Armenia: Three Decades in Temporary Accommodation
Families left homeless by the 1988 earthquake are still living in tiny, makeshift shelters.
Stela Gevorgyan was just four years-old when the devastating earthquake of December 7, 1988 shook Armenia. Her family home was among the more than half-a-million houses destroyed in the magnitude-10 earthquake that levelled entire villages and killed about 25,000 people.
Gevorgyan, now 37, still lives in the 15 square-metre domiki shelter she and her family were moved to in what was supposed to be only a temporary measure.
It is one of 2,776 domiki temporary shelters still officially registered in Gyumri, the country’s second largest city which bore most of the damage. In some cases, a third generation is growing up in the cottages.
Between 15,000 and 17,000 people died and about 20,600 houses were destroyed in Gyumri. Homeless families like Gevorgyan’s were placed in temporary shelters with the plan to be housed in apartments later. Aid poured from all over the world and the then-Soviet authorities promised to restore Gyumri within two years. The collapse of the USSR in 1991 left thousands of projects unfinished.
In recent years, the Armenian government has built thousands of apartments, with substantial support from the diaspora, former Soviet republics, and international institutions like the World Bank.
Private institutions are also chipping in. As of May 2022, the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund is building two multi-apartment buildings for 40 families. The municipality also signed a memorandum with another charitable foundation, Arq, which envisages the construction of 12-16 apartments, with the foundation covering 50 per cent of the cost and the remaining 50 per cent to be paid, interest-free, by the family over a period of ten years.
This publication was prepared under the "Amplify, Verify, Engage (AVE) Project" implemented with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway.