Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Bangladesh | Cyclone Mocha leaves fear and anxiety in its wake in News 2023-05-17 16:48:08 -0400
Bangladesh | Cyclone Mocha leaves fear and anxiety in its wake
Following the passage of Cyclone Mocha, Humanity & Inclusion's teams in Bangladesh have already provided psychological first aid to 1,682 people in 19 camps throughout Cox's Bazar. Among those helped are 359 people with disabilities and 220 children.
Mohammad Sajjadul Hassan, Mental Health & Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Officer, HI Bangladesh:
As I’ve worked in Rohingya refugee camps for five years, I have faced several emergencies. I’ve provided mental health and psychosocial support services in fire incidents, flash floods, and more.
HI teams have been providing our MHPSS services in both phases of Cyclone Mocha–prevention and response.
We faced a range of questions before and after the incident. Before the cyclone hit, many of the people we serve were concerned about the potential scale of the damage: “How big will it be?”; “What would we do if the damage extended far beyond what we’ve predicted"; "We are terrified."
People were concerned about their houses, as they are not built with strong materials, and can be damaged at any time. Also, they felt helpless, especially families with children or with members with disabilities. They were worried about how their family would relocate to seek safe shelter.
Following the cyclone, our teams met with affected populations again. They were keen to understand: “How much time will we need to recover from the event and the damage it caused?”; “Do we have anything more to be afraid of?”
Farhana Naznin, Mental Health & Psychosocial Support Technical Specialist, HI Bangladesh:
Over the past two years, I have experienced different kinds of emergencies in Cox’s Bazar refugee camps, including a massive fire, flash floods and landslides.
In the wake of any disaster, such as Cyclone Mocha, psychological first aid is crucial in addressing the immediate emotional needs of individuals.
Climate disasters can cause severe destruction and loss and make people directly experience trauma, fear and anxiety.
Psychological first aid is crucial to help people cope with this immediate psychological impact and prevent more severe mental health issues from developing in the following weeks and months.
This is even more important when we provide support to individuals like the Rohingya refugees, who have already experienced multiple, cumulative trauma, including violence, persecution and forced displacement. Security and climate incidents affecting the camps bring additional trauma. Our support helps them feel recognized, valued, and safe again.
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Bangladesh | Volunteers evacuate people with disabilities ahead of Cyclone Mocha in News 2023-05-13 09:13:33 -0400
Bangladesh | Volunteers evacuate people with disabilities ahead of Cyclone Mocha
Cyclone Mocha is approaching the world's largest refugee camp, bringing with it destructive winds, storm surge, and the potential for landslides. With 550 staff and volunteers at Cox's Bazar—home to nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees—in Bangladesh, Humanity & Inclusion teams are preparing right now.
A Category 4 storm, this cyclone would be the most powerful to hit Bangladesh since 1991. It is expected to make landfall Sunday, bringing with it strong winds, heavy rains and the potential for landslides.
"Once, I lost everything to a massive act of violence. Once again, we will have to leave our homes. When would life have mercy on us," asks Setara, a Rohingya refugee living in Cox's Bazar. She shared with HI volunteers that she does not want to leave her shelter despite the cyclone's threat.
Volunteers are helping families, children and people with disabilities evacuate to safe shelters. They are also going door-to-door to people who do not want to leave their homes, raising awareness on safety measures that can be taken before, during and after the storm.
“Our volunteers are engaged in evacuation, especially for persons with disabilities," explains Farhana Akhtar, HI Project Manager. "The challenge we are facing is that people are not really willing to go to a safe place for now."
HI's warehouses are stocked with emergency supplies—such as hygiene kits, shelter kits, wheelchairs and crutches—for distribution once the storm passes.
“Our warehouse is prepared for safeguarding the stocks," says Dipak Gomez, HI's Atlas Logistics Manager. "We are preparing our support to Save the Children and other NGOs for transportation of early recovery items to the camps."
