Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published PHILIPPINES | Delivering emergency aid to typhoon survivors in News 2022-01-07 12:31:36 -0500
Many families are displaced and living in evacuation centers after Typhoon Rai, which struck the Philippines in December. As part of its emergency response, Humanity & Inclusion is distributing hygiene kits and multi-purpose cash assistance to families in Surigao.
Schools are being used as emergency shelters. During the day, families work to repair their homes, and sleep in classrooms at night. One evacuee, Jennifer, brought her children’s lessons when they evacuated. Her husband is working to repair their damaged home.
“We will try to fix our house because we can’t stay in the evacuation center,” she explains. “This is the children’s school.”
Mary Joy Maling-on, 38, and her eight children had to leave their home, which is in a landslide-prone area. She received a hygiene kit that includes items like soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, towels, sanitary napkins, a bed pan, masks and a 5-gallon water jug.
"Thank you so much for the kit. It will be useful to my children, especially the soap and toothbrushes,” says Mary Joy Maling-on, pictured below.
Alexander, 47, has difficulty walking. His family and five other families—15 people total—share a classroom on the second floor of a school currently serving as an evacuation center.
"Thank you very much for the hygiene kit, particularly the bedpan that I can use at night,” he says. “The restroom is on the ground floor of the next building, and I only have my lighter to find my way in the dark.”
Displaced families have prioritized finding food and drinking water, both of which are scarce. Humanity & Inclusion and its partners have offered cash assistance to more than 270 families so they can buy food, diapers and other necessities.
Vena, one of the recipients, plans to buy plates, glasses and other kitchen essentials. "Someone gave us sardines, but we also like cassava [yuca],” Vena explains. “With the money, I will buy cassava, charcoal and fish. Thank you!”
Humanity & Inclusion is working with the Surigao City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) and JPIC-IDC to help people impacted by the typhoon.
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Chad | More than 800 displaced children enroll at village’s first school in News 2022-01-05 12:33:21 -0500
Humanity & Inclusion helped open the only school in Ngourtou Koumboua, a village that hosts more than 7,000 people displaced by violence. More than 820 children have enrolled, including 501 girls.
Through a project aimed at protecting and educating children in the Lake Region, Humanity & inclusion built six classrooms to finalize school’s construction. Built according to the “temporary learning spaces” model, using local materials and metal structures, the new classrooms are adapted for emergency contexts.
The new elementary school opened its doors on Oct. 25, 2021, finally providing more than 800 displaced children a place to learn. Six newly recruited teachers are leading classes daily.
When the school opened, 161 newly enrolled children received school supply kits containing one bag, four notebooks, one slate, two pencils, two pens, one box of color pencils and one ruler. Additional supplies are being distributed in January 2022.
Parents celebrate the opportunity to finally send their children to school.
“We are very happy this morning,” one father said at the opening ceremony. “For us and our children who have waited so long in Ngourtou Koumboua, the school year can finally begin. I am so glad to see this school opening!”
HI’s presence in Chad
Humanity & Inclusion has worked in Chad since the 1990s in the sectors of inclusive and emergency education, mine action, victim assistance, peace building, physical rehabilitation and economic integration of people with disabilities. Teams currently run projects in N'Djamena; the Lake, Logone Occidental and Logone Oriental provinces; and the Borkou, Ennedi and Tibesti (BET) regions.
This education project is part of Humanity & Inclusion’s ongoing initiative to improve the physical, psychosocial and cognitive protection of children affected by humanitarian crises by improving their access to quality education. Future plans include establishing child-friendly spaces for psychosocial support, constructing sustainable and accessible restrooms, and training parent-teacher associations, community-based protection networks and educational staff in inclusive education, children's rights and psychological first aid.
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Haiti | After earthquake, engineering student finds joy in helping her community in Haiti Updates 2022-01-05 11:55:50 -0500
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Haiti | Louisiane provides for her family after earthquake in Haiti Updates 2022-01-05 11:33:49 -0500
Louisiane is a farmer in one of regions most affected by the earthquake that hit Haiti in August 2021. After the disaster affected her income, she joined Humanity & Inclusion’s emergency clearance activities to support her family.Read more
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Laos | Unequal access to Covid-19 vaccines in News 2022-01-04 16:20:30 -0500
Humanity & Inclusion is working to reduce the impact of Covid-19 in Laos and recently published a survey on the obstacles people with disabilities face to receive vaccines.
Humanity & Inclusion teams interviewed 100 people with disabilities by telephone throughout May and June 2021. The survey participants live in the capital city of Vientiane within the Xamnua or Kaison districts.
“Our current projects show that people with disabilities always find it harder to access care,” says Pilar Duat Llorens, director of Humanity & Inclusion’s programs in the region. “As the survey we conducted in Laos a few months ago revealed, access to Covid-19 vaccination programs is no exception.”
Among those interviewed, the survey revealed that:
- Only 19% are vaccinated
- 61% are worried by the unknown effects of the vaccine and feel they lack information how it may impact underlying medical conditions
- 43% do not have enough information on where and how to be vaccinated
- 55% say that if they had more information, they would be more motivated to get vaccinated
- 73% say the biggest obstacles to vaccination are long lines and no priority lane for people with disabilities
- Between 56% and 85% say they would get vaccinated if they had the opportunity to do so
Reducing the pandemic's impact
In the first six months of 2021, Humanity & Inclusion’s teams in Laos:
- Raised the awareness of 1,287 people, including 110 people with disabilities, on Covid-19 risks by displaying posters, organizing workshops and training sessions, and relaying prevention messages in the media and on social media in 21 villages in Houamoung
- Distributed 1,466 protection kits containing thermometers, masks, face shields and protective suits in Savannakhet
- Handed out 365 kits containing awareness-raising posters in Savannakhet, Houaphan and Houamoung
- Repaired and maintained seven ambulances belonging to Vientiane Rescue 1623
- Transported 460 Covid-19 patients in Vientiane
- Adapted two of Humanity & Inclusion’s vehicles to transport Covid-19 patients in Houaphan
“As a humanitarian organization, we need to help reduce the impact of Covid-19 in the countries where we work,” Duat Llorens explains.
Protecting people with disabilities
People with disabilities have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially since the virus has the potential to impact pre-existing conditions. Physical obstacles and discriminatory behavior can also limit access to high-demand public services.
“The pandemic affects everyone, but people with special needs are even more vulnerable,” Duat Llorens says. “Many easy and reasonable adjustments can be made so everyone is included in the fight against Covid-19.”
