Elizabeth Johnson Sellers

  • 40th Anniversary | Gneip's story: From landmine survivor to policy advocate

    In 1982, two doctors working in refugee camps in Thailand started helping survivors of landmine explosions who had been injured fleeing across the heavily mined border. There they met Gniep, a young girl who had lost her leg after stepping on a landmine. Gniep was one of the first children ever supported by Humanity & Inclusion. This is her story.

    I was 5 years old, living under the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, four long years in absolute darkness of uncertainty, anguish and fear. In 1979, fleeing misery and hunger, I left my village with my aunt, leaving everything behind, believing that it was temporary.

    Antipersonnel landmines were all over Cambodia. To this day they still kill and mutilate an alarmingly high number of people. At the time, we were not informed about the risk they posed. While in the camp, I went to fetch water and that’s when it happened: I stepped on a mine.


    I remember it as if it were yesterday; the violence was such that I was thrown in the air. Stunned and dizzy by the shock of the explosion, I did not know that I had just stepped on a mine. I tried to get up and walk three times before understanding that my right leg was torn off at the calf, and that the left one was badly affected, too.

    By instinct of survival, probably, I moved myself to a path, where two soldiers passing by found me and brought me on their motorcycle to a makeshift dispensary. There, the analgesic I was given was a stick that I had to bite on when the pain became too much.

    Then, I was transferred to a refugee camp in Thailand commonly known as Khao I Dang. I had to undergo 17 operations because the surgeon wanted to preserve the joint, but my leg was gangrenous and I fell into a coma for a month.

    Not long afterward, I met the founding members of HI. They were a small group of young people, who were friends, husbands and wives, full of enthusiasm, their heads full of dreams and ideals, animated by a crazy desire to help people like me who had been stripped of everything. With great humanity and respect, they put me back on my feet again.


    My first prosthesis was very simple, made of recycled materials like wood, car tires, and resin. I admit that I had a hard time accepting it because it was heavy and hard to put on.

    It's hard to believe that was 40 years ago. Today, despite my disability, I lead my life like everyone else. I am a night nurse, working for young people with multiple disabilities. And I am a mother of a young and beautiful girl. I am so very grateful to those women and men who helped me all those years ago. They gave me back my smile and dignity, which everyone should have!

  • Ethiopia | A wheelchair for Freweyni: Logistics manager shares story from Tigray

    Humanity & Inclusion’s regional logistics manager, Tilahun Abebe, shares the highlight of his recent visit to Tigray, Ethiopia.

    I was able to visit Tigray for a week this summer. No one had been able to visit our team in Tigray for quite a long time due to security constraints.

    One morning, during breakfast with my colleagues, the silhouette of a woman appeared in the distance and caught my eye. I could see her making her way across the cobblestone pathway, fading in and out of my view between the many passing pedestrians in the road, crawling on her hands and knees. We crossed the street to find her propped up on some stairs leading to a roadside shop, with one hand supporting her weight, and the other stretched out to ask for money. Neither the man in the shop nor the people passing by seemed to pay her any attention. I was not surprised, as I had already noticed an overwhelming number of people soliciting assistance in the street since my arrival in Mekele: from small children to elderly persons, clearly internally displaced from other parts of Tigray. You could tell from the looks on their faces that many were new to this way of life and were living very differently only a few weeks or months earlier.

    I am an Ethiopian citizen, still living in Addis Ababa, and I have traveled to many regions of the country. The desperate situation of the people I saw on the streets of Mekele that week is something I will never forget.


    Meeting Freweyni

    The woman sensed us standing next to her and turned toward us. I still remembered some Tigrigna language from childhood friends and social media, so I greeted her and introduced myself. She returned the greeting with a smile and kindness, and shared her story with us.

    Her name is Freweyni, which means “grapefruit” in the local language. She is a mother to three children and she was born with a physical disability. In the previous years, she was displaced from her home and has since been staying in various shelters around the major market area of Mekele. Her oldest son left home when the war began, but her two younger children still live with her and she is their sole provider. She spends her days asking for money around the market to try and support her family.

    Since meeting with Freweyni and learning about her situation, I put her in touch with our teams. Humanity & Inclusion has provided her with a new wheelchair. This means that for many months or years to come, she will no longer have to crawl on her hands and knees to move around. She’s one of 50 people to recently receive wheelchairs from Humanity & Inclusion in Tigray. Having served in many humanitarian organizations for over two decades, this experience remains at the top of all I have encountered. It’s part of what makes me love working at Humanity & Inclusion.

