Elizabeth Johnson Sellers

  • Ukraine | Hospitals treat patients injured in conflict

    At a hospital in Lviv, Humanity & Inclusion is working with staff to care for patients, including burn victims and those requiring amputations after armed attacks.

    Read more

  • Ukraine | In shock, refugees go days without speaking

    Caglar Tahiroglu, Humanity & Inclusion’s Emergency Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Manager, explains the needs and resilience teams are seeing in Ukraine.

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  • Bombing & Shelling | 'States must commit to stopping the harm caused to civilians' in populated areas

    April 12, 2022
    Contact: Elizabeth Johnson Sellers

    Silver Spring, Maryland—The final negotiations for a political declaration to address the humanitarian harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas were held from April 6-8, 2022, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. Representatives of international and civil society organizations and more than 65 State delegations, including the United States, participated in discussions that resulted in some real progress.  

    The States reached broad consensus on the urgent need to commit to preventing the harm caused to civilians by explosive weapons in populated areas. Many appeared willing to exclude the use of the heaviest explosive weapons from populated areas. Many States also declared that they were ready to share good practices on their use of explosive weapons in populated areas during hostilities. Humanity & Inclusion will continue to talk with States to ensure that the text will effectively change the situation of civilians living in conflict areas.

    The nearly final text of this international agreement (political declaration) to end the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas will be shared in a final one-day consultation meeting in June. It will then be submitted to governments for adoption in the following months.  

    During last week’s discussions, State representatives reached broad consensus on the urgent need to commit to preventing the harm caused to civilians by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Several States now appear ready to exclude the heaviest explosive weapons from populated areas by including a presumption of non-use of explosive weapons with wide areas effects in populated areas. 


    Where the U.S. stands

    As in former rounds of negotiations, the U.S. claimed interest in a political declaration. Nevertheless, their interventions and suggested edits aimed more at weakening the ambition of the draft text. Once again, the U.S. delegation reiterated the importance of not introducing new standards of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), camping on their position that the current IHL is sufficient to protect civilians from the use of EWIPA. On a more positive note, the only commitment they would agree on is to work on policies and practices that could extend beyond IHL. 

    The U.S. did not acknowledge the systematic humanitarian consequences and civilian harm resulting from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, despite the numerous data and reports that UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and civil society have provided. As a result, the U.S. delegation also tried to water down the commitment on victim assistance. This commitment aims at providing, facilitating and supporting victims including by ensuring their basic needs are met as well as the provision of emergency medical care, physical rehabilitation, psychosocial support and socio-economic inclusion. The U.S. also stood strong against any commitment to meaningfully limit the use of the heaviest explosive weapons on populated areas.  

    Finally, Humanity & Inclusion is concerned about the U.S. position on the follow-up mechanism that should be only military-to-military, according to the U.S. representative. Other international agreements, such as the Convention on Cluster Munitions or the Mine Ban Treaty, have shown that their good implementation depends also on the involvement of civil society in the follow-up mechanism.  

    The U.S. representative said they “want to be in a position to join the political declaration.”  

    Humanity & Inclusion cannot agree more. The current contexts in Ukraine, Yemen, or Syria must push all States, including the U.S., to adopt a much more ambitious stance on a text that will effectively protect civilians from bombing and shelling in towns and cities. 

    “Excluding heavy explosive weapons from populated areas must become the norm,” says Anne Hery, Humanity & Inclusion’s Advocacy Director, and leader of the Humanity & Inclusion delegation. “Almost all States recognize now that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas has an unacceptable humanitarian impact on civilians and that there is an urgent need to better protect them from this practice. In early June, we will be able to conclude a final text. We must ensure that the declaration will be strong and will have a real impact on the protection of civilians in conflict.” 

    Many States expressed their willingness to share good practices on their use of explosive weapons in order to better protect civilians from explosive weapons in populated areas. They also recognized that the international agreement is only the beginning of a long process to improve the protection of civilians from explosive weapons in populated areas by working for the full implementation and ongoing monitoring of this international agreement 

    Devastating humanitarian consequences 

    An international agreement of this nature is urgently needed. Massive and repeated use of these weapons in populated areas is one of the main causes of long-term humanitarian crises, and civilians are the principal victims. 

    The massive and systematic bombing of populated areas in Ukraine has triggered the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II. At least 1,700 civilians have been killed and more than 2,400 injured since the beginning of the war on February 24, but the real figures are certainly much higher. United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine reports that “most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes.” 

    Already, 12 million people have fled to neighboring countries or other parts of Ukraine, as they watch indiscriminate bombings ruin their country’s vital infrastructure as places like hospitals, homes, water supplies, and schools are attacked. 

    Conflict’s toll 

    “Urban bombing, no matter how precisely targeted against combatants, inevitably leaves a legacy of trauma,” says Jeff Meer, U.S. Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion. “For civilians, these weapons can leave long-lasting physical and psychological damages from which they may never fully recover as well as destroy infrastructure they need to survive. It is the responsibility of States to prevent the terrible and unacceptable human suffering caused by indiscriminate bombing and shelling in populated areas.” 