“The people organizing Covid-19 vaccination programs need to ensure everyone is included,” she adds. “It is important to adapt communication campaigns by making new formats available and translating messages into sign language, for example. We also need to transport vulnerable individuals and provide appropriate support to people with special needs if they have to wait in line.”
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Stop Bombing Civilians: Final negotiations scheduled in historic international political declaration in Press Releases 2022-01-04 15:13:32 -0500
Stop Bombing Civilians: Final negotiations scheduled in historic international political declarationJanuary 04, 2022
Note, this meeting was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandmemic and the Omicron variant. States will gather this spring in Geneva instead.
Governments gather one final time in February to iron out the final text of a political declaration designed to save civilian lives
Silver Spring, Maryland—The political declaration against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas will have its final edit February 2-4, 2022 at the Palais des Nations, Geneva. This declaration will be historic. If strong enough, the international agreement stands to give civilians a fighting chance to avoid the injuries, deaths, loss of homes and livelihoods caused when explosive weapons are used in populated areas.
The upcoming negotiations gather representatives of States, UN agencies, international organizations and civil society to finalize an international agreement to prohibit the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas. This will be the third and final round of in-person consultations, after preliminary discussions in November 2019 and February 2020, in which around 70 states participated.
“The exclusion of heavy explosive weapons from populated areas must become an international norm,” says Alma Al Osta, Humanity & Inclusion’s Disarmament and Protection of Civilians Advocacy Manager. “We call States to unconditionally support an end to the use of the most destructive weapons in cities.”
“Some States are trying to water-down the text. The United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, and China, among others, have strongly opposed any meaningful limitation of explosive weapons in populated areas, some even mentioning that they did not want to “stigmatize’ explosive weapons. On the contrary, Humanity & Inclusion praises the early mobilization of African and Latin American States in favor of a strong declaration,” says Al Osta.
Led by Ireland, this diplomatic process began in October 2019 but was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, a high number of civilians have continued to be killed and injured by explosive weapons, making the resumption of talks even more pressing. The political declaration text will be submitted to States for signature later in 2022.
Devastating humanitarian consequences
Massive and repetitive use of these weapons in populated areas is one of the main causes of long-term humanitarian crises, and civilians are the main victims.
Conflict affected more than 50 million people in urban areas in 2020, according to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres' annual report on the protection of civilians in war zones, released in May 2021. And 90% of those killed and injured by explosive weapons in populated areas are civilians (AOAV). Those who are injured risk developing lifelong disabilities and severe psychological trauma.
“These negotiations offer our best hope for a successful conclusion of the diplomatic process, to which many humanitarian organizations including Humanity & Inclusion, have contributed,” Al Osta adds. “We must ensure that the text of the declaration is strong and will have a real impact on the protection of civilians in conflict situations. For this, the international agreement should impose a presumption against the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas.”
Explosive weapons have devastating long-term effects. They destroy infrastructure that provides essential services such as health, water, electricity, and sanitation, which civilians heavily rely on, particularly in times of conflict. In Syria, for example, after 10 years of war, at least a third of homes are damaged or destroyed. Major cities such as Raqqa, Aleppo and Homs have been largely destroyed by the massive and intense use of explosive weapons. 80% of the city of Raqqa was destroyed in 2017 (United Nations).
Many heavy explosive weapons used in urban warfare today were originally designed for open battlefields. Their use in such an inappropriate context puts entire neighborhoods at risk. Multi-rocket systems fire simultaneously over a wide area and munitions cause large explosions and fragmentation. Many states already recognize the damage these weapons inflict and have expressed their concern and support for immediate action. Accordingly, 19 African countries through the Maputo Communiqué and 23 Latin American and Caribbean states through the Santiago Communiqué have issued strong commitments to address this urgent humanitarian problem.
In 2019, the UN Secretary General and the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called for warring parties to refrain from using heavy explosive weapons in populated areas because of their devastating consequences for civilians.
Parliamentarians in European countries, such as France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland, have brought the topic to discussion at their national parliaments and demanded that their states contribute to the diplomatic process - with strong demands to strengthen the protection of civilians from explosive weapons. However, the U.S, the UK, the Netherlands, France and China, among others, have strongly opposed any meaningful limitations on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, even arguing that they do not want to ‘stigmatize’ this type of weaponry.
Chronology of the diplomatic process
- October 2019: the Vienna conference launched the political process for an international agreement against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. This conference brought together 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: The first round of consultations on the text of the political declaration
- February 2020: The second round of consultations, engaging more than 70 states 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 regarding the protection of civilians from bombing and shelling in populated areas
- May 2021: Parliamentarians from 5 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
- February 2022: The final round of consultations to negotiate the final text of the international agreement against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas
- TBD 2022: Political declaration is opened for signature by States
- Interviews with Humanity & Inclusion’s spokespeople upon request: Alma Al Osta, Humanity & Inclusion’s Disarmament and Protection of Civilians Advocacy Manager.
- Humanity & Inclusion’s latest report “No safe recovery: The impact of Explosive Ordnance contamination on affected populations in Iraq”
- More information on Humanity & Inclusion’s work on Explosive Weapons.
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Chad | Economic inclusion: Khadidja starts her own business in News 2022-01-04 15:01:18 -0500
Khadidja is a 27-year-old entrepreneur living in Chad. With a boost from Humanity & Inclusion’s economic inclusion initiative, she opened her own business.
When she was 2, Khadidja fell off of a donkey in her village and was seriously injured. Ever since, her right leg muscles have been weak, requiring her to wear an orthopedic brace for support.
“As they could not treat me there, my family took me to N'Djamena,” she recalls. “The doctors here told me that I had to be treated in France but we couldn't afford it. Later, my family was able to buy a prosthesis.”
When Khadidja’s brace broke, an acquaintance suggested she reach out to Humanity & Inclusion. Since 2018, she’s been participating in Humanity & Inclusion activities in Chad. Teams repaired her brace and she received an income-generating activities grant. The single mother of two was able to launch her own business.
“Thanks to HI’s help, I set up my small business selling cereals. Now I have enough food every day,” Khadidja explains. “I make numerous orders, which helps me to live and pay for my health care and my children's school.”
With money she saved from her work, Khadidja was also able to purchase a sewing machine to start a small sewing workshop for extra income.
Khadidja's newfound autonomy is helping her plan for the future.
"Since my business is doing well, I would like to expand my activities and buy a motorized tricycle to make it easier for me to get around and collect the goods I sell,” she says. “I would also like to build an extra room to better accommodate my children.”
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Afghanistan | Amid uncertainty, teams provide rehabilitation, mental health support in News 2021-12-31 12:48:42 -0500
Mohammad Rasool is base coordinator for Humanity & Inclusion in Afghanistan, managing our work in the Kandahar and Nimroz provinces. There, our teams are providing rehabilitation and psychosocial support. In this interview, Mohammad describes the situation on the ground.
Q: What is it like living in Afghanistan at the moment?
People are still struggling with poverty, displacement, drought, the risk from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and threat from ISIS. Additionally the country is facing a failing health system and the economy is also on the edge of collapse. So people are highly distressed as they don't know what will happen next in this highly unpredictable situation.
Daily, thousands of people are aiming to leave the country due to protection issues or to seek a better life out of the country. Everywhere in Afghanistan, there is food insecurity and there's a huge need for humanitarian assistance.
Q: What is the level of need for rehabilitation services in Afghanistan?
Even though the conflict is now over, I mean the big conflict between the previous government and the IEA, the battlefields and the districts are still highly contaminated with explosive remnants of war and IEDs. So, of course, the need for physical rehabilitation and risk education, and also for psychosocial support, remains high.
Q: Could you describe how Humanity & Inclusion's teams are supporting people in Afghanistan?
We have several approaches to reach people in need of services, especially rehabilitation, psychosocial support or skill development (which is for income-generating activities).
For instance, we provide support in the rehabilitation center where people are referred to us by other stakeholders including humanitarian partners. And we also have mobile teams. We go to the communities where we deliver the services directly to people. We also refer them for follow-up services to other partners and also to the rehabilitation center if they need further support.
Q: What is the level of injuries at the moment in Afghanistan?
In Kandahar, approximately one-fourth of the people we are seeing in our rehabilitation center are survivors of the conflict. Either they have acquired their injury in the recent conflict in the recent months, or they are the victims of the conflict in the previous years, but they didn't have the opportunity to access the center. We also see people who have injuries from road accidents as well as people who acquired a disability during birth.
Q: Are you able to share the story of a patient that particularly affected you?
I will share one of the story out of a thousand because in our center we are seeing 9,000 patients every year.
One of the people who was referred to us in the recent months was Anisa, an 8-year old girl from Zabul Province (pictured above). A mortar bomb hit her house while she was playing at home with her cousins. She was badly injured and she was taken to several hospitals to treat her.
Unfortunately, her left leg had to be amputated and then she was referred to the rehabilitation center in Kandahar, which is managed by Humanity & Inclusion. Our team at the rehabilitation center worked with her for several weeks to help her recover. She was happy that she could play again with her cousins or go to school.
Q: What are the major challenges you face at the moment?
Certainly, there have been some changes as the new government is not well established yet and the public service remain interrupted. So there are a lot of uncertainties and the new government is trying to introduce new guidelines procedures. Female staff who are working for the public sector, apart from the health sector, are still not able to attend work. We had some challenges related to access for our female staff to our community-based activities. We had a lot of interaction and intensive engagement with new authorities. Finally, we succeeded and access for our female staff was granted.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about your job?
I like visiting my team while they are delivering services to the people we support. I take the opportunity to directly hear from my team and their patients, listening to their feedback, suggestions and challenges that they face in the day to day activities.
Q: Do you have any message for our supporters here in the U.S.?
Of course, I have a message: The people of Afghanistan really need the support from the international community now more than ever. So please, please don't forget Afghanistan in this difficult time.
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Philippines | Typhoon Rai: Humanity & Inclusion launches relief operations in News 2021-12-23 10:26:26 -0500
Humanity & Inclusion is preparing to launch its emergency relief operations in the Philippines to assist people following the devastation caused by Typhoon Rai.
More than 1 million people have been affected by Typhoon Rai, which hit the Philippines Dec. 16-18. Humanity & Inclusion was one of the first humanitarian actors to assess the damage in some of the hardest-hit communities.
Emergency aid in two provinces
After having assessed the needs of communities and individuals, Humanity & Inclusion’s teams in the Philippines will start their operations on Dec. 26 in the Bohol and Surigao del Norte.
In Bohol, teams plan to distribute 3,024 temporary shelters to people whose homes have been destroyed, and will provide 2,700 tarps in partnership with another organization. The support will provide families with decent shelter until they can rebuild their homes.
In Surigao Del Norte, Humanity & Inclusion is preparing to distribute 100 hygiene kits, containing items like soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste and sanitary towels. Teams are also set to provide 300 families with cash transfer in three barangays—neighborhoods—in Surigao City. Families will be able to use the aid to buy food in local markets.
“Our teams are happy to be part of these operations. Humanity & Inclusion was one of the first humanitarian organizations to assess needs in the field and we are happy to be returning with assistance to help affected populations,” says Alvin Dumduma, Humanity & Inclusion’s project manager in the Philippines. “We’re keen to start implementing the first aid operations.”
Working with local authorities and community teams, Humanity & Inclusion will identify the families and individuals with the greatest needs to prioritize aid efforts.
“The situation is changing all the time,” Dumduma explains. “People affected by the typhoon do not want to wait around in overcrowded and uncomfortable evacuation centers with limited access to sanitary facilities. They want to return home to rebuild their houses, even by using salvaged materials. We will have to reassess their needs when we start providing them with emergency assistance. With so many people affected, it’s really important to take into account the needs of the most vulnerable people and the most immediate needs.”
Humanity & Inclusion is looking into the possibility of working on child-friendly spaces, with educational and learning activities to ensure children still have access to education, and to provide them with mental health assistance to detect and treat trauma.
In a second phase of the response, the organization plans to distribute non-food items like cooking supplies and dignity kits, including items such as sanitary towels, underwear, toilet paper, and more.
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Haiti | Earthquake response continues in Haiti Updates 2021-12-21 13:40:04 -0500
Since August 2021, Humanity & Inclusion has been responding to support the communities affected by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Haiti through rehabilitation and mental health services, logistics and clearance activities, hygiene supply distribution and inclusive humanitarian action.Read more
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Philippines | Emergency teams identify immediate needs after Super Typhoon Rai in News 2021-12-21 09:30:43 -0500
After a devastating typhoon affected more than 1 million people in the Philippines, Humanity & Inclusion’s emergency teams are visiting the hardest-hit areas to determine the most urgent needs.