    A Black man with a goatee wearing a plaid shirt and blue jacket Tilahun Abebe, Humanity & Inclusion’s regional logistics manager

  • Colombia | Demining in Chaparral brings hope to communities

    Humanity & Inclusion is conducting humanitarian demining operations in El Cañón de Las Hermosas in Colombia, helping communities regain the use of their land.

    Four areas in El Cañón de Las Hermosas are potentially contaminated by explosive devices: El Escobal, La Aurora, El Davis and Las Hermosas Natural Park, a protected nature reserve. Through surveys and clearance operations carried out by Humanity & Inclusion’s teams, the communities will soon be able to use their agricultural and pastoral lands again and gradually restore the ecosystem.

    The terrain around El Cañón de Las Hermosas is rugged and mountainous. Landslides, rockslides and flooding frequently block the only access road, cutting off communities.

    "To reach the work sites, the demining team has to travel on horseback for about five hours, crossing rivers and ravines," explains Toni Vitola, head of the demining project in Chaparral.

    With the first surveys of the area completed, demining operations were launched in July of this year. The team of 10 or so deminers works for six weeks on site before having two weeks off. They aim to clear 10 acres of explosive contamination.

    During the first year of the project, 60 residents participated in mine risk education sessions.

    "There is evidence of explosive devices in the first area we are going to clear. Detonations have been heard there and five cows disappeared after entering the area," Vitola adds.

    Prioritizing community needs

    The areas where Humanity & Inclusion is working are between 5,000 and 13,000 feet above sea level. They are traditionally used by the communities to grow coffee, maize, bananas, yucca, and to raise livestock. A legacy of prior armed conflict, he possible presence of explosive devices prevents residents from making full use of their land. With support from Humanity & Inclusion’s demining operations, communities will soon be able to work, play and live without fear.

    To support community-led development projects, Humanity & Inclusion organizes consultations with residents to determine which needs are top priorities. These consultations have led to the development of project to construct three large greenhouses, with support from Humanity & Inclusion.

    Álvaro Lozano is a community liaison officer who works for Humanity & Inclusion. He comes from the Chaparral area himself and has high hopes for his neighbors and community:

    "We have many dreams but I want to see more and more of them come true,” Lozano says. “I dream of a lasting peace, of lands that we can leave as a legacy for future generations. We all dream of lands that we can enjoy and where we can develop green tourism.”

    Legacy of armed conflict

    El Cañón de Las Hermosas is marked by a long history of armed conflict. For more than 50 years, communities have experienced the humanitarian consequences of this conflict: displacement, confinement, forced recruitment, accidents caused by explosive devices, and more.

    "I was confined to my house for two years because an armed group ordered it,” Lozano shares. “I couldn't bear the idea of being locked up on my own land.”

    Since the peace agreements, the region’s natural wealth is being rediscovered. It is home to almost 125,000 acres of forests, lagoons, wetlands and paramos—the high plateaus of the Andes. Species of flora and fauna—including endangered species—found only in the region thrive. But as Lozano points out, the presence of explosive devices affects this wildlife in addition to the people living in the region.  

    Humanity & Inclusion's demining operations in Chaparral and across Colombia are carried out with the support of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.

  • Consortium Awarded USAID Justice, Rights, and Security Rapid Response Assistance Activity

    October 18, 2022
    Contact: Elizabeth Johnson Sellers

    Silver Spring, Maryland – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded the Justice, Rights, and Security Rapid Response Assistance (JURIS) Activity to a consortium of organizations led by Democracy International (DI) in partnership with Humanity & Inclusion.

    USAID’s Center for Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance announced the $20 million, five-year award. The activity will support small, rapid activities around the world to address critical, time-sensitive human rights, justice, and security-related concerns and windows of opportunity.

    DI’s JURIS coalition will support efforts to monitor and document rights violations and provide technical, emergency, and other assistance to defenders under threat. Humanity & Inclusion will build on its expertise in working alongside people with disabilities and other populations experiencing extreme vulnerabilities to support this critical programming.