Photos from HI's evacuation and awareness-raising activities
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Bangladesh | Teams provide emergency aid in Cyclone Mocha's path in Emergencies 2023-05-12 14:54:42 -0400
Bangladesh | Teams provide emergency aid in Cyclone Mocha's path
Category 5 Cyclone Mocha slammed the coast of Bangladesh on May 14, bringing with it destructive winds, heavy rains, and the potential for landslides.
With 550 staff and volunteers at Cox's Bazar—the world's largest refugee camp—Humanity & Inclusion teams are responding right now. The impact could be devastating: flash floods bring the risk of drownings, injuries due to debris and building collapses, and the spread of infectious diseases. People with disabilities are especially vulnerable when disasters like this strike.
Our local teams are mobilized and preparing to respond. Ahead of the storm, they evacuated the people we serve to safe shelters and assessed available stocks so they'd be ready to distribute emergency supplies, wheelchairs, crutches and other items in the storm's aftermath.
"Our main concerns are related to the risk of injuries as impacts of debris and bamboo from fragile shelters, which won’t be able to withstand the wind, landslides, and flash floods."
—Rajesh Chandra, HI's Program Director in Bangladesh
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Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Syria | 3 months after earthquake, HI helps children overcome trauma in Updates: Middle East Earthquakes 2023-05-05 16:42:43 -0400
Syria | 3 months after earthquake, HI helps children overcome trauma
Mohammed, Taim, Hosain are three of the young survivors receiving psychological support from HI’s partners after the deadly February earthquake in northwest Syria. These are their stories.
When asked how he is doing, Mohammed, 12, replies with a smile, "Tamam, tamam"—"I'm fine, I'm fine." The wound on his head has healed, but he still has six rehabilitation sessions to go before his broken leg is completely healed.
"I can already play soccer with my friends despite my crutches, but now I want to learn to swim," he says.
Mohammed is the eldest of three children. His siblings were unharmed during the February earthquake. Mohammed's family was able to escape before the building they were living in collapsed violently. They have since found another apartment to move into and Mohammed has been able to return to school:
"I love studying, my favorite subjects are geography and history," he shares.
Some wounds are less visible. However, the traumas are deeply rooted in the minds of these children.
"I can't fall asleep at night because I have nightmares, I can still hear the sounds of the earthquake, and I'm really scared," says Mohammed.
Sleep disorders are among the recurring symptoms of these little earthquake survivors, explains Ammad*, one of the psychologists at HI’s partner hospital.
"These children are plagued by repeated flashbacks and recurring nightmares, which prevent them from sleeping peacefully,” he explains.
Music, games, drawing... activities to ease anxiety
"Baba, Baba"—"Daddy, Daddy"—little Hosain repeats. He was visiting his aunt with his mother and siblings in a small village near Idlib when the earthquake struck. Hosain, 4, was trapped under the rubble for three days; all his relatives who were with him that day died. Doctors had to amputate Hosain’s left foot.
"I was at my aunt's house and then when I woke up, I was with Daddy in the hospital," he explains.
Hosain’s father confides that there is not a day that goes by without Hosain asking for his mom. The child also asks his father if he remembers any moments that they spent together.
"In addition to a deep sense of sadness and fear, these children suffer from mood and concentration problems and a loss of interest in everyday activities," says Ammad, who meets with Hosain after each of his rehabilitation sessions at the hospital.
"I put on soft music and offer to draw or dance, I tell him nice stories and we do various recreational activities,” the psychologist explains.
A drawing by Taim
Mental health support
Taim's favorite thing is drawing. His right hand was broken in the earthquake, but fortunately, he can still use his pens and pencils. Taim and his family were staying with relatives in Turkey when the earthquake struck. Taim and his mother—who was seriously injured—now live with their grandmother.
HI's partner teams in charge of mental health and psychosocial support agree that children are especially resilient after tragedy: these children seem to rebuild themselves more quickly than adults. But this varies from one child to another and from the environment around them.
"We remain vigilant because children are the most vulnerable and sometimes their feelings are ignored or put aside," concludes Ammad.
Since February, HI and its partners have provided 9,724 psychosocial support sessions to survivors of the earthquake in Syria. About ¼ of the patients are children.