Super Typhoon Rai (locally called Odette) hit the Philippines a record-breaking nine times between Dec. 16 and 18, destroying numerous regions along the way. Over 1 million people have been affected, with more than 400,000 displaced in evacuation centers and another 64,000 people displaced outside of centers. While official numbers remain unclear, many are reporting more than 300 deaths. The storm brought significant flooding and 125mph winds, damaging and destroying roads, bridges, key infrastructure and over 6,000 homes. Hundreds of cities remain without reliable electricity, communication methods or access to basic goods.
Emergency teams deployed
Humanity & Inclusion was among the first actors to arrive in Bohol, one of the most affected areas, where the organization is conducting needs assessments to determine the most appropriate intervention, limitations and outcomes.
“Christmas is coming and thousands of families are homeless. People are feeling helpless and seeking assistance, but very limited assistance is available,” says Alvin Dumduma, Humanity & Inclusion’s project manager in the Philippines. “The hardest thing about my job right now is seeing my countrymen thirst and starve. Two people died in Surigao City because of dehydration; they did not know where to seek or ask for help.”
Overcrowded, under-resourced evacuation centers
Dumduma and his team are meeting with people staying at evacuation centers.
“The scarcity of food is a major problem in the centers,” Dumduma explains. “There are no hot meals and no ready-to-eat food. People have to cook their own food, but there is only one available cooker for all 800 families in one evacuation center.”
In addition to limited food sources, there are concerns for people’s health and safety.
“There are huge protection risks,” Dumduma continues. “Covid-19 has been forgotten. There is no social distancing or preventative measures; they are fitting as many people as possible into one room.
“Women, men and children are all in the same space. So, there are big protection concerns, especially for women and children at night.”
Dumduma says displaced families are eager to return home, but in many cases, it is unsafe to do so.
“People want to leave the centers and go back to their homes,” he adds. “They want to use salvaged materials and fallen trees to make a tent for shelter. This can put them in even more danger, as the materials are not stable, and in the coming days, even more rain is expected.”
Shortage of basic needs
In the most impacted areas, people are forming long lines at gas stations (pictured above), grocery stores and water stations.
“People are becoming increasingly worried that in the coming days, they will no longer have access to basic needs or gasoline, which is essential to power most machinery here,” Dumduma says. “Some water is being sent, but it is not enough considering the huge number of individuals in need. So many provinces have been affected and are calling for support.”
There is much work to be done as disaster response and recovery efforts continue.
“There is a lot of damage. We see children walking barefoot in debris and fallen trees,” Dumduma adds. “People are feeling helpless, but the Humanity & Inclusion team is still motivated and optimistic. We need to stay positive. People are smiling again when they see us arrive. Talking and listening to the affected community right now is a simple way to let them know we are here for them.”
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Philippines | Super Typhoon Rai: huge damages in News 2021-12-19 09:51:10 -0500
Typhoon Rai caused significant material damages across the middle of the Philippines. Humanity & Inclusion has an emergency team in one of the hardest-hit areas to identify needs.
Less than 48 hours after Typhoon Rai made landfall across the center of the Philippines, a Humanity & Inclusion emergency team reached the island of Bohol, one of the most affected by the storm’s devastating winds and floods. The team’s focus is on measuring the extent of damages, and identifying the most urgent needs among residents.
"When we arrived in Bohol, we could see that 90 to 95% of the houses had been submerged by the floods,” explains Alvin Dumduma, project manager for Humanity & Inclusion in Philippines. “And the houses made of light materials, like wood and metal sheets, are totally destroyed or have been swept away.”
As of Dec. 20, the death toll has risen to at least 375 people across the country. However, this toll is expected to rise, given the scale of the destruction and access difficulties, in particular due to damaged and cut-off roadways. In addition, communications were still very unstable as of Sunday evening local time.
"In the immediate future, the most urgent needs are access to drinking water, food, clothing and basic medicines,” Dumduma notes.
Due to the violent winds that affected the central Philippines, many families have lost everything. The region’s main economic activity is tourism, which was already impacted due to Covid-19 restrictions. The typhoon’s destructive nature may further aggravate the situation, and is expected to impact tourism activities in the next months.
Humanity & Inclusion teams will continue their evaluations on Monday. They’ll determine how the organization can best support the people with the greatest needs after the storm, including people with disabilities and aging residents.
In the last 20 years, natural disasters in the Philippines have claimed the lives of more than 31,000 people, and affected 98 million people. Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the country in November 2013, claimed 8,000 lives and impacted the lives of nearly 15 million people.
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published The Philippines | Working alongside communities impacted by Super Typhoon Rai in News 2021-12-17 13:37:05 -0500
Humanity & Inclusion has launched an emergency response to evaluate the impact of Super Typhoon Rai/Odette, which hit the Philippines on Dec. 16.
More than 332,800 people are displaced and staying in more than 300 evacuation centers throughout the central Philippines. The super typhoon directly affected nearly 68,000 people, according to early estimates. Reaching winds over 195 mph, this storm was as powerful as Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.
“The most impacted regions are rural areas, many of which are islands, with many traditional houses that are fragile and less resistant to this kind of disaster,” says Marie Catherine Mabrut, Humanity & Inclusion’s program manager in the Philippines. “Telephone and internet communications have been interrupted all day, which does not yet allow us to know the extent of the damage and the impact of the typhoon on the areas it has crossed.”
Deploying emergency teams
Humanity & Inclusion is deploying two teams to assess damages and community needs.
“A team will leave soon for the north of the island of Mindanao to conduct a needs analysis,” explains Mabrut. “A second team will leave as soon as possible from Manila. We hope communication services will quickly be restored, so that we can contact our partners. This is particularly important in the Central Visayas to give us a clearer vision of needs, particularly for people living with disabilities.”
Humanity & Inclusion’s staff in the Philippines is coordinating with other international actors, such as Relief International, Save the Children and Médecins du Monde. Humanity & Inclusion brings nearly 40 years of experience in emergency response, especially expertise in inclusive disaster relief efforts.
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published The Philippines | Teams ready to mobilize after Super Typhoon Rai in News 2021-12-16 15:20:06 -0500
After an intense typhoon passed through the Philippines on Thursday, Humanity & Inclusion's teams are ready to take action.
Tens of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate their homes to seek shelter as Super Typhoon Rai/Odette made landfall. Bringing with it winds of up to 125 mph, the typhoon hit several islands, and communities are still at risk of flooding, landslides and the destruction of infrastructure.
Humanity & Inclusion’s teams on the ground are preparing to travel to the affected areas as soon as it's safe to do so. Staff will move to rapidly assess the needs of the population, including people with disabilities, in order to determine specific needs and urgency.
Preparing for disasters
The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. Typhoons are common and their after-effects—landslides, flash floods, etc.—are devastating.
In the last two decades, more than 31,000 people have been killed and 98 million people affected by natural disasters in the Philippines. In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan claimed 8,000 lives and impacted nearly 15 million people.
Humanity & Inclusion has been a leading natural disaster response actor for several years and operates a disaster risk reduction project in the Philippines. In 2020, the organization responded to Typhoon Rolly-Goni, and this year a study of landslides was carried out with a range of partners to better understand and prepare for those events. Next year, Humanity & Inclusion will launch a project to review the country’s disaster preparedness and alert mechanisms.
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Rehabilitation | Going green with assistive devices in News 2021-12-16 10:03:59 -0500
When creating artificial limbs and braces, Humanity & Inclusion uses alternative, innovative solutions to limit negative environmental impacts.
Artificial limbs and braces can be life changing for many people. They open the door to countless opportunities and contribute to the invaluable autonomy and independence of their users. However, making these devices often requires an incredible amount of energy and materials.
“To make an orthopedic device, we need a lot of plastic, metals, water, plaster, carbon, resin, and more,” says Abder Banoune, rehabilitation specialist for Humanity & Inclusion.
“It takes a lot of energy, and a lot of people to make one simple device,” Banoune continues. “Each one is custom-made for the user, and new ones must be made as people grow or their bodies change. For example, many adults change prosthetics every five years, but amputation is for life. So you can imagine how many devices one person would have in their closet after 40 or 60 years. Children need to change even more frequently (every six months or a year) since they grow more. This results in a lot of waste.”
Humanity & Inclusion is committed to making quality rehabilitation care accessible to people all around the world, while remaining conscious of its ecological impact. Low-income countries, where Humanity & Inclusion primarily operates, are disproportionately affected by the negative consequences of waste, climate change and environmental neglect, all of which magnify humanitarian needs. As part of Humanity & Inclusion’s commitment to the communities it serves and to their environments, the organization takes a three-prong approach to limit waste and energy use in creating assistive devices: reuse, reduce, recycle.
After seeing old assistive devices going to waste, Humanity & Inclusion’s Rehabilitation Director Isabelle Urseau had the idea to reuse second-hand artificial limbs and braces. Banoune has seen the same thing.
“When I was working in Africa, the centers all had huge piles and containers full of destroyed or rusted devices that could not be re-used,” Banoune explains. “They are just dumped in the backyard where they would stay forever.”
In Lyon, France, Humanity & Inclusion operates a second-hand prosthetics workshop called “La Poudrette.” It’s run by retired prosthetics and orthotics professionals. The workshop receives used devices and dismantles them, conserving all of the re-usable components that can help construct new devices.
“About 50-60% of the device can be re-used,” Banoune explains. “Sometimes, if you need to repair a device, you only need one part. Instead of buying new components or having to make an entirely new prosthetic, we can still use the parts that are good quality from the old ones.”
La Poudrette has grown significantly since its creation and is now dismantling as many as 1,500 prosthetics each year, with plans to double or triple their actions in the near future.
In 2016, Humanity & Inclusion became the first NGO to use 3D printing to make braces in low-resource settings. In Uganda, the organization uses the innovative technology in refugee camps to scan individuals in need of orthopedic devices, and send the digital files off to be 3D printed in a separate location, without the recipient needing to travel to a rehabilitation center. By doing so, Humanity & Inclusion can reach more people in isolated areas while using less energy and fewer materials than the traditional method of making these devices.
When making devices the traditional way, a cast of the body is first made out of plaster, which is difficult to recycle. Plastic is then heated to 392 degrees Fahrenheit to be shaped onto the plaster cast, before later adding components such as metal joints, foam, resin laminate and others. The process requires thousands of gallons of fuel, a powerful generator, and a large center to house the equipment.
“3D printing is a unique approach to making orthopedic devices without needing huge equipment, lots of energy, or a lot of materials,” Banoune says. “It’s all virtual, so instead of using plaster, we can just scan the limbs. We don’t need a huge space and the printer only uses a small amount of energy—about three or four times less than the traditional method. In the future, I think we can power them by solar panels, which would not be possible traditionally. It’s ecological, and it is inexpensive.”
Though 3D printing is emerging as a possible solution, plaster-based creation is still the norm for most devices. The plaster required to make artificial limbs and braces is often shipped internationally and can only be used once before being thrown in the trash. Gypsum, from which plaster is made, makes up 400,000 tons of waste worldwide. Humanity & Inclusion alone creates 5 to 10 tons of gypsum waste per year through prosthetic creation, and is determined to find a solution.
Humanity & Inclusion has partnered with the National Institute of Applied Sciences, an engineering school in France, to conduct research to solve this problem. A program at the institute is performing experiments and studying efficient ways to re-use and recycle the plaster needed for the prosthetics process.
Another research program is looking at ways to locally source and recycle materials such as plastic bottles or vegetable fibers to create the filament used in 3D printing.
“It’s important to find adapted, local solutions,” explains Magdalena Szynkowska, Humanity & Inclusion’s Innovation Development Officer. “Every context might have different materials available, different vegetable fibers, and variety of types of plastic used in plastic bottles, so there may not be one single answer. It is complicated work, but I am confident that we will find solutions.”
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.
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Mine action | Celebrating 24 years since Nobel Peace Prize in News 2021-12-13 12:22:23 -0500
On Dec. 10, 1997, Humanity & Inclusion (formerly Handicap International) was co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as a member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Twenty-four years later, the fight to protect civilians continues.
In the 1980s and 1990s, on average 26,000 people a year were killed by anti-personnel mines. The vast majority were women and children.
Outraged by this injustice, Humanity & Inclusion co-founded the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) in 1992. The coalition’s campaign to outlaw these “cowardly weapons” lasted five years.
The campaign led to the formation of a global community protest movement. Within five years, it had won a key victory: the signing of the Mine Ban Treaty in December 1997 in Ottawa, Canada. The first treaty to ban a conventional weapon, it was signed by 121 States. Today it has 164 States parties. The United States is not one of them.
The same year, the members of the ICBL, including Humanity & Inclusion, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their “role in the promotion of international efforts for a total ban on anti-personnel landmines.”
The prize recognized the tenacity of these civil society organizations in pressuring States to ban these weapons.
“As well as being extraordinarily fast, the Ottawa process rewrote the diplomatic rule book on drawing up international treaties,” says Philippe Chabasse, former co-director of Humanity & inclusion who was responsible for the ICBL campaign. “The pressure from NGOs, the media and public opinion opened the way for a form of public diplomacy powerful enough to hold the conventional diplomatic system in check. A decade earlier, many considered the astonishing proliferation of mines and the rise in civilian casualties as ‘collateral damage’ of conflicts.
“The Ottawa Convention was, in effect, not universally legally binding,” he continues. “However, it set a new standard of behavior that had a political influence on the attitudes of non-signatory States.”
“HI was awarded the Nobel prize, which gave us much greater visibility,” Chabasse explains. “The success of our international campaign still serves as a model, two decades on, for other NGOs who want to shift institutional lines in order to work on the causes of the tragedies they are committed to fighting.”
For Humanity & Inclusion, this fight does not end with the ban on anti-personnel mines or the clearance of contaminated areas. There is ongoing work to help victims rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
The organization continues to pursue its campaign and leads armed violence reduction programs in 18 countries. This requires Humanity & Inclusion to work in extremely fragile situations, such as those in Iraq and Yemen, and in countries contaminated by mines or explosive devices left over from previous conflicts, like Colombia and Chad.
Civilians continue to bear the brunt of other weapons, including cluster munitions, which Humanity & Inclusion helped ban under the Oslo Treaty in 2008. Mines killed or maimed 7,000 people in 2020, of whom 80% were civilians.
Humanity & Inclusion also leads a campaign to end the bombing of urban areas, since 90% of bombing casualties in populated areas are civilians.
The fight to end the use of anti-personnel mines and protect civilians is far from over.
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published NGO Letter to US Secretary of Defense Demands Accountability and Reform After 20 Years of Civilian Harm in Press Releases 2021-12-01 16:35:27 -0500
NGO Letter to US Secretary of Defense Demands Accountability and Reform After 20 Years of Civilian Harm
On December 1, 2021, Humanity & Inclusion and 20 other organizations sent a letter to United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin urging him to account for and reckon with the civilian harm of the last twenty years and finally implement structural changes to prioritize civilian protection and accountability for civilian harm.
December 1, 2021
Lloyd J. Austin III
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301
Re: Defense Department Civilian Harm Policies and Practices
Dear Secretary Austin,
We write to express our grave concerns about the Department of Defense’s civilian harm policies and practices and their impact, as evidenced most recently by the August 29 drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan that killed 10 civilians, including an aid worker and seven children; the Air Force Inspector General’s investigation into that strike; and a New York Times report in November that the U.S. military hid the effects of a 2019 airstrike in Baghuz, Syria that killed dozens of civilians and was flagged as a possible war crime by at least one Defense Department lawyer.1 These strikes, and the Defense Department’s record of civilian harm over the past twenty years, illustrate an unacceptable failure to prioritize civilian protection in the use of lethal force; meaningfully investigate, acknowledge, and provide amends when harm occurs; and provide accountability in the event of wrongdoing. For too long, the United States has failed to live up to its legal and moral commitments to the protection of civilians, as well as its own stated policies. This needs to change.
Twenty Years of Civilian Harm
The strikes in Kabul and Baghuz, and the devastating civilian harm that resulted from them, were emblematic of twenty years of U.S. operations that have killed tens of thousands of civilians in multiple countries.23 Contrary to the Defense Department’s assertions that strikes like those in Kabul and Baghuz are unfortunate anomalies, the experiences of our organizations, many of which work directly with conflict-affected civilians and survivors of U.S. lethal strikes, show that this is simply untrue. Instead, these strikes illustrate the Defense Department’s own repeated failure to prioritize civilian protection when it plans to use force; investigate and acknowledge civilian harm when it does occur; learn from and apply lessons from past grave errors; and deliver accountability for civilian harm that has devastated families and communities.
Over twenty years, the Department of Defense has failed to adopt solutions well within its grasp; learn and implement identified lessons; exercise meaningful leadership on civilian protection issues; or assign adequate resources to address civilian harm.4 Indeed, the recommendations outlined in the Air Force Inspector General’s public summary of his investigation into the Kabul strike — to address confirmation bias, improve situational awareness, and review pre-strike procedures to assess the presence of civilians — have been issued countless times by civil society groups and in the U.S. military’s own studies, yet never implemented. A 2013 Joint Staff study, for example, identified misidentification of a target as the “primary cause of [civilian casualties] in Afghanistan,” particularly due to “perceived hostile intent” from individuals who were later revealed to be civilians.5 Understood in this context, the airstrikes in Kabul and Baghuz are not unique tragedies, but the latest in a long pattern of apparent negligence and consistent disregard for civilians’ lives, predominantly those in countries where the populations are majority Muslim, Brown, and/or Black.
Failures of Response and Accountability
The Kabul and Baghuz strikes also illustrate long-standing problems with the U.S. military’s interpretations of its international humanitarian law obligations and its response to civilian harm, including failures to investigate, publicly acknowledge, and offer amends for harm, and ensure accountability in the event of wrongdoing.