    “DI is excited to partner with Humanity & Inclusion and work together with the JURIS coalition and USAID to mitigate the global threats on justice, human rights, and security,” said DI President Eric Bjornlund.

  • Madagascar | ‘There is no more rain, and we’re suffering from it’

    As a devastating drought continues in southern Madagascar, food insecurity is on the rise. Humanity & Inclusion is providing food assistance to households with the most acute needs.

    Year after year of insufficient rainfall in southern Madagascar has caused one of the worst droughts in the country’s history. And communities are facing a food crisis.

    “Life is not like it used to be,” says Nahy, 66, who lives in a village classified as severely impacted by the drought. “Things are getting harder. Before, there were abundant rains and we could cultivate crops. Today, there is no more rain and we’re suffering from it.”

    Nahy has six children and 10 grandchildren.

    “I take care of the entire family of 16 people alone because my husband and other family members have all passed away,” Nahy explains. “The youngest children live with me in my tiny house, and we all eat and sleep together on the floor.”

    Critical food assistance

    “We need to cook 10 kapoaka of rice (about 7 pounds) per day to feed everyone,” Nahy continues. “We don't have enough food, and we run out of what we can afford after just one week. We have to walk over a half-mile away to get water. My wish is that we can have enough food to last us each month so that we can have a better life.”

    During a door-to-door evaluation, Nahy met with Victor, a partner community agent for Humanity & Inclusion living in her region. He learned about Nahy’s situation and connected her with Humanity & Inclusion to receive monthly food provisions for her family.

    “During the distributions I receive 66 pounds of rice, 2.5 liters of vegetable oil, and 10 pounds of beans each month,” Nahy says.


    Inclusive actions

    People living with disabilities, low incomes or facing situations of extreme vulnerability face even more difficulty providing for themselves and their families during times of crisis. As crops fail to grow, food becomes scarce and prices increase. Nahy lives with a disability that affects the use of her hands and prevents her from working.

    “Due to my disability, I cannot cook meals by myself and I need help for small tasks like getting dressed in the morning,” she explains. “My children and grandchildren are the ones who cook for us, because it causes me too much pain. I am not able to work, and my children cannot find jobs here, so we cannot afford the little food available.”

    Humanity & Inclusion provides monthly food assistance to people with disabilities and their households living in the Atsimo Andrefana region of Madagascar to alleviate the negative impacts of the drought, reaching approximately 7,000 individuals. Teams also offer stimulation therapy to children, a rehabilitation service that helps prevent developmental delays and disabilities associated with a lack of nutrition. 320 children have already received stimulation therapy, and 350 others have been identified for the coming months.

    Green Initiative

    Humanity & Inclusion is committed to reducing the adverse effects of climate change on populations worldwide. We help communities prepare for and adapt to climate shocks and stresses, and we respond to crises magnified by environmental factors. Applying a disability, gender and age (DGA) inclusion lens across all our actions, we advocate for practitioners and policy-makers to embed DGA in their climate work as well. Humanity & Inclusion is also determined to reduce its own ecological footprint by adapting and implementing environmentally conscious approaches to humanitarian action.

  • Kenya | Head teacher takes pride in promoting inclusion at school

    Susan is the head teacher at an inclusive school in the Kalobeyei settlement in Kenya, which is home to many refugee students and their families. To make the school more accessible for students with and without disabilities, Humanity & Inclusion has supported adaptations to the school’s facilities and offered training to staff.

    Susan has been a teacher for more than 12 years, starting her career in Sudan. When she left her home country and settled in Kenya, she knew she wanted to continue serving students. 

    “I love teaching and being with children,” Susan explains. “At first, I didn’t know how to support students with disabilities. But now I’ve had training and I’m more skilled at helping them.”

    Inclusive education welcomes all

    At the preschool that Susan leads, adaptations have been made to ensure it’s accessible for students with disabilities. New equipment was installed at the playground and accessible restrooms were constructed.

    Teachers and staff have also been trained in how best to teach students with disabilities and how to encourage parents of children with disabilities to enroll them in school.

    Members of the school committee even visit students at home to make sure they don't miss class.


    A supportive community

    Susan says the students and broader community are embracing the changes to promote inclusion. On a recent holiday, Susan says students visited her at home, eagerly asking when they could return to the classroom. 

    “My school is different from other schools,” she explains. “Children with disabilities can access the building and move around without difficulty. Before, attendance numbers were down. Now, students are increasing in number. They love school!”

