Armenia: Families of missing persons renovate homes with ICRC loans

Families of missing persons are finally able to renovate their run-down homes, thanks to loans from the ICRC and the Fuller Center for Housing Armenia. Seventy families have already taken advantage of the scheme, which goes hand-in-hand with psychological support for families who have been coping with the pain of a missing relative for over two decades.

"Our house was a ruin. The floorboards had rotted, the foundations were unstable and on windy days we froze," says Araksya, recalling the state of her house just a couple of years ago. Araksya Vardanyan is the wife of a soldier who went missing in June 1992, during the Nagorny Karabakh conflict. She and her family had to flee during the conflict and found shelter in a prefabricated house in the village of Shorzha, which lies in the Gegharkunik region of Armenia. She shares the house with her younger son and his family, and lack of funds meant they were unable to renovate it.

That all changed when the ICRC delegation in Armenia and its partner, the Fuller Center for Housing Armenia, offered the family a loan to help them rebuild their house.

Today, the Vardanyans stay warm and dry, whatever the weather. With the funding provided, the family built new walls, windows and a roof, and installed plumbing and a new floor.

Life has improved dramatically for Araksya and her family. "Now we have a real house with solid walls, and it's warm inside. This has made our lives so much brighter, and it's put smiles on our children's faces," she tells us. "Now I can see a better future for my grandchildren. I've been dreaming of this for years!"

The ICRC's programme for the families of missing persons in Armenia combines psychological support with practical help with things like housing. The aim is to help these families resume normal lives.

In 2011, the ICRC delegation in Armenia launched a housing assistance project in cooperation with the Fuller Center for Housing Armenia. The ICRC identifies families most in need of this type of assistance, while the Fuller Center assesses their living conditions and draws up a plan and a budget for the repair work. The ICRC and the Fuller Center share the costs. The funding takes the form of a loan, not a grant, but the loan is interest-free. As each family repays their loan, the money becomes available for another family, forming a rotating fund.

So far, these interest-free loans have helped 70 Armenian families of missing persons to greatly improve their quality of life.