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Our history

Find out more about HI's history.

Jean Baptiste and Marie Richardier with 2 children, Mom and Sorpin, in the Khao I Dang refugee camp on the Thai-Cambodia border, 1980s

Jean Baptiste and Marie Richardier with two children, Mom and Sorpin, in the Khao I Dang refugee camp on the Thai-Cambodia border, 1980s | © HI

"Our history is intimately connected with the most terrible injustices of the last 40 years. It would not be complete without mentioning the amazing people who have helped us, and the fraternity that exists even under the worst possible conditions. It is this mutual support that motivates us to carry on, to provide tangible, practical solutions to problems, made possible by the help of local communities and the spirit of solidarity. This is something that has never failed us: in every culture, in every part of the world, families never give up. It is our duty and our responsibility to do the same."
Jean-Baptiste Richardier, co-founder of Humanity & Inclusion (HI)

1982: HI is founded

Thailand, 1982. 160,000 Cambodians flee the Khmer Rouge regime to take refuge in the Khao I Dang camps. Hidden among the crowds, more than 6,000 people with amputations, many of them victims of anti-personnel landmines. No one is concerned with their fate.

Outraged by the situation, two young doctors decide to produce artificial limbs using the only materials available – bamboo and a few strips of leather. Handicap International (HI) is created and with it the start of an ongoing fight against the injustice faced by people living in particularly vulnerable circumstances.

HI’s first rehabilitation centers are set up in refugee camps in Thailand, Cambodia, Burma and Laos. Refugees are taught to produce simple, adjustable artificial limbs. Made from local resources such as leather, bamboo, wood, iron, and used tires, the devices are easy to repair.

We develop simplified physical rehabilitation programs to teach people to walk again. We train local technicians to support people with new amputations and provide follow-up care for people who have been fitted with artificial limbs. We also cooperate closely with medical teams in the camps to improve the surgical outcome of amputations.

Slowly but surely, the landmine victims we support start to regain their dignity and independence.

1984: Angola

HI opens an orthopedic-fitting and rehabilitation care workshop in Angola, the organization’s first African program.

1986: Mozambique

HI launches the Mozambique program during the civil war to provide assistance to people with disabilities in the province of Inhambane. 

1990: Romania

Staff launch an intervention in Romanian orphanages following the fall of the Ceausescu regime, the organization’s first mental health project.

1992: HI joins forces to ban landmines

Despite the positive impact of our actions, we soon realize that constructing artificial limbs alone is not enough. Millions of landmines still lie hidden in the ground, claiming new victims every day.

In 1992, HI sets up the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) with five other organizations. It’s the beginning of a long political fight to protect civilians whose lives are threatened every day by these indiscriminate weapons.

The campaign gains the support of millions of citizens around the world, along landmine-affected communities, NGOs and some governments.

1993: Balkans War

HI is one of the few NGOs to provide support to populations on all sides of the conflict.

1994: Rwanda

In Rwanda, HI provides aid to injured survivors of the genocide and isolated children. The organization also wins the Prix Cristal (Crystal Prize) for financial transparency.

1996: Sierra Leone

In Sierra Leone, teams offer aid to the victims of the civil war. This same year, HI receives the Nansen Prize, the most prestigious prize that can be awarded by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), for its work among refugees and victims of landmines.

1997: Mine Ban Treaty

The Mine Ban Treaty is signed in Ottawa, Canada in 1997. This legally binding international agreement bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of antipersonnel mines and places obligations on countries to clear affected areas, assist victims and destroy stockpiles. (The U.S. still has not signed the Mine Ban Treaty.)

The founding members of the ICBL are jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the same year.

1999: Senegal/Kosovo

Mine risk education begins in Casamance, Senegal. Demining operations start in Kosovo, where HI is named disability and physical rehabilitation coordinator.

2001: India

Teams support survivors of the earthquake in Gujarat.

2004: Southeast Asia

Following the tsunami on December 23, an emergency intervention begins and extends into 2005.

2006: Disability rights

The United Nations adopts the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), to which HI made a major contribution.

2008: Cluster Munitions

The Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions is signed. HI had campaigned on this issue since 2003 as part of an international coalition.

2010: Haiti/Pakistan

HI deploys its first emergency response team to Haiti in 2010 following the January 12 earthquake. In August, teams respond to devastating flooding in Pakistan.

2011: Libya/Ivory Coast

Post-conflict emergency intervention in Libya and the Ivory Coast. The Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize is awarded to HI.

2012: Syria

As violence in Syria escalates, hundreds of thousands of Syrians flee to neighboring countries. HI launches an emergency response to aid refugees in Lebanon and Jordan.

2013: Philippines

HI launches emergency intervention in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan which hit the country in November.

2015: Nepal

HI launches an emergency intervention in Nepal following the April 25 earthquake.

2016: Harkin Summit & NGO Advisor

HI attends the inaugural Harkin International Disability Employment Summit and presents on the wage employment of people with disabilities. With inclusive livelihood jobs in dozens of countries, HI is a committed member of the Summit planning committee. 

NGO Advisor ranks HI #8 out of 500 of the world's best non-governmental organizations.

2018: A new brand

In January 2018, the global Handicap International network became Humanity & Inclusion.

The network is composed of a Federation that implements our programs in approximately 60 countries, and of eight national associations, including the U.S. Depending on the country, our programs and national associations are known as "Humanity & Inclusion" or "Handicap International."

► Find out more about our new brand

2019: Harkin Summit

HI hosts the first-ever Harkin Summit in Paris, France.

2020: COVID-19, Horizon Prize & Beirut

The COVID-19 emergency is Humanity & Inclusion's largest-ever emergency response operation. Since March 2020, donors helped launch more than 170 COVID-19 projects in dozens of countries to protect and care for the people that others overlook. Between March and August 2020, staff reach 2.2 million people with care and aid to keep the virus at bay.

The European Union Horizon Prize 2020 honored Humanity & Inclusion with two awards for its Odyssey2025 project on the use of drones in mine clearance operations and its Tele Rehabilitation For All project. The $2.3 million humanitarian prize allows Humanity & Inclusion to establish a new fund to help fuel future advances in innovation and technology.

Following the devastating blasts of stored explosives, HI launches an emergency response in Beirut, Lebanon.

2021: Haiti & Afghanistan

HI launches an emergency response following the August earthquake in Haiti.

Following the withdrawal of U.S. troops and transfer of power to the Taliban, HI's teams work to maintain actions that provide aid to people with disabilities and civilians injured in conflict.

2022: Ukraine, Pakistan & Stop Bombing Civilians

In response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, HI launches an emergency response in Ukraine, Romania, and Moldova to assist injured and displaced Ukrainians.

Following catastrophic flooding that left one-third of Pakistan underwater, HI launches an emergency response to deliver emergency supplies.

Dozens of States, including the U.S., endorse a political declaration against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. HI provided feedback for the declaration's text and advocated for its passage to protect and assist civilians impacted by these weapons.

Our progress inspires us to go even further.

Over time, our organization has expanded into a global network supporting people with disabilities in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work tirelessly to help meet their basic needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.

But even today, so much more remains to be done.

Around the world, explosive weapons are still claiming lives and limbs. And people with disabilities are still being excluded and forgotten.

► Find out more about disability worldwide

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Our mission
© C. Billet /Hamsa Press/HI

Our mission

Humanity & Inclusion (HI) is an independent and impartial aid organization working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work alongside people with disabilities and individuals experiencing extreme hardship, taking action and bearing witness in order to respond to their essential needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.

Ways to Give
© R. Crews / HI

Ways to Give

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Work with us
© Brice Blondel/HI

Work with us

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