    French parliamentarian Julien-Hubert de Laferriere, Belgium parliamentarian Samuel Cogolati and British parliamentarian Stewart McDonald participated in the discussions, representing the 300 parliamentarians in Europe who signed a joint statement urging their governments to take a stance against urban bombing. They drew attention to the "systemic" pattern of harm caused by explosive weapons in populated areas and stressed the need for a strong international agreement.

    Chronology of the diplomatic process  

    • October 2019: the political process for an international agreement against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas was launched at the Vienna conference. This conference was attended by 133 States. A majority of them announced their willingness to work on a political declaration to end the human suffering caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas;  
    • November 2019: First round of consultations on the text of the political declaration;  
    • February 2020: Second round of consultations with 70 states in attendance to discuss the political declaration;  
    • March 2020: Restrictive measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic began and suspended the in-person consultation process;
    • September 2020: Ireland organized a high-level panel, followed by a webinar to address the challenges of urban warfare and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
    • March 2021: Informal online consultations.
    • April 2021: The National Defense Commission of the Belgian Federal Parliament adopted a historic parliamentarian resolution on the protection of civilians from bombing and shelling in populated areas.
    • May 2021: Parliamentarians from five different countries participated in the European Inter-Parliamentarian Conference on the future political declaration to protect civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Since then, over 250 parliamentarians from Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland and the European Union, signed the European Inter-Parliamentarian Joint Statement.
    • April 2022: Final round of consultations to negotiate the final text of the international agreement against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
    • June 2022: Final version of the text to be shared and concluded.  

    About Humanity & Inclusion

    Humanity & Inclusion is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict, and disaster for 40 years. Working alongside people with disabilities and people experiencing situations of extreme vulnerability, our action and testimony are focused on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since it was founded in 1982, HI has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. The network of eight national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States) works constantly to mobilize resources, jointly manage projects, and to increase the impact of the organization’s principles and actions. HI is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 and the winner of the Conrad N. Hilton Award in 2011. HI takes action and campaigns in places where “living in dignity” is no easy task.

    Media contact: Mica Bevington, [email protected]

  • Climate | Environmental changes and disability

    The negative consequences of environmental and climate changes have a greater impact on vulnerable populations and people with disabilities.

    In the event of an environmental or climate-related crisis, people with disabilities risk being left behind or missing out on humanitarian aid intended to help people cope. Emergency supply distributions after a powerful hurricane may take place in facilities not accessible to people with limited mobility, or information about the distributions may not be accessible to people with visual or hearing disabilities.

    In some cases, people with disabilities are intentionally excluded from resources by the community, as they are not seen as a priority in times of scarcity. This is linked to attitudinal stigma and extensive discrimination faced by people with disabilities. Women and girls are even further excluded.

    “If a family has five children in a famine and one of them has a disability, typically this child will not be the one who receives food first,” says Ruby Holmes, Humanity & Inclusion’s inclusive Governance Global Specialist.

    When natural disaster strikes, many are left without accessible evacuation routes or secure shelters to seek safety. In the long-term, they could be left in an area where resources start to disappear as climate threats become more powerful. By 2050, 200 million people are estimated to be climate refugees—around 30 million of whom would have specific needs.

    “When climate issues or disasters become chronic to a region, people are more likely to move away from the area,” Holmes explains. “But, people with disabilities might not have the opportunity, resources or community support to move, so they can be left behind in areas where the teachers, doctors and employers are all leaving, and remaining services are rarely inclusive or accessible.”

    In cases where people are able to flee, they often leave behind necessary medications and assistive devices, such as canes or walkers.

    Livelihood opportunities threatened

    Sources of livelihood are directly threatened by the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation. Changes in water supply leave farmers unable to feed livestock or grow crops, and natural disasters cause destruction to infrastructure and facilities that employ entire communities. People who work in handcrafted good, sewing, or commerce often lose their supplies and structures in events such as cyclones or heavy flooding.

    “People with disabilities are more at-risk of losing livelihood opportunities,” Holmes continues. “Droughts and flooding, for example, cause significant environmental degradation, leaving less available land for agriculture or bodies of water for fish farming. When you look at who is going to gain access in these shrinking spaces, it is unfortunately rarely people with disabilities, especially not women and girls with disabilities.”

    Rising health needs

    Growing air pollution is leading to higher rates of asthma and other respiratory issues, primarily among children. 

    “When you pair disability with a chronic illness like asthma, for example, then there is an added need for health services for that person,” Holmes says. “But people with disabilities already face significant obstacles accessing these services.”

    Not only do some people face physical obstacles accessing care due to limited mobility or lack of transportation, attitudinal barriers and discrimination also cause people with disabilities to be refused appropriate care or receive inadequate or ill-adapted services for their needs. People with disabilities are three times more likely to be denied health care, and four times more likely to be treated poorly by the health care system than people without disabilities. As more and more individuals develop additional health conditions due to environmental pollution, people with disabilities will be no exception, but will still face significant barriers.


