A 70-year-old woman living in a makeshift ‘domik’ home in Gyumri froze to death. It is the first such death in the city in five years.
The woman, whose name has not been made public, was reportedly found unconscious in her home. She was then taken to hospital, where she was pronounced dead. She lived alone.
‘This is the first such case in the province in five years’, Vahan Tumasyan, the head of the Shirak Centre, an anti-poverty NGO working in Gyumri, told OC Media.
Shirak is the only organisation in the city, and in the whole of Shirak province — the coldest in Armenia — providing people with firewood. 'Our main goal is not to let anyone freeze to death’, Tumasyan said.
He said that they had no information that the woman had applied for firewood assistance, ‘but, it might be that relatives or anyone else did it for her instead'.
The woman has already been buried by the Gyumri municipality. She was laid to rest at Shirak cemetery, in the section of the cemetery reserved for the homeless and those without close relatives.
Armenia’s poorest province
Shirak has been Armenia’s poorest province ever since it was devastated by a massive earthquake in 1988 leaving an estimated 38,000 dead and thousands more homeless. As a result of the earthquake, many Shirak residents still live in ostensibly temporary housing units — some which are little more than renovated shipping containers — colloquially termed ‘domiki’.
As of 2018, according to the Statistical Committee of Armenia, almost 42% of the province's population was deemed to be poor, and the extreme poverty rate was 2.6%, two-and-a-half times the national average.
Tumasyan told OC Media that with the pandemic and the recent war, the economic situation in Shirak has deteriorated. Their NGO, he said, could prevent such cases in recent years because most of the population managed to meet their basic needs without outside help, and they could focus on working only with the most.
'Now, there are many applicants, and you can not reject anyone’, he said. ‘This case is probably our fault, in that we could not organise our work in such a way that it could definitively be ruled out'.
According to Tumasyan, hundreds of people apply for assistance every day. At present, roughly 25 families require emergency assistance from the NGO, which if not granted, he said, may lead to dire consequences.