*Ammad is a pseudonym
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Issue 21: Rehab needs high after quakes rock Syria, Turkiye in The Next Step 2023-04-26 11:24:26 -0400
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Venezuela | With HI’s support, Wiliany gains independence in News 2023-04-05 10:45:49 -0400
Venezuela | With HI’s support, Wiliany gains independence
Wiliany lives with a motor disability. She participates in physical therapy sessions and received a new walking frame from Humanity & Inclusion to help her get around her neighborhood.
Wiliany, 7, was born with prenatal hypoxia—lacking oxygen during her mother’s pregnancy. This affected her motor functions, especially the use of her legs. As a result, Wiliany has never been able to move around without help and has grown dependent on others, especially her mother.
Wiliany lives in the town of San Francisco, south of Maracaibo. It was here that she crossed paths with Nuevo Amanecer, HI's local partner in Venezuela. After being identified by the team there, she was given rehabilitation sessions at home to help her become more autonomous. This has helped her to improve her motor functions, her upper body posture and her balance.
"Thanks to this support, Wiliany is making progress and becoming more independent every day," her mother explains. "We’ve also been shown how to help and accompany her at home. We’ve learned how to do massages and we help her with her rehabilitation exercises."
Having outgrown her old walking frame, HI gave Wiliany a new one adapted to her environment and size. With this new walker, Wiliany can move around more independently, both at home and at school.
HI in Venezuela
Working in Colombia and Cuba since 1998, Bolivia since 2011 and Peru since 2018, HI has developed in-depth knowledge of the Latin American region. In 2019, as part of its response to the consequences of migration crises, HI launched operations in Venezuela.
Since then, the organization has been working to support communities with the most acute needs, running projects to improve access to essential services, such as health and food assistance. HI works in collaboration with local partners, other organizations and the authorities to protect populations experiencing extreme hardships. To assist indigenous communities in the state of Amazonas, HI promotes resilience and cohesion in the face of armed violence. Lastly, HI is working in the state of Apure to ensure that young people know their rights and to support their inclusion in the workforce.
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Senegal | Community liaisons link HI’s deminers and local residents in News 2023-04-03 17:45:37 -0400
Senegal | Community liaisons link HI’s deminers and local residents
Élisabeth, a community liaison agent in Senegal, works with communities before, during and after the work of Humanity & Inclusion’s demining teams. Her role is essential to ensure the security of operations and trust of the local community.
Élisabeth Léna Ndeye Sambou has been working with HI in humanitarian demining since 2007. As a deminer and community liaison agent, she is proud of her work that enables people to reclaim their land and resume their lives that had been disrupted by conflict.
Elisabeth's job is to support the demining team in the field. Before clearance operations begin, she prepares the community for the arrival of HI’s teams. Her role is to inform communities about demining and explain how the operations will be run. During the operations, she keeps the population informed of progress and establishes a climate of confidence, calm and security.
Once clearance is completed, Elisabeth stays in contact with communities to ensure that they regain possession of their land. To alleviate any last fears that communities may still hold, the HI teams organize a soccer match on the land they have demined or drive their vehicles along the newly cleared tracks.
"It is the communities that motivate me,” Elisabeth explains. “Every time the team removes a mine, it gives me new strength and I’m even more motivated. So every morning I wake up with the same joy for the new day. For me, it's really a wonderful job."
When children come across a rocket…
In May 2022, HI launched new mine clearance operations in Casamance, Senegal. As part of these operations, Elisabeth worked in Bissine, a village near the border of Guinea-Bissau. At one time, Bissine was a prosperous village where the community could support itself with its rice production and fruit trees. But in the 1990s, the area became the theater of violent fighting between the Senegalese army, which occupied the village, and the Casamance independence movement, holed up in the surrounding forests.
The fighting caused accidents and claimed a number of lives. Reluctantly, people fled the village and scattered across the region, but they never lost hope of returning home one day. It was not until 2021, almost 30 years later, that they were able to return to their village.
But the conflict had left behind a deadly legacy. One day, children were out collecting scrap metal to sell when they came across a large piece of iron in the ground. They tried to pull it out, but it was too deeply embedded. They ran to fetch some adults from the village to show them what they had found: it was actually a rocket.
“After this discovery, HI was brought in to clear the area,” Elisabeth says. “Since July 2022, we have cleared over 61,000 square meters of land. During the operations, the deminers found two 120 mm mortar shells. Today, the villagers are very happy. They even tell us that we are now part of their community. Thanks to our work, they have been reassured and can go wherever they want. Demining has contributed to the development of the village.”
Returning land to communities
The demining process freed up farmland and cleared paths leading to rice fields, drinking water and schools. Thanks to the work done by HI's team, the villagers can now go about their business in safety, and life in the village can go back to normal.
“Many villages were abandoned because the population didn’t feel safe there,” Elisabeth explains. “To feel at home, you have to be free to do what you want, to go where you want. By clearing these spaces, we are removing a thorn from the side of the communities and participating in the reconstruction and return to peace.”
HI’s demining operations in Casamance have been made possible thanks to European Union funding.
An opportunity to learn and train
Elisabeth got into demining somewhat by chance, after applying for a job without really knowing what it was. Her family didn't even know what she spent her days doing until they saw her in a TV documentary.
"They were all worried about me, but I told them there was nothing to worry about,” she remembers. “We had been trained. We had been taught the job and knew the rules and procedures for working safely.”
After joining HI, Elisabeth worked her way up through the organization, attending training courses to learn the different aspects of the job and improve her skills. She recounts how in 2011, after being trained to work with the digger—a demining machine—it was a joy for her to go to work, to maintain the machine and tighten or loosen the screws and nuts every day.
"I think it's the best job in the world and I really enjoy it,” Elisabeth adds. “Every day is a learning experience for me. I always say that demining is my first family, especially with the team I work with. It's a really fantastic job.”
For Elisabeth, anyone can do demining. It's a job where you work in a team and help each other, which makes the work easier.
When asked what she thinks of people who say that demining is a man's job, she replies with an anecdote. One day, during a training course in which she was the only woman, someone came up to her and asked, “Why are you here instead of at home with your pots and pans, helping your mother?” Undaunted, Elisabeth replied, "What you came here for is exactly what I came here for, and I won't let you take it away from me.”
In 2017, Elisabeth received a grant from the U.S. State Department to undertake training in quality management. Thanks to this training, she has been able to participate in the clearance of contaminated land, allowing the population to return and resume their activities. It has also enabled her to support the teams in the field and assist the head of operations.
“It was a real plus in my demining career,” she continues. “Demining is about teamwork. It’s working together as a group that makes the difference.”
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Syria | Displaced by war, orphaned by earthquake in Updates: Middle East Earthquakes 2023-04-03 17:28:10 -0400
Syria | Displaced by war, orphaned by earthquake
Abd al-Rahman, 2, lost several members of his family in the earthquake on February 6 and was himself seriously injured.Read more
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Statement: North Carolina Incident in Press Releases 2023-03-29 15:05:15 -0400
Statement: North Carolina Incident
Humanity & Inclusion is appalled at the reported victimization of a child in North Carolina at the hands of scam artists impersonating Handicap International, the former name of Humanity & Inclusion.
Humanity & Inclusion does not conduct any canvass/street fundraising activities in the US.
If you are approached by someone soliciting donations for “Handicap International” in a public place in the US, please call local authorities and alert us at [email protected]
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Jordan | A decade after her first artificial limb, Mariam receives ongoing support from HI in News 2023-03-07 12:48:49 -0500
Jordan | A decade after her first artificial limb, Mariam receives ongoing support from HI
Mariam is among the millions of Syrians who have fled their country to seek refuge in Jordan or Lebanon. As the Syrian conflict enters its 12th year, Humanity & Inclusion continues to work alongside Mariam and other refugees with disabilities.
Mariam and her family arrived in Jordan 10 years ago. She and her mother came seeking medical care for injuries sustained in a bomb attack. Mariam lost her left leg and her right leg was badly injured. Her mother lost an eye and needed facial reconstruction surgery.
They fled Syria a few months after the tragedy, traveling at night to escape aerial attacks on the way. Mariam used crutches when she could, but when the terrain was too rough, her father carried her.
Mariam, now 20, lives in Irbid, Jordan, with her parents and her brothers and sisters.
Remembering the attack
Mariam vividly remembers the day of the bombing. It was in 2012. She was only 9 years old.
She was playing with other children in the street in front of her grandfather's shop. Her mother was inside and the rest of the family was at a friend’s house.
All of a sudden, two planes flew overhead. Everyone panicked and rushed for cover. Mariam ran inside the shop and sheltered under the counter.
But a missile tore through the concrete wall of the shop. The debris of the explosion hit her mother in the face. She lost her right eye and suffered a skull fracture. Mariam’s left leg was torn off in the explosion and her right leg was badly injured. A second missile landed directly on top of Mariam, but it didn’t explode. Her grandmother was killed.
People rushed to rescue the wounded. She was driven to the hospital in the next city. In the chaos and panic, she was separated from the rest of my family.
“The whole way, the people in the car kept telling me to stay awake and not go to sleep,” Mariam recalls. “I remember the whole thing, as I didn’t pass out until I reached the hospital."
When they arrived at the hospital, the people driving the car left her at the entrance on the pavement and drove off. The last thing she saw before losing consciousness was a bright light.
When Mariam woke up the next day, an adult she didn’t know was in the room. It was the owner of a sweet shop opposite the hospital, who had carried her inside when the car left her.
She told him the name of her mother and gave him her uncle’s phone number—the only one she knew—which helped him locate her family.
The amputation was poorly performed, leaving the edges of the bone jagged, then stitched up and covered with just a gauze and bandage. She was released after a month.
A few months later, the whole family fled Syria for Jordan where doctors corrected her amputation. She received her first artificial limb from HI when she was 10, followed by rehabilitation sessions.
“I was very close to the staff at HI,” Mariam says. “I was always a playful child then. As I grow, every new prosthesis I’ve received since I was a child makes me feel reborn again."
Mariam still has nerve damage in her right foot, but she is able to walk with her artificial leg.
“Everyone is homesick, but going back to Syria is out of the question,” Mariam’s father explains. “It takes only one incident to learn from a mistake. We would never be able to survive mentally if we went back and there was another incident. We can’t just throw ourselves back into the fire.”
A love for sewing
Mariam has developed a love for sewing. Right now, it's mostly a hobby.
“It helps me get rid of my negative energy,” she says. “I spend my time watching tutorials on YouTube to improve my skills.”
Recently, HI provided Mariam with vocational training. After she completed the 4-month sewing course at Ejwan Academy in Irbid, HI gave her a new sewing machine.
"When I’m older, I hope to set up my own sewing business,” she adds.
HI’s team is counseling Mariam’s family about an opportunity for her to work in a clothing factory to earn money. Her father is supportive of her working, but he worries about her taking public transport every day.
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Syria | Walking brings a smile to Housen’s face in News 2023-03-02 15:05:05 -0500
Syria | Walking brings a smile to Housen’s face
Housen, 8, has cerebral palsy. Humanity & Inclusion and its partners in Syria developed a specifically tailored rehabilitation program to help him learn to walk and become more independent.
Housen Omar Al-Khalaf was born with hypoxia—low levels of oxygen in body tissue—causing cerebral palsy. He also has lung cirrhosis. Housen’s stepmother knew that rehabilitation could improve his mobility, so she went to see one of HI’s partners—a center offering specialized rehabilitation services.
The team started with a physical assessment of Housen and reviewed his medical history. He was seen to have a number of issues, including a balance problem, muscular atrophy and respiratory distress. The team then defined a treatment protocol specifically adapted to his needs.
Housen was given a walking frame and participated in a series of rehabilitation sessions to help him recover his balance and strengthen his muscles. He also had gait training to learn to walk and was taught therapeutic positions to adopt while sleeping, sitting, standing and walking to correct and prevent further joint problems.
His stepmother—who is his main caregiver—was taught some basic rehabilitation exercises to do with Housen at home and shown how to create a safe place in their house.