    Magnifying vulnerabilities

    In certain circumstances, environmental changes can indirectly magnify the vulnerabilities linked to certain disabilities or conditions.

    As ultraviolet rays from sun exposure become more intense, people with albinism across eastern Africa are experiencing higher rates of skin cancer. People with albinism have little or no melanin in their skin to protect them from the sun, and they are also prone to visual disabilities. Blindness and low vision are particularly common among people with albinism, and more sun exposure further reduces their sight.

    “Because people with albinism often face extremely high rates of stigma, discrimination and risk of danger, they are often hidden by their families for protection,” Holmes explains. “This decreases their access to lifesaving services needed to treat rising skin cancer rates from sun exposure, but also reduces access to basic protective tools such as sunscreen, hats or sunglasses.”

    Increasing temperatures from global warming also put vulnerable populations at risk.

    “We have seen cases of nursing homes and institutions for persons with disabilities where air conditioning units break, or there is no air conditioning,” Holmes adds. “The rising temperatures create an unlivable environment for residents in fragile conditions, and there is an increase in deaths.”

    Disability and development

    In some instances, environmental hazards can even lead to the development of long-term disabilities. Agricultural degradation caused by drought, frequent flooding, or extreme temperatures can lead to situations of food insecurity for entire communities, where families cannot find enough food to feed their young children.

    Malnutrition in children and babies can interfere with their development and growth, which can lead to long-term disability without proper intervention. There are also higher rates of disabilities in newborns if their mother experiences malnutrition or high pollution during pregnancy.

    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.

    Donate today

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  • Ukraine | Caring for injured civilians in armed conflict

    Humanity & Inclusion’s specialists are supporting conflict survivors by providing specialized care for burn victims and people requiring amputations in western Ukraine following evacuations from besieged cities like Kyiv, Kharkiv and Mariupol. In Lviv, teams are working with hospitals to reinforce care for people injured by explosive weapons in the ongoing war.

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  • Somaliland | Drought threatens agricultural communities

    Amina, 55, comes from a long line of herders. Years of insufficient rainfall and climate change have put her work and family at risk, forcing them out of their home and altering their way of life.

    Like the majority of people from Decarta, Somaliland, an agro-pastoral community, Amina and her family are herders. She has been rearing animals since she was a child and supported her family until recently. Unfortunately, the growing effects of climate change have brought serious consequences to her livelihood.

    “There has been a huge impact on my family and my whole community,” Amina says. “I once owned 20 cows and 20 goats, but we have lost them all in the drought.”

    Amina used to depend solely on her animals for income and food to care for her three children and husband, who is Deaf and has a mental disability. A long period of dramatically reduced rainfall and extreme temperatures made it impossible to feed livestock or keep the animals hydrated, affecting many pastoral families like Amina’s. At least one person in the Togdheer region has also died of dehydration.

    Families forced to flee

    Without their animals, Amina and her family have been forced to leave their rural home and move in with her older son in a camp for internally displaced persons in Hargeisa, a city over 30 miles away.

    “It has been very difficult,” Amina explains. “Life in the city is very tough and expensive. We cannot work because we never went to school. We cannot go back because the drought is happening every year and nothing is going to change that.”

    For now, her oldest son is working odd jobs to cover their basic needs.

    The drought is worsening and continues to spread across the country, causing further displacement and putting millions at risk. Amina pleads for the government and institutions to develop a clear plan to minimize the impact of recurring droughts, and wishes people would build wells and water reserves to cope with the change in rainfall.

    After generations of herding, Amina may be the last in her family to raise livestock for a living. She now plans to settle in Hargeisa and enroll her children in technical schools so they will develop skills to thrive in the city.

    Supporting affected communities

    Humanity & Inclusion supports Amina’s family by financing transportation costs for her husband’s care and services at a specialized hospital. They are also being referred to a public hospital in Hargeisa to access free services.

    Working in Somaliland for 30 years, Humanity & Inclusion has been providing support to communities affected by severe droughts since they began in 2017.

    Teams provide cash assistance, access to water supply and help assure the survival of livestock for pastoral communities alongside specialized partner organizations—including Veterinarians Without Borders, Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe. The organization also works to ensure that vulnerable populations, displaced individuals and people with disabilities have access to humanitarian aid, as well as rehabilitation and psychosocial support services.

    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.

    Donate today

    Become a monthly donor

  • Madagascar | The humanitarian impact of climate change

    As increasing exposure to weather-related hazards creates significant needs in Madagascar, Humanity & Inclusion supports development of adapted solutions.

    Madagascar is one of the most prone countries to extreme weather hazards in the world, and the third most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Frequent flooding, tropical storms, cyclones and droughts have devastating impacts on the population and humanitarian needs throughout the island. Climate change is expected to further increase both the frequency and strength of extreme weather events over time.

    Five storms, two months

    Madagascar’s annual cyclone season spans from November to March. During this time, at least one or two cyclones are expected to cause heavy rains, winds, flooding and rising sea levels. In early 2022 alone, the country experienced five tropical storms, including two intense cyclones that occurred only two weeks apart and followed similar paths of destruction.

    Between January and March, over 200 people died from these storms. Around 420,000 have been affected, and more than 169,000 people had their homes damaged or destroyed. Families were left without access to food, drinking water, electricity, shelter, or basic hygiene supplies following each storm. Hospitals, schools and farmland were largely demolished, leaving populations without medical care, children without education and entire agricultural-dependent communities without food production or livelihoods, all of which will have long-term consequences. Around 150,000 acres of rice fields were flooded twice by the back-to-back cyclones and some areas lost as much as 90% of food production sources.

    The worst drought in 40 years

    While the northern and eastern regions of the country have faced flooding and heavy rains, the south has been experiencing the worst drought in 40 years. Following several years of below-average rainfall, approximately 1.5 million people in the region are now alarmingly food insecure.

    “The population relies heavily on subsistence agriculture and rain-fed crops,” explains Lili Bazin, Humanity & Inclusion’s Disaster Risk Reduction technical referent. “So the drought has dramatic impacts on their food security and livelihoods.”

    Between 2018 and 2021, the price of water increased by 300%. Some families have reported eating dirt or boiling strips of leather just to get by. The alarming lack of food puts pregnant people and children under the age of 5 at heightened risk of malnutrition, which could result in developmental complications.

    Compounding vulnerability

    Such dramatic meteorological events feed into a vicious cycle: natural disasters create humanitarian need by causing destruction, while pre-existing sources of vulnerability magnify the consequences of those disasters.

    Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world, making the population that much more vulnerable in times of crisis. When faced with the stresses of food insecurity or disaster, many are forced to sell their assets or pull children out of school. Education dropout rates have increased since the drought began, as have rates of gender-based violence and early marriage. With resources and infrastructure frequently threatened, rebuilding becomes increasingly difficult, and needs continue to grow.

    Populations with the greatest needs are often left behind in at-risk regions, as many cannot afford to relocate from isolated regions or lack the resources to do so, such as information or transportation. Impacts are even greater on older populations, pregnant people, people with disabilities, and people from minority groups who may face discrimination or physical barriers to accessing aid.


    Reducing the impact

    “200 deaths this year is of course 200 more than we want,” says Olivier Benquet, Humanity & Inclusion’s geographic director for Madagascar. “But there is some good news: This is a relatively low number considering the scale of these disasters. That is the result of improving disaster risk reduction.”

    Humanity & Inclusion has implemented disaster risk reduction projects throughout the world, and in Madagascar specifically, for years. To better prepare communities faced with climate shocks and events, the organization strengthens local structures, supports education services, raises awareness of risks, implements monitoring and early warning systems, and assists individuals in making their livelihoods more sustainable, among other initiatives.

    “We can’t prevent the wind, and we can’t prevent the rains,” Bazin adds. “But we can keep natural events from becoming natural disasters by predicting where they may strike, anticipating their impacts on lives and livelihoods, and by acting accordingly ahead of time to prepare communities.”

    Inclusive proactive planning

    In January, Humanity & Inclusion launched a three-year disaster risk reduction project to put inclusive anticipatory action in three countries prone to natural disasters: Madagascar, Haiti and the Philippines. The initiative uses the science of weather and climate to anticipate possible impacts in risk-prone areas and mobilizes teams, materials and practices to enact early action protocol and mitigate potential impacts before they can be felt. Through the initiative, Humanity & Inclusion will conduct studies to better understand associated risks on vulnerable populations, locate affected communities, reinforce community capacities to respond, run simulation exercises and ensure the inclusion of marginalized groups in these efforts.

    “With today’s technology and meteorological forecasts, we can see a cyclone coming in advance,” Benquet explains. “When we see that, we can start to move our teams to the targeted areas, stock supplies, warn communities, evacuate people, and reinforce structures. We know these events are going to happen more often, so it is critical that we adapt and further develop our risk reduction efforts in the face of environmental changes.”

    In Madagascar alone, the project targets nearly 330,000 people. In Haiti, it aims to benefit over 200,000 and another 200,000 in the Philippines.

    “We will always support communities recovering from disaster,” Bazin says. “But at the end of the day, if we can prepare ahead of time and prevent the disaster from occurring, that’s the real goal."

    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.

    Donate today

    Become a monthly donor

  • USCBL-USCMC condemns Russian use of antipersonnel mines in Ukraine

    April 01, 2022
    Contact: Elizabeth Johnson Sellers

    The U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines - U.S. Cluster Munition Coalition (USCBL-USCMC) today issued the following statement, shared below, and available here

    (Washington, 1 April 2022) – The U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines - U.S. Cluster Munition Coalition (USCBL-USCMC) strongly condemns the use of internationally banned antipersonnel landmines by Russian forces in the Ukraine conflict, as reported by USCBL steering committee member Human Rights Watch. The USCBL calls for an immediate halt to all use of antipersonnel landmines. 