For example, The New York Times reported a series of secretive Special Operations strikes that apparently circumvented legal and policy civilian protection safeguards and raised alarm among Defense Department and CIA personnel, as well as U.S. military officials’ attempts to conceal a possible war crime at Baghuz.6 If true, this report raises grave concerns about the U.S. military’s commitment to accountability and adherence to international humanitarian law, including the duty to investigate potential war crimes and hold responsible individuals to account.7
Further, the U.S. military has consistently failed to ensure that in case of doubt about the status of a target, a person is presumed to be a civilian, as set out in Additional Protocol I and customary international humanitarian law. This appears to be the case with the Baghuz strikes8 as well as other civilian deaths over the last twenty years, including: justifying targeting of individuals based on demographics through so-called “signature strikes”; refusing to admit credible civilian casualties due to the vague possibility that women or children could be combatants;9 and most recently, the killing of civilian aid worker Zemari Ahmadi, along with his family members, based apparently on supposition and confirmation bias.10
The Defense Department’s response to the Kabul and Baghuz strikes also underscores the Department’s repeated failure to adequately investigate alleged civilian harm — including possible war crimes, as required under international law — and provide compensation or amends. For example, in an email obtained by The New York Times, an official from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations suggested that the Office’s agents would likely not investigate the possible war crime committed during the Baghuz strike because the office typically investigated civilian casualty reports only when there was “potential for high media attention, concern with outcry from local community/government, concern sensitive images may get out.” Our groups’ experience has shown that this unwillingness to thoroughly investigate and acknowledge civilian harm is often the reality across the Department of Defense. The Pentagon’s acknowledgment of civilian deaths and apology for the August 29 strike in Kabul was welcome, but unfortunately an anomaly, and came only after high-profile media reporting and investigation of the drone strike. For twenty years before that strike, independent rights groups, family members, and others have documented and submitted numerous credible reports of civilian harm from U.S. operations around the world; the vast majority have been under-investigated, unacknowledged, and without compensation or amends.1112
We urge you to robustly account for and reckon with the civilian harm of the last twenty years, and commit to finally implementing structural changes to prioritize civilian protection and accountability for civilian harm. These efforts need to incorporate civil society, and, wherever possible, communities impacted by U.S. military operations and lethal strikes.13 We specifically urge you to:
- Ensure the full and transparent investigation of civilian casualties in the Baghuz strike and August 29 Kabul strike, including an assessment of possible violations of international humanitarian law; publicly release all investigations into and relevant reports on these strikes (with minimal redactions only for legitimately classified information); provide amends for confirmed civilian casualties in accordance with survivors’ preferences and needs, including evacuation and compensation as requested by civilian survivors of the Kabul strike;14 and ensure appropriate accountability for any wrongdoing that resulted in these strikes;
- Commit to transparency around U.S. use of force and civilian harm by, as a start, publicly releasing relevant Department of Defense Inspector General reports15 and RAND Corporation studies16; publishing daily strike data17; and publishing all civilian harm assessments and investigations, including relevant AR 15-6s.
- Revise the Department of Defense Law of War Manual to reflect the presumption of civilian status, as reflected in Additional Protocol I and customary international law;
- Review the forthcoming Department of Defense Instruction on Civilian Harm, in consultation with civil society groups, to ensure that the new policy adequately addresses longstanding failures in civilian harm prevention, investigation, and amends; and
- Publicly commit to a plan, with detailed steps, to direct the Defense Department to respond to the systemic concerns raised by civil society groups in this letter and over the last two decades.
American Civil Liberties Union
Amnesty International USA
Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)
Center for Victims of Torture
Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute
Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)
Government Information Watch
Humanity & Inclusion
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch
Life for Relief and Development
Norwegian Refugee Council USA
Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
Saferworld (Washington Office)
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
Syria Justice and Accountability Center (SJAC)
Win Without War
1 Dave Philipps and Eric Schmitt, “How the U.S. Hid an Airstrike That Killed Dozens of Civilians in Syria,” The New York Times, November 13, 2021. [link]
2 Imogen Piper and Joe Dyke, “Tens of thousands of civilians likely killed by US in ‘Forever Wars’,” Airwars, September 6, 2021. [link]
3 This letter is limited to civilian harm resulting from U.S. use of force in the 20 years following the September 11th attacks.
4 See Larry Lewis, “Hidden Negligence: Aug. 29 Drone Strike is Just the Tip of the Iceberg,” Just Security, November 9, 2021. [link]
5 Joint and Coalition Operational Analysis (JCOA), “Reducing and Mitigating Civilian Casualties: Enduring Lessons,” April 12, 2013. [link]
6 According to the Times, U.S. military officials falsified strike log entries to conceal the facts of the Baghuz strike, destroyed evidence by bulldozing the blast site, and stalled efforts to investigate the possible war crime.
7 While the Defense Department’s recent announcement of a high-level investigation into these strikes is a step towards potential accountability, the investigation will have to meet standards of thoroughness and transparency we have yet to see from prior efforts.
8 The New York Times article reports that the Special Operations Task Force made the opposite presumption, based on what appears to be mere speculation. U.S. Central Command later justified the strike by stating that the many women and children killed could potentially have been combatants because “women and children in the Islamic State sometimes took up arms.” This does not comport with international law.
9 See, for example, Mwatana for Human Rights, “Death Falling from the Sky,” March 2021, and response letter from Staff Judge Advocate Thomas F. Leary in April 2021. [link]
10 Matthieu Aikins, et al., “Times Investigation: In U.S. Drone Strike, Evidence Suggests No ISIS Bomb,” The New York Times, September 10, 2021. [link]
11 For example, the Baghuz strike was part of the U.S.-led campaign in Deir Ezzor, Syria; in the final six months of that campaign, analysis shows that local civil society alleged as many as 1,780 civilian deaths from U.S.-led actions. Yet, U.S. Central Command admitted just 23 civilian fatalities. This points to profound systemic failure.
12 For example, despite repeated authorizations from Congress and the large number of officially confirmed civilian casualty cases in which survivors’ identities are known and they are reachable, ex gratia payments have been rare; in 2020, the Department made zero ex gratia payments despite $3 million in authorized funding.
13 Many of our organizations have also called for the Biden administration to end the program of lethal strikes outside areas of recognized armed conflict in recognition of the appalling toll of such lethal strikes on civilian communities around the world. [link]
14 American Civil Liberties Union, “Food Aid Organization Asks Pentagon to Help Family Members, Staff, and Survivors of Kabul Drone Strike,” October 15, 2021. [link]
15 Department of Defense Inspector General reports on Evaluation of Targeting Operations and Civilian Casualties in OIR (DODIG-2019-074) and Kinetic Targeting in the USCENTCOM Area of Responsibility (DODIG-2021-084)
16 RAND Corporation study on civilian harm practices broadly, required by Section 1721 of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act; and on civilian casualties in Raqqa, Syria.
17 Including, as a start, publishing daily strike data, locations, targets, and outcomes for all U.S. and coalition actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria since 2017, a commitment that was rescinded by the Trump administration.
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Disability Rights | HI calls for more inclusion ahead of 2022 Global Disability Summit in News 2021-12-01 13:44:52 -0500
The Global Disability Summit will be held virtually Feb. 15-17, 2022, to advance the rights of people with disabilities. Humanity & Inclusion is calling on States to commit to a more inclusive world.
Drawing on its experience in the field, in collaboration with organizations of persons with disabilities, Humanity & Inclusion will work to achieve progress on three core issues at the summit: inclusive education, inclusive health and inclusive humanitarian assistance. The organization is formally calling on States to attend and take the necessary steps toward a more inclusive future.
A call to action
The 2022 Global Disability Summit is critical to advancing the rights of people with disabilities and helping ensure they live with dignity. In the wake of the first summit in 2018, 171 international actors committed to advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities in all areas of society.
This issue will remain central to the 2022 summit. It is vitally important for States, international agencies, funding bodies and civil society organizations to attend the gathering in large numbers and make commitments that are both ambitious and practical.