    The preschool in Kalobeyei is part of a pilot project in Kenya to determine the impact of inclusive education on the students, teachers and communities. Humanity & Inclusion teams intend to develop an advocacy plan to be implemented in schools in other communities for years to come.

    “Our school is effective,” Susan adds. “But one inclusive school is not enough.”

  • Ukraine | ‘Weapons more advanced, mutilating and destructive than I’ve ever witnessed’

    Gaëlle Smith, Humanity & Inclusion’s emergency rehabilitation specialist, was deployed to Ukraine to support the local teams. She shares her experience treating patients at a hospital in Dnipro.

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  • Colombia | Land freed of mines, lives freed of fear

    In July 2022, Humanity & Inclusion declared the Inzá municipality free of landmines, explosive devices and unexploded ordnance. Over a period of two years, the organization conducted demining operations in eight locations spanning more than three acres in Inzá – land that has now been released back to the region’s 27,000 residents.

    "We hope that the land we surveyed will contribute to the construction of a more equal society, to social development and to the development of ecotourism in the region," Arturo Bureo, Humanity & Inclusion's Director of Operations in Colombia, said at a ceremony marking the land’s release back to local communities. "And above all, we hope that the decontamination of Inzá will benefit the indigenous and farming communities that live there." 

    Igniting economic growth

    Located southeast of Bogotá, Inzá boasts archaeological, architectural and natural wealth. But, as in many parts of the country, indigenous and farming communities have long had to contend with the legacy of mines and improvised explosive devices left over from armed conflict.

    Among the most notable landmarks is the National Archaeological Park of Tierradentro, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Because of the suspected presence of explosive devices, it has never been fully explored or reached its potential as a tourism destination. The municipality is also home to the La Casa del Pueblo public library, which has received a national award for Colombian libraries. With landmine contamination abated, these natural and cultural treasures will again be able to contribute to the region’s development and help revive the local economy.


    Justiniano Pencué, a farmer from the indigenous community of Nasa, has waited 10 years to plant and cultivate his land safely. During that time, the danger posed by explosive devices on his land prevented him from expanding his coffee farm.

    Now, Justiniano can return to his land without fear. He has a nursery of 5,000 coffee plants ready to be sown and harvested in areas that are finally free of mines.

    "I am already preparing the land to plant my coffee,” Justiniano (pictured) says. “With these crops, we’ll be able to make a living to feed ourselves."

    Restoring safety to neighbors

    Diana Milena Pacho, a member of the indigenous community of San José, is a non-technical demining survey assistant at Humanity & Inclusion. For two years, she worked hand in hand with her neighbors, surveying more than 14 areas suspected of explosive device contamination. Through her work, Diana has helped restore confidence to the people of Inzá, who can now safely live, work and play.

    “I have been able to pass on what I've learned to my community, explaining to people not to touch explosives and teaching my family how to be careful,” Diana explains. “With the threat of explosive devices gone, we can now walk around without worrying, work in safety and visit the tourist sites without fear.”

    In addition to clearance operations, teams organized 45 mine risk education workshops to help residents learn how to spot, avoid and report explosive weapons. Nearly 6,000 families participated in education sessions.


    Mine action in Colombia

    Dating back to 1990, 12,200 people have been injured or killed by explosive devices in Colombia. Behind only Afghanistan, Colombia has the second highest number of mine victims in the world. Mine clearance and victim assistance are vital in helping communities safely reclaim their land, boost the local economy and rebuild the social fabric.

    With funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, Humanity & Inclusion implements mine clearance actions in the five Colombian departments of Cauca, Meta, Nariño, Antioquia and Caquetá. Across Colombia, Humanity & Inclusion has surveyed more than 222,000 acres to identify areas of possible contamination. As part of its holistic approach to mine action, teams also provide mine risk education to affected communities, offer psychosocial support and rehabilitation care to survivors of these dangerous weapons, and help them find gainful employment.

    Inzá is the second municipality in which Humanity & inclusion has completed its humanitarian demining operations, following the release of Puracé to its residents in October 2021.

    Colombia is among the signatories of the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty, which marks its 25th anniversary this year. While the U.S. has made progress in its anti-personnel landmine policy, it has yet to join the near-universal treaty.