    Antipersonnel landmines are banned under the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, to which 164 countries are states parties, although neither Russia nor the United States are party to the Mine Ban Treaty. 

    Antipersonnel landmines are inherently indiscriminate weapons that maim and kill long after conflicts end. According to the 2021 Landmine Monitor, civilians accounted for 80 percent of casualties from landmines and other explosive remnants of war in 2020 – including 1,872 child casualties. In Ukraine alone, the Landmine Monitor has recorded 2,727 mine casualties since the outbreak of conflict in 2014 through 2019, though this number may now rise sharply. 

    The use of antipersonnel landmines by Russian forces in Ukraine follows their widespread use of cluster munitions, killing and injuring civilians. The USCBL-USCMC strongly condemns the use of both weapons and urges Russia and all parties to guarantee protection of civilians, respect for international humanitarian law, and to adhere to the international norm banning use of antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions. 

    The USCBL-USCMC urges the United States to condemn the use of antipersonnel landmines and take immediate steps to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty. The failure of the United States to join the international agreement banning antipersonnel landmines weakens the impact of United States’ criticism of Russia’s use of these weapons. 

    Therefore, we also call upon the Biden Administration to rapidly submit the Mine Ban Treaty to the United States Senate for advice and consent. The time for the United States government to act is now. 



    The U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines - U.S. Cluster Munition Coalition is a coalition of non-governmental organizations working to ensure that the U.S. comprehensively prohibits antipersonnel mines--by banning their use in Korea--and joins the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, as more than 160 nations have done. It is the national affiliate of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), founded in New York in 1992 and recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate together with former ICBL coordinator Ms. Jody Williams of Vermont. We also call for sustained U.S. government financial support for mine clearance and victim assistance. 

    The U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines is coordinated by Humanity & Inclusion and its Steering Committee members include: Amnesty International USAArms Control AssociationCenter for Civilians in ConflictFriends Committee on National LegislationHuman Rights WatchLegacies of WarPhysicians for Human RightsUNICEF USAWest Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munitions / Proud Students Against Landmines.

    About Humanity & Inclusion

    Humanity & Inclusion is an independent international aid organization, working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 40 years. Working alongside people with disabilities and people living in situations of extreme vulnerability, our action and testimony focus on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Humanity & Inclusion is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997.

    Humanity & Inclusion has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. The network of eight national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States) mobilizes resources, jointly manages projects, and increases the impact of the organization’s principles and actions.  The organization has numerous prizes to its name, including the 2011 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, the 1996 Nansen Prize, and two 2020 European Union Horizon Prizes for innovation. Humanity & Inclusion acts and campaigns in places where “living in dignity” is no easy task. 

    Interviews available 

    For media inquiries, please contact Mica Bevington at [email protected]

  • Ukraine | HI condemns the use of landmines launched by rockets

    March 31, 2022
    Contact: Elizabeth Johnson Sellers

    Silver Spring, Maryland — Russian forces fighting in Ukraine have used landmines in the eastern Kharkiv region, Human Rights Watch reports.

    “As civilians already suffer from heavy and systematic bombings and in the future will suffer from predictable vast contamination by explosive ordnance, Humanity & Inclusion is outraged by the recent use of landmines by Russian forces in Ukraine, as reported by Human Rights Watch. Landmines are indiscriminate weapons. 80% of casualties were civilians in 2020; 30% of them were children. Mines kill or cause complex injuries, often with serious disabling sequelae, and serious long-lasting psychological trauma. Landmines are legally forbidden by the Ottawa Treaty since 1997; The Treaty has been joined by the vast majority of States in the world (164 or 80% of the world). That international law must be respected and any use of landmines by any actor to the conflict must be condemned.” -Anne Héry, HI Advocacy Director

    Human Rights Watch reports that the mine used by Russia is a newly developed type called POM-3. It is equipped with a seismic sensor to detect an approaching person and eject an explosive charge into the air. The mines were apparently delivered by rockets fired from specially designed ground launchers that were recorded on video on an unknown date and posted to social media on March 26. The risk and the intensity of contamination by these remote mining launching system is very high.

    “All landmines are inherently indiscriminate, but the POM3 is especially so, due to its ability to detect the presence of humans before it is stepped on or tripped over. Its 16 meters range and penetrative nature of its fragments are specifically designed to target eyes, neck and groin area.” -Perrine Benoist, HI Armed Violence Reduction Director

    According to the Landmine Monitor, Landmines were used in the conflict between government forces and Russian-supported separatists that erupted in early 2014—initially in Crimea, and later in the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces of eastern Ukraine.

    Ukraine is a State party to the Mine Ban Treaty, and Russia is not.

    April 4 is the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the Ottawa Treaty.

    Media contact

    For media inquiries, please contact Mica Bevington at [email protected].