The investment of Housen’s physical therapist and caregiver paid off sooner than expected! When he first walked with a pediatric walking frame, happiness filled his face and that of his stepmother.
Housen’s rehabilitation treatment lasted for three months. But his story doesn’t not end there: he will be receiving further treatment that will enable him to walk without assistance and be more independent.
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Syria | Teenage boy recovers from broken leg after earthquakes in Updates: Middle East Earthquakes 2023-02-27 15:23:07 -0500
Syria | Teenage boy recovers from broken leg after earthquakes
Anja, 15, was injured during the earthquake that struck Turkiye and Syria in early February. He is being treated by a medical team in one of Humanity & Inclusion’s 13 partner hospitals in northwest Syria.Read more
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Ukraine | HI's emergency response in first year of conflict in Ukraine Updates: One Year of Conflict 2023-02-23 11:01:18 -0500
Ukraine | HI's emergency response in first year of conflict
Humanity & Inclusion has 238 team members on the ground in Ukraine and Moldova, providing inclusive humanitarian aid ranging from rehabilitation care and mental health support to risk education and logistics services.Read more
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Ukraine | Providing mental health and psychosocial support to survivors of conflict in Ukraine Updates: One Year of Conflict 2023-02-22 13:28:29 -0500
Ukraine | Providing mental health and psychosocial support to survivors of conflict
Survivors of conflict and disaster are at a higher risk for psychological distress. Working alongside local partners in Ukraine, Humanity & Inclusion strengthens mental health and psychosocial support services and provides direct aid to affected communities.Read more
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Syria | Psychological first aid critical after traumatic earthquakes in Updates: Middle East Earthquakes 2023-02-22 11:32:34 -0500
Syria | Psychological first aid critical after traumatic earthquakes
More than 50 mental health and psychosocial support specialists—from HI and local partners—are offering care to survivors of the February 6 earthquake. Mehdi Firouzi, who supervises the psychosocial teams in Syria, explains the benefits of psychological first aid after a tragedy of this magnitude.Read more
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Syria | Emergency teams work seven days a week in Updates: Middle East Earthquakes 2023-02-21 12:58:33 -0500
Syria | Emergency teams work seven days a week
Anis manages a 22-member team of physical therapists and psychosocial support experts for Humanity & Inclusion in North Syria. He describes the response provided by HI.Read more
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Syria | Earthquakes may have moved explosive weapons contamination in Updates: Middle East Earthquakes 2023-02-21 12:22:04 -0500
Syria | Earthquakes may have moved explosive weapons contamination
Hundreds of thousands of explosive ordnances contaminate many parts of Syria, particularly the northwest of the country where conflict continues. Gary Toombs, Humanity & Inclusion’s global land release technical operations manager, explains how the February earthquakes “significantly aggravated an already desperate situation.”Read more
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Syria | Trapped under rubble for 30 hours, Rema recovers from emergency amputation in Updates: Middle East Earthquakes 2023-02-21 12:20:38 -0500
Syria | Trapped under rubble for 30 hours, Rema recovers from emergency amputation
Rema, 13, lost her leg after being trapped for 30 hours under the debris of her apartment building. From her room in one of Humanity & Inclusion’s 13 partner hospitals in northwest Syria, Rema shares her story of surviving the February earthquakes.Read more
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Syria | HI teams provide rehabilitation care to earthquake survivors in Updates: Middle East Earthquakes 2023-02-15 14:22:49 -0500
Syria | HI teams provide rehabilitation care to earthquake survivors
Humanity & Inclusion and its partners responding to the earthquakes in northwest Syria are working in four key areas: health, protection, armed violence reduction and logistics services.Read more
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Syria | Explosive contamination poses additional risk for earthquake survivors in Updates: Middle East Earthquakes 2023-02-15 14:06:10 -0500
Syria | Explosive contamination poses additional risk for earthquake survivors
After 12 years of conflict, Syria is heavily contaminated with landmines, bomb remnants, and improvised explosives that litter every part of the country, particularly the northwest. Musab, a risk education specialist for Humanity & Inclusion explains the effect this contamination could have on survivors of the Feb. 6 earthquake.Read more