News / Press Releases

August 30, 2013

Civilians Must Have Access to Humanitarian Aid as Syria Crisis Mounts

Takoma Park, Maryland — With the U.S. and other nations planning military interventions in Syria, Handicap International stresses that the population must have access to humanitarian aid. The organization also calls on all parties to the conflict to respect the international ban on the use of cluster munitions or any other indiscriminate weapons.

The Syrian conflict has been marked by a severe lack of access to affected populations. The UN estimates that more than 100,000 people have been killed and 4.25 million people have been displaced from their homes in Syria. These statistics do not take account of all the victims, as humanitarian actors cannot gain full access into the country. Outside Syria, the UN has registered more than 1.9 million Syrian refugees, and estimates that one million children are among them.

“There has been no let up for the Syrian people, war is their day-to-day life, with no respite and no alternatives,” said Thierry-Mehdi Benlahsen, Regional Emergency Response Coordinator for Handicap International. “Our team and our partners, working with refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, as well as inside Syria itself, have witnessed the ordeals these families, who have no hope, are put through. The most vulnerable people—people with disabilities, elderly people, pregnant women—are the worst affected by the shortage of humanitarian aid.”

Even when attempting to flee, Syrians fall victim to the fighting. This was the case for Najah, a 16-year old Syrian girl hit in crossfire while trying to cross the border into Lebanon. Now a paraplegic, she is supported by Handicap International’s teams.

Handicap International has been working with the victims of the Syria conflict in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, since June 2012. It provides assistance to the most vulnerable populations, providing specific assistance such as physical therapy and psychological support, and ensuring they can access other humanitarian aid.

To prepare refugees for their eventual return to Syria, Handicap International has also conducted munitions risk education. Staff meet with refugees in camps and host communities to teach them about the dangers of the explosive weapons left over from conflict—how to identify them, and how to react if they encounter dangerous devices.

In a separate statement on August 28, Handicap International urged the U.S. government to keep the protection of civilians in sharp focus and to avoid any use of cluster munitions. Reports suggest the U.S. Navy could use Tomahawk missiles to strike Syrian targets, missiles which can be fit with the deadly BLU-97 cluster munition.

About Handicap International

Handicap International is an independent international aid organization which has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for over 30 years. Working alongside people with disabilities and vulnerable populations, we take action and raise awareness in order to respond to their essential needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights. Since its beginnings in 1982, Handicap International has gone on to work in more than 60 countries worldwide and has worked in numerous emergency situations. There are 8 national associations in the Handicap International network (Germany, Belgium, Canada, USA, France, Luxembourg, UK and Switzerland) working constantly to raise funds, co-manage projects and promote the organization’s principles and actions. Handicap International was co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize as a one of the six founding members of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBM) which led to the signing of the Mine Ban Treaty and winner of the Conrad N. Hilton prize in 2011. Handicap International works and tries to promote action wherever people struggle to “walk tall”.