In an email interview last week with Asbarez, Armenian National Committee of America’s Communications Director Elizabeth Chouldjian discussed the work the organization is doing to promote the work of the Baroness Cox Rehabilitation Center in Artsakh. Below is the interview.
Asbarez: The ANCA has backed direct U.S. funding for Artsakh for over 20 years, securing aid for everything from clean water, maternal health and, currently, de-mining. What is the ANCA’s new initiative with the Baroness Cox Rehabilitation Center in Stepanakert all about?
Elizabeth Chouldjian: The short answer to your question is that we are seeking funding – for the 2019 federal fiscal year – from Congress for the U.S. Agency for International Development to continue de-mining efforts through HALO Trust and expand its support to the Baroness Cox Rehabilitation Center.
Asbarez: Why the focus on the Baroness Cox Rehabilitation Center?
E.C.: Without a doubt, among the most urgent humanitarian priorities in Artsakh today is the need to help children and adults with disabilities. In the face of rapidly growing local and regional demands for rehabilitation services, the Center lacks sufficient infrastructure and modern facilities to meet its pressing humanitarian mission.
Asbarez: And what is the quick 411 on the Baroness Cox Rehabilitation Center?
E.C.: The Baroness Cox Rehabilitation Center was first established in 1998 through a partnership of local health officials and then-Speaker of the United Kingdom’s House of Lords, Baroness Caroline Cox. A nurse by training, Lady Cox is respected for her leadership on rehabilitation efforts around the world.
More than 15,000 patients have received treatment from the Baroness Cox Rehabilitation Center since it first opened. It’s currently treating over 1,000 patients in-house and offering an additional 24,000 out-patient treatments annually. Despite that, the Center only meets 20% of the needs of the local population, leaving as many as 60,000 regional patients without adequate rehabilitation services.
Asbarez: Who are the people who receive treatment at the Center?
E.C.: Among those receiving treatment include patients – from Artsakh, Armenia, Russia, and Georgia – with spinal cord injuries, elderly stroke victims, and infants and children born with disabilities, such as cerebral palsy and spina bifida. They are also doing cutting-edge work with children with autism and other cognitive disabilities, helping them integrate into local schools.
Asbarez: What is the ANCA doing on Capitol Hill and with the Executive Branch on this issue?
E.C.: Specifically, we are lobbying the House and Senate and speaking to officials at the U.S. Department of State to ensure that federal funds are allocated to the Baroness Cox Rehabilitation this federal fiscal year. This involves a lot of teamwork – from our ANCA office here in Washington, DC, our ANCA Regional Offices in the Eastern and Western regions, and with over 50 local ANCA chapters – all working together towards this same worthwhile goal.
Asbarez: When is Congress going to finalize their Fiscal Year 2019 budget and priorities?
E.C.: While much work has already been done on this score, including by Senator Van Hollen and other legislators committed to prioritizing Artsakh rehabilitation programs in the Senate foreign aid measure, the decisions are being made right now and in the upcoming weeks.