stores anymore. The shops are completely empty. What we have left is a limited amount of bread, which is baked and sold at the bakeries. Why? Because there is no fuel left in the country to deliver the bread to the stores. So people have to walk by foot to the bakeries directly and queue there.

The bread queues can reach five or six hours, and most of the time people queue at night because during the day it’s so hot that people can’t stand. But there are, of course, people who queue during the day, but as I work at the office, I cannot afford that.

But I, for example, I’m getting exhausted physically standing in the queue sometimes. So some days I just even give up on bread. Last time I was standing in the queue, there were 500 people registered. So it’s really endless.