  • Pakistan | Food, emergency supplies delivered to displaced families

    Humanity & Inclusion's teams are delivering food, cookware, blankets, soap and other emergency supplies to 600 families in two regions affected by catastrophic flooding in Pakistan.

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  • Pakistan | Teams prepare emergency kits for displaced families

    Humanity & Inclusion’s teams are preparing kits containing emergency supplies and basic necessities to disperse to 600 families displaced by catastrophic floods in Pakistan.

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  • Ukraine | Displaced by war, Nadezhda finds strength with rehabilitation care

    Like many Ukrainians, Nadezhda lives with compromised health conditions. After the war worsened her symptoms and displaced her from home, Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation specialists helped relieve pain and restore her energy.

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  • Pakistan | Catastrophic flooding leaves one-third of country underwater

    Pakistan is experiencing its worst flooding in over a decade. With more than 6.4 million people in need of humanitarian aid, Humanity & Inclusion prepares emergency kits to support families in need.

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  • Pakistan updates intro

    Catastrophic rainfall and flooding in Pakistan has destroyed 800,000 homes, and damaged more than 1.3 million others. At least 8.6 million people need urgent humanitarian assistance. The floods have resulted in nearly 1,700 deaths, and 12,900 injuries.

    All signs point to a long-term emergency response in Pakistan. It will take time to rebuild homes and repair damaged roads and bridges. Food insecurity is a major concern: catastrophic flooding has already killed 1.2 million livestock and affected nearly 4 million acres of crops.

    Working in Pakistan since the early 1980s, Humanity & Inclusion's teams are working to get food and basic household goods, such as hygiene supplies, blankets and kitchen items, into the hands of people who have lost everything. We work especially hard to support people with disabilities, older people, and their families. The organization is also deploying psychological first aid teams to assess the needs of people displaced from their homes, and provide assistance.

  • published Updates: Pakistan Flood Response 2022-09-09 11:08:48 -0400

  • Burkina Faso | 2 million displaced amid worst food crisis in a decade

    September 05, 2022
    Contact: Elizabeth Johnson Sellers

    Nearly one in 10 people in Burkina Faso have been displaced by conflict. Most worryingly, the rate of severe food insecurity has nearly doubled compared to last year, with over 600,000 people in emergency hunger levels during this lean season, warns 28 international aid organizations operating in the country. An urgent increase in funding for humanitarian assistance is required to respond to the current situation.


    “We now see more and more people forced to flee not from their hometowns, but increasingly from places where they had previously sought refuge,” explains Philippe Allard, Director of Humanity & Inclusion in Burkina Faso. “Each new displacement increases their vulnerability, and chips away at their resources and mental health.”

    The multiplication of violent attacks has driven more people to flee between January and July 2022 than during the entire year of 2021. Meanwhile, large displacement shocks are becoming more frequent. Four years after its start, the displacement crisis in Burkina Faso remains one of the three fastest growing in the world.

    “Too often, displacement and hunger come as a one-two punch,” says Hassane Hamadou, Country Director of the Norwegian Refugee Council. “People forced to move have left behind their fields and livestock. Many displaced families report being down to one meal a day in order to allow children to eat twice. Recent waves of displacement only heighten the urgency to act.”

    “For children, who make up for the majority of the displaced, leaving their home behind is traumatic enough but having to flee again and again while trying to survive robs families of any chance to rebuild their lives,” adds Benoit Delsarte, Country Director of Save the Children.

    Ousmane, 15, is one of many children facing such daunting uncertainty: “I have been displaced twice. It all started the day armed men came to my village and told us to follow their instructions or leave. My parents and I first sought refuge in a nearby village. Unfortunately, shortly after that, they came there and burned down schools, markets and stores. We were forced to flee, again.”

    The town of Seytenga, near the border with Niger, hosted over 12,000 displaced people when it came under attack on June 11, killing dozens. In the following hours and days, over 30,000 people fled Seytenga and arrived in Dori, a city that had already tripled in size since the start of the crisis.

    Despite immense challenges to provide shelter, water, healthcare and education among other essential services, communities have rallied to support each other. But more humanitarian support is critically needed.

    “Host communities across the country have shown remarkable solidarity by taking in tens of thousands of displaced people, opening their homes and sharing their food for months, if not years on end,” says Antoine Sanon, Response Director of World Vision in Burkina Faso. “The efforts of the international community to provide lifesaving assistance should match theirs.”

    “These communities are experiencing an exceptionally difficult lean season due to the food crisis resulting, in part, from last year's catastrophic agricultural season,” adds Omer Kabore, Oxfam Country Director. "The effects of climate change, mass displacement and the rising global cost of grain products have combined into a perfect storm engulfing over 3.4 million Burkinabè.”

    Signatory organizations call for an urgent surge of financial resources. Eight months into the year, the humanitarian response is only reaching 36% of the funding required despite soaring needs.


    Action Against Hunger
    Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA)
    Center for International Studies and Cooperation (CECI)
    Comité International pour l’Aide d’Urgence et le Développement (CIAUD)
    Concern Worldwide
    Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI)
    Christian Aid
    Danish Refugee Council
    Geneva Call
    Humanity & Inclusion
    IEDA Relief (International Emergency and Development Aid)
    International Rescue Committee
    LVIA (Association Internationale Volontaires Laiques)
    Lutheran World Relief
    Médecins du Monde-France
    Médicos del Mundo
    Norwegian Refugee Council
    Plan International
    Première Urgence Internationale
    Save the Children
    Secours Islamique France
    Solidarités International
    Terre des Hommes
    World Vision

  • Pakistan | Catastrophic floods displace millions

    Unprecedented rainfall and flooding in Pakistan has destroyed or damaged more than 1.7 million homes. At least 6.4 million people need urgent humanitarian assistance. More than 1,400 people have died.

    “We’re seeing families that have lost absolutely everything and are living amid floodwaters. Our initial focus is meeting the most urgent needs of impacted communities, including access to food and daily essentials such as soap, cooking supplies and warm blankets.”
    —Caroline Duconseille, Humanity & Inclusion's country manager in Pakistan

    Working in Pakistan since the early 1980s, Humanity & Inclusion's teams are working to get food and basic household goods, such as hygiene supplies, blankets and kitchen items, into the hands of people who have lost everything. We work especially hard to support people with disabilities, older people, and their families. The organization is also deploying psychological first aid teams to assess the needs of people displaced from their homes, and provide assistance. 

    Read the latest updates from HI's emergency response.

    All signs point to a long-term emergency response in Pakistan. It will take time to rebuild homes and repair damaged roads and bridges. Food insecurity is a major concern: catastrophic flooding has already killed more than 700,000 livestock and affected nearly 4 million acres of crops.

    The following news outlets and organizations include Humanity & Inclusion on their lists of vetted organizations responding to the Pakistan floods: Atlanta Business JournalCIDI, CNN, Fortune, Obama FoundationPBS, and Time Out.

    Any funds raised beyond the needs of our Pakistan emergency response will be used to support other vital programs around the world.

    Thanks so much to our generous donors funding emergency aid in Pakistan!

  • Mali | With her new hand, Aminata returns to school

    When she was 2, Aminata contracted a disease in her left hand, the cause of which remains unknown. Despite numerous consultations in health centers and with traditional healers, her hand had to be amputated. Now 10, Aminata is enrolled in school and has a new artificial limb with support from Humanity & Inclusion.

    "In 2014, my daughter was left with a missing upper limb,” says Youma, Aminata’s mother. “It was a terrible shock for the whole family, totally darkening our future.”

    In 2019, a community agent referred Aminata’s family to Humanity & Inclusion. Teams encouraged Aminata's parents to enroll their daughter in an inclusive school that welcomes children with and without disabilities, where the teachers are trained to use adapted teaching methods and tools.

    "Shortly after Aminata enrolled in school, her father died,” Youma explains. “We lost all hope for a while. Fortunately, together we had the strength to overcome this painful ordeal.”

    With Humanity & Inclusion’s support, Aminata received an artificial arm. The organization accompanied her family throughout the medical process and paid related expenses.

    "When Aminata received her prosthesis, we were very relieved that she had been fitted,” Youma remembers. “It was as if she had a 'new arm'. My daughter was really happy to have this prosthesis.”

    As part of the project, Aminata also received a complete school kit, including a school bag, pens and notebooks. This was a relief for her family, who could not afford to pay for the young girl's supplies.

    In December 2021, Aminata's family moved more than a mile away from the school she attends in Mali.