    About Humanity & Inclusion

    Humanity & Inclusion is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict, and disaster for 40 years. Working alongside people with disabilities and other people living in situations of extreme vulnerability, our action and testimony are focused on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since it was founded in 1982, Humanity & Inclusion has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. The network of eight national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States) works constantly to mobilize resources, jointly manage projects, and to increase the impact of the organization’s principles and actions. Humanity & Inclusion is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 and the winner of the 2011 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize. Humanity & Inclusion takes action and campaigns in places where “living in dignity” is no easy task.

  • Ukraine | Training health professionals in specialized physical therapy

    As part of its support to Ukrainian hospitals, Humanity & Inclusion is providing specialized physical therapy training for health professionals treating burns patients, which requires special knowledge and skills.

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  • Ukraine | An update from Chernivtsi

    Jérémie Zahorski, who coordinates Humanity & Inclusion’s programs in Chernivtsi, describes the deteriorating situation in western Ukraine.

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  • Togo | Helping unhoused people cope with Covid-19

    Around 15,000 people are unhoused in Togo’s capital, Lomé. Humanity & Inclusion is helping them combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

    The Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated circumstances for people living in vulnerable situations, especially those who are unhoused. Lockdowns and social distancing measures have deprived them of support; they are now experiencing more isolation, insecurity and malnourishment than ever.

    Promoting prevention measures

    Humanity & Inclusion teams have been conducting outreach work to limit the spread of the virus in Lomé and the city of Sanvee Condji. Between April 2021 and February 2022, Humanity & Inclusion’s teams implemented the following:

    • Installed public showers to help promote and facilitate hygiene measures for an average of 210 people a day; more than 80,000 showers were taken
    • Nearly 16,000 people participated in awareness-raising sessions, learning how to protect themselves and others from the virus
    • 1,000 informational posters on Covid-19 prevention and vaccination were produced and distributed
    • More than 25,000 face masks and 15,000 containers of hand sanitizer were distributed during outreach activities
    • More than 8,000 hygiene kits were distributed, containing hand sanitizer, face masks, toothpaste, a tooth brush, soap and a sponge, as well as menstrual pads
    • Around 100 peer educators were trained to share good practices and raise the awareness of others
    • Almost 1,000 people were vaccinated

    Providing medical and psychological support

    Two health surveillance teams, each with a nurse, a psychologist and a midwife, conducted night rounds in Lomé. They provided medical and psychosocial care to over 15,000 people. Whenever possible, medical conditions, such as headaches, sores, rashes, malaria and sexually transmitted diseases, were treated directly on site. Thanks to these activities, more than 8,500 people accessed health care between April 2021 and February 2022.

    As part of the outreach work organized by Humanity & Inclusion in Togo, more than 4,500 people were given mental health and psychosocial support.

    "We provide unhoused people with psychological support because they are a sector of the population that feels vulnerable and neglected,” explains Issa Afo, a psychologist for Humanity & Inclusion. “When we offer them specialized services that are otherwise inaccessible to them, they feel seen. It is part of Humanity & Inclusion's mission to give hope to people who feel forgotten.”

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  • Ukraine | Active conflict presents challenges to deliver aid

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  • Leadership | Two HI staff graduate from Hilton Leadership Institute

    Humanity & Inclusion's Racheal Njiru and Kazem Hemeda were among 53 Hilton Prize Scholars selected for the 2021 Hilton Humanitarian Prize Laureate Virtual Leadership Institute, in partnership with Atlas Corps. The virtual leadership training opportunity provides professional development to emerging social change leaders exclusively within the Prize Laureate community.

    Racheal has worked for two years as a Disability Inclusive Project Manager at the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. Kazem has worked for Humanity & Inclusion since 2015 and is currently the Deputy Country Manager for Egypt.

    Q: Can you tell us more about the Hilton Leadership Institute?

    Racheal: It was an 8-month leadership training that involved doing assignments online, meeting online with other scholars weekly and we also had peer coaching calls. Of course, I still had to continue with my job. It was very demanding, so I had to organize my time very well and prioritize tasks.

    I was very humbled to represent Humanity & Inclusion in the program. There were just the two of us, Kazem and I. With every scholar I managed to talk to, I made sure I talked about Humanity & Inclusion, what we do globally and in Kenya. So, it was an opportunity to showcase Humanity & Inclusion, and I actually found quite a lot of them were aware of our organization.

    I want to express my gratitude to the Hilton Leadership Institute and Atlas Corps. I am privileged to have been part of the Institute’s program. It was very, very inspiring. I hope there will be more opportunities for other Humanity & Inclusion colleagues to equally participate in this kind of programs.

    Kazem: I felt thrilled for the experience, and proud to be representing Humanity & Inclusion at this prestigious program. Throughout the 8-month long program, I learned about the missions of other international humanitarian organizations, and I was delighted to engage in conversations with other program colleagues about including persons with disabilities in their respective interventions. I also learned from their innovations and developed a better understanding about the different contexts, challenges and opportunities in different parts of the world. Having this global perspective, I became more interested in learning about Humanity & Inclusion's global work.