Humanity & Inclusion is launching an urgent appeal to all international actors to seize this opportunity and attend the summit. The commitments made must address core inclusion issues in collaboration with organizations run by and for people with disabilities, and be supported by funding to ensure they are implemented in full.
Three core commitments
Humanity & Inclusion is committed to making progress on three key disability rights issues at the 2022 Global Disability Summit. The organization also advocates taking into account the intersections of gender and age with disability rights.
More than 32 million children with disabilities worldwide are deprived of an education—which means one-third of all children are not enrolled in school, according to a 2016 report published by the Education Commission. Humanity & Inclusion operates 48 education projects in 26 countries, collaborating with local partners to ensure the specific needs of all children, including those with disabilities, are taken into account. In 2020, Humanity & Inclusion helped 365,000 children go to school.
Humanity & Inclusion will urge national and international actors to commit to promoting access to school for girls, making education systems more inclusive and increasing funding for inclusive education policies.
Humanity & Inclusion advocates the implementation of Article 25 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which recognizes their right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health. The organization works to implement inclusive health policies, train health staff and ensure equal access to care. To achieve this, Humanity & Inclusion works alongside with people with disabilities and their organizations to uplift their voices and support their involvement in decision-making.
The organization is committed to working alongside people with disabilities and the organizations that represent them, with an emphasis on women and young people with disabilities. Humanity & Inclusion works to facilitate access to quality information and services in the field of sexual and reproductive health and to advance rights in these areas.
Inclusive humanitarian assistance
Humanity & Inclusion helps international humanitarian actors—NGOs, funding bodies and international agencies—across 20 countries to develop a more inclusive approach. To achieve this, Humanity & Inclusion works alongside organizations run by and for people with disabilities to implement humanitarian projects and programs—such as interventions related to natural disasters—that take into account the specific needs of people with disabilities. The organization works with the Global Protection Cluster—a network of NGOs and international organizations engaged in protection work in humanitarian crises—and its partners to facilitate inclusive action through a global approach that includes age, gender and disability in adopted strategies.
Humanity & Inclusion is committed to helping implement the guidelines issued by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, an inter-agency forum of UN and non-UN humanitarian partners founded to strengthen humanitarian assistance, including by giving people with disabilities and their representative organizations a voice and a role in humanitarian action. The organization plans to undertake promotion actions, gather good practices, and share tools and data on inclusive action while empowering international actors on this issue.
Humanity & Inclusion’s expertise
For more than 40 years, Humanity & Inclusion has worked to advance the rights of people with disabilities and to help them live with dignity. Across nearly 60 countries, the organization helps people with disabilities and their representative organizations participate in public debates to meaningfully shape strategies designed to meet their specific needs.
Drawing on its experience and expertise built up over many years, Humanity & Inclusion is committed to advancing the rights of people with disabilities at the 2022 Global Disability Summit. A delegation from Humanity & Inclusion will attend the summit, which will be held virtually.
Elizabeth Johnson Sellers published Colombia | Demining brings hope back to communities in News 2021-11-29 17:00:19 -0500
Five years after the end of the Colombian armed conflict, tens of thousands of landmines are still threatening people's lives. More and more women are taking on the task of removing them.
Colombia is one of the countries most contaminated by mines in the world, with 28 out of 32 departments littered with these explosive remnants of war. Over the last 25 years, nearly 12,000 people have been injured or killed by landmines there.
Jennifer Diaz Gonzalez, 25, has been working as a deminer at Humanity & Inclusion since 2017. She is working to clear weapons in the region of Vista Hermosa, Meta, the department where she grew up and still lives with her young daughter.
“The whole region was under control by a guerrilla organization,” Jennifer says.
Her father was murdered by an armed group when she was only 1 year old, and her two older brothers were forcibly recruited to fight as teenagers.
"They have disappeared since then. And there is no hope of seeing them alive again,” she explains.
The path to a safe life
Over the last six months, Jennifer and her team have scanned nearly three acres of land. She knows her job puts her in constant danger and requires her full concentration.
Finding landmines in the heavily wooded areas in Vista Hermosa can be difficult. Once she locates an explosive device, she must carefully uncover it. She then marks the location to make it visible to others. Finally, the explosive device is either defused or detonated.
"Most of the mines we find are self-made explosive devices,” she says.
Jennifer knows that demining is the key to a safe life in Vista Hermosa. Only after Humanity & Inclusion’s specialists declare a region safe, can farmers tend the fields or children play and walk safely in their community. Jennifer takes pride in what she does.
"The local people have great respect for our work,” Jennifer explains. “We will make sure that the mines disappear so that farmers can grow coffee and keep livestock without danger. That is something very beautiful.”
In Vista Hermosa, Humanity & inclusion has been running a humanitarian civilian demining project since November 2016. This village has the highest number of landmine victims in Colombia. Lockdown periods, imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, had forced Humanity & Inclusion to put demining operations on pause. Activities have since resumed and, in 2021, teams have cleared more than 30 acres of land and destroyed more than 30 explosive artifacts, most of them improvised explosive devices.
Colombia’s first mine-free municipality
On October 20, Humanity & Inclusion returned the Puracé municipality to its residents, free from landmine contamination. It was the first municipality in which Humanity & Inclusion has completed humanitarian demining operations. With funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, Humanity & Inclusion is working to clear 10 other municipalities in Colombia.
“We celebrate that communities feel safer today,” says Nicola Momentè, Regional Director for Latin America at Humanity & Inclusion. “Thanks to demining activities, lives have been saved and communities have recovered their rights. From now on, they can use their land, thanks to the hard work that was developed over the last three years between the communities, our local partner and Humanity & Inclusion.”
Mine action in Puracé included the implementation of inclusive socio-economic projects. Since the end of 2020, Humanity & Inclusion has provided start-up capital to 14 businesses started by people with disabilities—including a restaurant, coffee production and cattle breeding operation.
Humanity & Inclusion also supported an eco-touristic project in the municipality by helping with a market analysis. Puracé is located near Coconuco Natural Park, a mountainous area suitable for hiking and birdwatching. The community of Puracé leads an ancestral and cultural eco-touristic project, which they hope to develop now that hiking in the mountains is safe again.
Finally, Humanity & Inclusion conducted mine-risk education to hundreds of people who call Puracé home. The organization and its local partners held sessions on how to spot, avoid and report explosive weapons and shared safety measures likes always walking on the marked path in a dangerous zone.
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