    "I was worried because I thought she would drop out of school because of the distance to our new home," Youma explains. "But Aminata was never discouraged, and she continues to go to school."

    Since her enrollment, Aminata has been attending school regularly. Currently in fifth grade, she dreams of becoming a police officer.

     "Today, Aminata is my greatest hope," Youma adds.

  • Kenya | In Kakuma refugee camp, HI promotes autonomy for all

    In Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, Racheal Njiru works each day alongside people with disabilities to help remove barriers to accessibility and inclusion. Racheal shares insight on her role as the disability inclusive development project manager at the refugee camp.

    I’ve been working at Humanity & Inclusion for over three years as project manager. I chose the humanitarian sector because I love community work. I’ve always felt the need to help others. I trained in the social sciences at Daystar University, in Nairobi, to get the skills and knowledge I need to do this

    I particularly enjoy working in the socio-economic sector, supporting refugees in developing their businesses. I want to help bring about positive change, to contribute to the socio-economic development of my country, and more generally of Africa.

    Remarkable stories and people

    What motivates me is to see that I can make a difference in someone's life. I like to support people in developing a project and see their situation improve. It’s very inspiring to meet people we’ve helped and whose lives have changed.

    Some stories leave their mark. I remember one woman who really impressed me. Every month, she delivered coal to a company. Then Covid-19 came along, which upset everything and threatened the survival of many small private businesses like hers. But she wasn’t discouraged. She used the financial support and training that Humanity & Inclusion gave her to save money and build five rental houses. Now she can rent them out and has a new income stream. I really admire this woman's strength and determination.


    Everyday problems in the refugee camp

    Kakuma camp is home to more than 240,000 refugees who live in very cramped conditions. The resources available to them are insufficient and ill-adapted. For example, there are not enough schools for the number of students. Even the geographical location of the camp is not ideal. It's located in Kenya's arid zone where it can get extremely hot. During periods of drought, people are in danger of losing their livelihoods.

    For people with disabilities, there are also physical barriers affecting accessibility in the camp. The infrastructure is not adapted and some people with disabilities have to depend on their relatives to help them access buildings or get around the camp.

    Promoting inclusion

    Refugees with disabilities face systemic obstacles and barriers. For example, they are not members of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities. This means they don’t benefit from the measures in place for people with disabilities in Kenya, such as training opportunities, distributions of mobility aids or tax exemption for businesses.

    It is vital to understand that the people we work with face complex issues, which can make them more vulnerable than others. For example, when different services are offered within the camp, we have to take care to include those who are most vulnerable by asking the right questions. Who are the people most at risk? Will they have access to distribution sites? It is our responsibility to take these aspects into account when identifying needs and delivering humanitarian aid.

    In the Kakuma refugee camp, Humanity & Inclusion runs a project which offers functional rehabilitation, psychosocial support & inclusion services, as well as inclusive education and economic inclusion projects. Our goal is to empower everyone to be autonomous. We take a holistic approach, promoting people’s dignity and aiming to improve all aspects of their daily lives. Inclusion is everyone's business and together we can make a difference!

  • Madagascar | Living with a disability himself, Deriaz helps others access vital services

    A valuable member of Humanity & Inclusion’s team in Madagascar, Deriaz ensures that rehabilitation patients get the support they need.

    In Tuléar, Humanity & Inclusion partners with the center for rehabilitation and prosthetic fitting at the regional hospital. Trained community agents identify individuals who could benefit from rehabilitation services, stimulation therapy and artificial limbs., then Humanity & Inclusion links them to the appropriate services, covers associated costs, organizes logistics and follows their progress.

    Q: What is your role?

    My name is Deriaz Christian, and I work for the Improved Continuum of Inclusive Maternal and Child Health Care and Rehabilitation project in the southwest region of Madagascar. I have been working with Humanity & Inclusion for almost three years now.

    When people come to the rehabilitation center, I support them throughout the process. My role is to accompany, supervise and organize their visits. I reserve and cover the finances of their cabs and buses to travel to the center, and I book their accommodation here. I also manage the payments that cover their food costs while they are here receiving services. We oversee the whole process to make sure everyone can access rehabilitation services.

    Sometimes the coordination is complicated, because there are different kinds of patients for different services, and sometimes many people come at the same time, so it’s important to know everyone well and to be organized. 

    Q: What do you like most about your work?