    A blue graphic with two portraits. On the left is a smiling Black woman with short hair. Below her photo white text reads Racheal Njiru, Humanity & Inclusion Kenya. On the left is an Egyptian man who is smiling. Below his photo white text reads Kazem Hemeda, Humanity & Inclusion Egypt

    Q: Tell us about your capstone project.

    Rachael: My project was on facilitating the inclusion of persons with disabilities in socioeconomic development in Kakuma refugee camp and the hosting community. I've been working with persons with disabilities who are in business and I've seen quite a number of barriers. I wanted to look at how systemic change could bring some support to refugees with disabilities in the camp: to identify them and their needs, and target them for certain services that can improve their lives. I did not finish everything in my leadership project, but in my current job the project continues.

    Kazem: I will develop a simulation game that will deepen the understanding and commitment of Humanity & Inclusion’s Egypt team to intersectionality and our Disability, Gender, Age institutional policy with funding that I received through a $2,000 "community impact grant" from the program.

    Q: What are the key lessons that you have learned and that you can apply in your everyday work?

    Racheal: The most important thing that I have learned is that sometimes, as leaders, we are under too much pressure. We have to do our work, ensure that our teams are delivering, both according to our organization’s mandate as well as donor expectations. But we forget about developing ourselves as leaders. I plan to be more aware of myself, to try and develop myself, become better and see how I can develop my team and others.

    It's very interesting to actually know that there's so many other people who are doing humanitarian acts across the globe, to know that I'm not the only humanitarian worker who is working very hard to ensure that we are able to support persons with disabilities or marginalized people to have a better livelihood.

    In addition to that, I was able to understand in very simple terms the aspect of intersectionality: to identify and recognize that the population we work with face many complex issues that make them even more vulnerable than others.

    Kazem: Some of the key things I learned include tactics for leading successful movements, the applications for the concept of intersectionality, as well as a lot of personal development notions and practices such as self-compassion, conflict management styles, strategies for personal resilience, and strategies for remote working.I will exercise the leadership skills I learned through my day-to-day work. I became more self-aware, more capable of addressing conflicts, offering coaching, and more able to deal with stress.

    Second, I am implementing a "leadership project" that aims to promote intersectionality among Humanity & Inclusion's operations in Egypt.


    Q: Why is inclusion so important?

    Racheal: One thing that I always say is that inclusion is not just a Humanity & Inclusion issue. When people or partners want to construct accessible buildings they always think of approaching HI. Inclusion is more than construction of accessible buildings it should be embraced using the twin track approach and partners should be in inclusion in the entire project cycle duration. Humanity & Inclusion will always offer the technical support and expertise to our partners whenever they need it. So, I think if people look at it that way, then we can be able to move forward in the journey of inclusion.

    Kazem: Inclusion is a value that humanity needs to thrive in today's world of complex problems. Inclusion means that everybody, including vulnerable populations, have a fair chance to live in dignity, realize their potential and contribute to an equitable and sustainable development.

    Q: What motivates you and your work?

    Racheal: I love community work. I felt in my heart before joining campus that I wanted to serve humanity and I wanted to be empowered with knowledge on how to do that. What motivates me in my work, is when I am able to see a positive change in someone’s life since I started interacting with them.

    Kazem: Despite the challenges we face every day, I motivate myself by remembering that we, as an organization, promote the values of humanity and inclusion, and that we can contribute to making the lives of marginalized and vulnerable people better and happier. This is, indeed, a meaningful mission.


    Q: Is there a certain moment or person that stands out in your time at Humanity & Inclusion?

    Racheal: In March 2020, when Covid-19 hit, I personally felt very discouraged. I was afraid that all of the effort invested into the project I had been implementing was going to go down the drain. Most of our project participants experienced their businesses being affected by COVID. We got a request from our donor—UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)—to develop a concept on the recovery of the businesses that had been affected by COVID-19 and how to cushion them from the effects of the pandemic for six months. With that funding, we were able to support project participants to be able to absorb the economic shock and survive during Covid-19.

    One project participant really impressed me: A lady who has a contract to supply charcoal each month to an organization. She was able to save money and constructed rental houses. She made me look at life in a very different way. She did not get discouraged because of Covid-19 pandemic instead, she looked at how was she would be able to support herself then and in the future. Thanks to the business grant we provided to her and the business development trainings that she received, she was able to save money and get herself another income stream.

    Kazem: One of the memorable moments was the closing ceremony of the IDMAG—Idmag is Arabic for “inclusion”—project, which I had the honor to manage for five years. The project aimed to improve youth with disabilities' access to livelihood opportunities and social services. I felt very happy to listen to the positive speech delivered by the Minister of Social Solidarity at the event. The speech gave me hope that the impact of IDMAG project was not limited to the local communities it served, but rather, it would extend nationally.

    Q: Why is it important for people to support Humanity & Inclusion's work and the communities we serve?

    Racheal: We serve a very unique population of persons with disabilities and vulnerable populations, and we are in the business of ensuring that their lives are improved. We promote their dignity in our different projects. We are very keen on matters regarding inclusion. We want to see persons with disabilities taking different positions in leadership and bringing change. We also ensure that we support more partners to be more inclusive and to understand and apply intentional inclusion in their programming.