    I love everything about my work! I love taking care of the people we serve because I get to have a relationship with everyone.

    In my previous job, I worked with vulnerable populations, too. But here at Humanity & Inclusion, I get to work with people living in vulnerable circumstances and people who have disabilities. As someone with a disability myself, I want to help people in similar situations. (Complications from polio led to a disability that affects Deriaz’s leg.)

    The patients that have had the biggest impact on me are people with total paralysis, in both their lower limbs and upper limbs. We see just how far society still has to go to be accessible for these individuals.

    Q: Any final thoughts?

    My message is to raise awareness in everyone, especially in people with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities. They should not hide. Instead, bring children with disabilities and people with disabilities here to the center for rehabilitation and prosthetic services that so they can be taken care of.

  • Kenya | Helping people with disabilities access braces and mobility aids

    Andrew Mwangi is a Prosthetics and Orthotics Officer at Humanity & Inclusion in Kenya. In the Kakuma refugee camp and the Kalobeyei settlement, he helps people with disabilities access artificial limbs.

    When Andrew was younger, he saw someone wearing an artificial limb for the first time.

    “I was captivated,” he recalls. “I wanted to know how it was made.”

    He turned his fascination into a career, learning how to fabricate and fit artificial limbs, braces and other assistance devices. In December 2021, he joined Humanity & Inclusion to work with refugees and host communities in Kakuma.

    “I had not done humanitarian work before, but I was interested in working in that context,” he explains.


    Daily life in the field

    Andrew is one of 36 full-time Kenyan staff who live at Humanity & Inclusion’s compound near the refugee camp. Staff rotate through 8-week cycles at Kakuma, with 2-week breaks to visit home and decompress, before returning for another two months.

    Andrew is the only full-time prosthetics and orthotics officer working at the camp, which has a population of more than 240,000 people. He spends each day of the week visiting one of Humanity & Inclusion’s three rehabilitation centers that are spread throughout the refugee camp, as well as its facility in the nearby Kalobeyei settlement.

    “The demand for our services is quite high,” Andrew explains. “I’m covering the four camps and host community. In a given week, I will only visit each place once.”

    Andrew does have the support of six technical aid workers—refugees who have been trained in basic fabrication and repair of mobility devices—who staff the workshop at each rehabilitation center. Each workshop includes a cabinet stocked with basic tools and supplies. Crutches of all sizes line the walls. Walkers, wheelchairs, orthopedic shoes, toilet seats, wooden scooters and other mobility devices can also be found.


    Journey to fitting

    Once someone in need of an artificial limb is identified and assessed—either at the reception center or by staff in the community, the person’s amputated limb is routinely measured and shaped, to ensure proper fitting. The individual also participates in rehabilitation sessions to strengthen their muscles, and learns how to care for their stump and mobility device. Once a person receives their artificial limb, they complete training so they can walk, balance, climb stairs and complete other movements. 

    Andrew and his team see people who have required amputations for a number of reasons: gunshot wounds, explosions, snake bites, road traffic accidents, diabetes. 

    The waiting list for artificial limbs and braces is long, and funding is limited. In an average year, Andrew explains that Humanity & Inclusion's program at Kakuma has the budget to provide new artificial limbs for 20 to 25 people, and orthotics—such as special shoes or leg braces—for around 85 people. The waiting process can take more than a year because artificial limbs must travel over 125 miles to reach people who are being fitted with them.

    Gatkuoth, 17, pictured with Andrew in the lead image, is on the waiting list for an artificial limb.  

    The boy’s leg was recently amputated after he sustained a gunshot wound in September 2021. Initially identified at the reception center when he arrived in Kakuma from South Sudan, Gatkuoth is undergoing three months of stump-shaping. Andrew and his team measure the circumference at different points along Gatkuoth’s residual stump, taking note of changes over time. 

    “Once it stabilizes, we will know it won’t shrink any further, and then he can be fitted,” Andrew explains, showing Gatkuoth how to wrap a bandage around his leg. Andrew undoes the bandage so Gatkuoth can give it a try himself. Gatkuoth is expected to receive his artificial limb in September 2022.

    Provision of artificial limbs, braces and other assistive devices is based on a selection with emphasis on disability, gender and age.

    “If fitting someone with an artificial limb will help them enroll in school, we will make them a priority,” Andrew explains.

    These actions are supported by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.