    The communities we serve are happy that Humanity & Inclusion is providing different services. Right now, in Kakuma, we have rehabilitation, inclusive education and livelihood projects. What is Humanity & Inclusion trying to do? We're trying to promote independence for everyone. Because you would wish that persons with disabilities are able to be empowered economically, empowered in education and also are able to be functionally independent. It’s this holistic approach that we want to look at, and we hope that we'll keep getting the support from our donors to be able to continue doing this noble task.

    Kazem: In my opinion, Humanity & Inclusion is a unique organization that capitalizes in its enormous technical expertise and talented team to empower persons with disabilities and vulnerable groups to assert their rights. At the same time, Humanity & Inclusion supports a multitude of stakeholders, including service providers and governments, to become inclusive and responsive to the needs and priorities of vulnerable groups. This twin-track approach has proven effective as it leaves the served communities with increased capability ownership for their own development.

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  • Ukraine | Photos from the Polish border

    More than 2 million people have fled Ukraine in the past two weeks. Photographer Tom Nicholson captured photos and stories of refugees crossing the border in Medyka, Poland.

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  • Disability Rights | Katie Smith reflects on CRPD conference

    I often find myself in unlikely places and situations. At 14 years of age, I found myself in a small Italian town on the Adriatic coast, driving my father and family friend down a crowded street, behind the wheel of an American-made pickup truck. 16 years later, I found myself playing quadriplegic rugby on a court in Paris with 11 women from 6 different countries in an American-made Vesco wheelchair.

    Last Monday night, I found myself at the United Nations in New York City. This time amidst individuals from over 150 different countries, a mere 6 hours from my rural Pennsylvania home. Though incredible, I would not call this quite as unlikely. It was a merger of a lifetime passion in advocacy, interest in and concern for international affairs and development, and a decade of life experience as a person with a disability—possibly a little personality thrown in. I was invited to the Advisory Council for Handicap International US in January of this year and last week joined their delegation at the Conference of States Parties on the CRPD.

    I sat in on the general assembly listening to countries reporting on the status and actions for disability rights within their respective communities. It was a lot of information to take in. The side sessions on a wide spectrum of topics were eye-opening and greatly widened my perspective. Even more to process, but invigorating. Some of the sessions I attended had focuses of promoting inclusion and equity for all in education, consideration of women and girls with disabilities in inclusive society development, universally accessible urban design, changing lives through adaptive sports, and youth perspectives from active young adult leaders. I truly appreciate the thought and attention given to these widely overlooked topics.

    In a few of the side sessions, I was compelled to comment in order to share experience and further humanize the impact of inclusive community activity and presumption of competence in individuals with disabilities. The session on changing lives through adaptive sports was especially personal. After acquiring a disability as a physically active 21 year old, I was lost. I had lost my identity, confidence, and ability to physically – often socially – engage with the world around me. When I found quadriplegic rugby I was changed. I learned how to live life in a wheelchair from my peers, while being physically engaged in a full contact adaptive sport. I had the opportunity to travel and practice independent living skills in a supported environment. Most importantly I gained confidence. When I find organizations and individuals with power of making true change, I am compelled to show appreciation for their commitment and remind them what that work means.

    Our stories and experiences are our power. This was reinforced for me in the many that shared pieces of themselves, like Mia Farah. She said, “I know my rights and I am ready to fight for them – we are stronger together,” as she addressed the general assembly.

    Despite my experience base, I was still struck by the active listening of everyone in the room and the follow up. I networked with incredible people, leaders in their communities and countries in forwarding the rights of people with disabilities as human rights and pushing forward inclusive community design. I found my niche. I walked away from COSP completely inspired and empowered, with a widened perspective of world issues facing individuals with disabilities and a new and vast network of colleagues already in action. I even had the opportunity to share very special moments with some of them. One memorable instance—on a rooftop with an Empire view. Stronger together we are indeed.

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  • published Katie Smith Memorial 2022-03-09 15:42:46 -0500

    c_Jeff-Meer_HI__Two_women_and_one_man_smile_for_a_photo._The_woman_in_the_middle_is_sitting_in_a_wheelchair.jpgKatie Smith, center, with Humanity & Inclusion's Deputy Director for Advocacy Blandine Bouniol and U.S. Executive Director Jeff Meer in New York.

    Katie Smith Memorial

    The Humanity & Inclusion family is deeply saddened by the untimely passing of Katie Smith, who represented Humanity & Inclusion as a member of a delegation to the United Nations Committee of States Parties (COSP) to the UNCRPD in New York in 2017. Read Katie's reflection on attending that event. She was a member of Humanity & Inclusion's Advisory Council. Katie did great work through the Harkin Summit, attending events in Washington, DC, and Paris, France, ensuring the perspective of young adults with disabilities was at the table. 

    Katie's family has asked that memorial contributions be made in Katie's memory to Three Rivers Adaptive Sports or the Pittsburgh Steelwheelers.

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