Michele Lunsford

  • Bangladesh emergency | Torrential rain affects more than 9,000 Rohingya refugees

    More than 9,000 Rohingya have been affected by floods and landslides in Bangladesh since June. HI teams continue to assist affected populations amidst a challenging environment.  


    Urgent needs

    In August 2017, HI launched an emergency response to assist hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar. Since June 2018, these already vulnerable people have had to face torrential rain, floods, and landslides, making it difficult for our teams to reach individuals and deliver humanitarian supplies.

    “Nine thousand refugees are affected by the floods and have been urgently relocated to other areas of the camp,” Jean-Loup Gouot, director of HI in Bangladesh explains. “This situation weakens an already vulnerable population who live in precarious conditions and are particularly exposed to the risk of natural disasters such as cyclones. There’s also a threat of cholera epidemics. Those affected urgently need a weather-resistant shelter, and access to water, food, and health care.”

    “We continue to provide rehabilitation care and psychological support to the most vulnerable and help deliver humanitarian aid to refugees. But due to bad weather, we only have access to 70% of our response areas. We are looking into alternative ways to access the most vulnerable individuals and to give them the support they need," adds Jean-Loup Gouot.

    Our projects in aid of Rohingya refugees

    Since August 2017, HI has assisted more than 24,000 Rohingya refugees in the Kutupalong, Balukhali, Unchipranget, and Nayapara camps. Our actions to date: 

    • Deployed 10 mobile teams, consisting of physical therapists, psychosocial wurkers, nurses, protection workers, and sports educations, who travel to the camps to identify the most vulnerable people and offer them rehabilitation care, psychological support, and recreational activities.
    • Provided rehabilitation care in homes and hospitals in Cox’s Bazar to more than 8,000 people.
    • Supplied more than 1,000 mobility aids such as crutches, wheelchairs, and walkers to people in need.
    • Provided individual or group psychological support to more than 8,500 people.
    • Arranged two storage areas in Unchiprang and Dhumdumia to store the equipment of other international humanitarian organizations.
    • Arranged a fleet of 346 trucks carrying more than 35 cubic feet of humanitarian equipment (hygiene kits, mobility aids, etc.).
    • Distributed hygiene kits to more than 4,000 people.
    • Distributed 5,000 food rations and more than 900 accommodation kits to vulnerable individuals. 

    Read the latest Bangladesh situation report (June 2018)

  • published Graduating from extreme poverty in News 2018-07-05 14:59:30 -0400

    Graduating from extreme poverty

    People with disabilities are disproportionately affected by poverty across the globe. The UN estimated in 2009 that over 426 million people with disabilities globally live below the poverty line. Complementarily in 2017, a systematic review of 150 studies (out of more than 15,000 screened) on the linkages between disability and poverty showed a consistently positive association between disability and income-related poverty status in low and middle-income countries.

    Humanity & Inclusion recognized that to achieve SDG 1: End Poverty in All Forms Everywhere, it was imperative that ultra and extremely poor poverty alleviation initiatives, such as the graduation model, was designed to systematically include people with disabilities as project holders / income earners. Responding to this need, in 2011 in Bangladesh, Humanity & Inclusion piloted a “disability-inclusive” graduation model, targeting 600 people with disabilities in Sitakunda as project holders in this DFID-funded program (under SHIREE funds).

    In addition to the basic activities typically included in a graduation program–consumption support, asset transfer, building savings, skill building, social integration, ongoing coaching, etc.–HI layered in disability-specific supports throughout the program, ensuring that each project holder has access to the rehabilitation, adapted tools, and environmental adjustments needed to increase their functional autonomy and productivity.

    After the success of our initial pilot (100% of people with disabilities graduated out of extreme poverty, according to an independent evaluation conducted by DFID/SHIREE), Humanity & Inclusion scaled this initiative, in partnership with DFID’s Global Poverty Action Fund (GPAF). Between 2015-18, HI doubled our beneficiary targets (to 1,200 people with disabilities and their households), and expanded our geographic scope of work to Kurigram Sardar. The approach was again proven effective – 98% of extremely poor beneficiary households in Kurigram Sardar graduated from extremely poor to poor status, lifting hundreds of people with disabilities and their families out of extreme poverty, and ending their dependency on social safety nets.  

    To complement Humanity & Inclusion’s direct implementation of activities, we also worked with mainstream partners Helvetas, Islamic Relief Bangladesh and YPSA, providing technical assistance to each mainstream organization on the disability-inclusive project cycle, training and coaching each organization on how to adjust their livelihood and poverty alleviation programming to be more inclusive of persons with disabilities. Through this mainstreaming approach, collectively HI reached an additional 3,000 people with disabilities living in poverty.

    In addition to showing high rates of “graduation,” the independent evaluation of Humanity & Inclusion’s most recent graduation project showed high value for money rates and strong potential for future scaling of this disability-inclusive model, both by HI and by other organizations. You can read our most recent independent evaluation, as well as the evaluation of our first disability inclusive graduation pilot, conducted by SHIREE staff.

    Read the story of Adul, a Bangladeshi man who benefitted directly from Humanity & Inclusion's graduation programming.

    To learn more about Humanity & Inclusion's graduation approach, we welcome you to contact Angela Kohama, Inclusive Livelihood Policy Lead at [email protected].

  • Growing Together Project | HI opens first-ever inclusive playground in Bangladesh

    With support from IKEA Foundation, Humanity & Inclusion constructed and opened its first-ever inclusive playground in Teknaf district, Bangladesh. Since opening day, the playground has become a place filled with children, with and without disabilities, playing and laughing together.


    It was an exciting day for the community of Teknaf in Bangladesh when a representative from the Ministry of Social Welfare joined HI staff and several dozens of children to open the first and only playground in the region. For months, community members and HI staff have been constructing the playground with local materials, under the eager eyes from the children who couldn’t wait to try out the swings, toboggans, and especially the traditional boat that has been turned into a colorful jungle gym.

    Teknaf is a very poor district. Child-friendly and inclusive places to play do not exist. “Even the open fields are disappearing quickly,” says Farid Alam Khan, a local communications officer for HI. “Due to unplanned urbanization, almost 70% of the total open space in Bangladesh has been grabbed in the last two decades. There was a huge need for a playground with child-friendly games.”

    Since opening, the playground continues to be packed with children. “Thanks to this new playground, the children can be in a different world. We’ve already noticed that the playground connects people. It also shows the parents and the community the importance of play for children, and we hope that local organizations will follow this example and will start constructing additional playgrounds,” says Farid.  

    The playground is built in an inclusive way, inviting and facilitating children with disabilities to join. “Traditionally, children with disabilities are not allowed to go out to play. But now, our teams go find children with disabilities and take them to the playground where they are welcomed. The aim is to encourage parents and other children to be more inclusive of children with disabilities.”


    Growing Together is a four-year project in Thailand, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and is funded by the IKEA Foundation. Humanity & Inclusion is creating inclusive spaces where children can come together–through play–to work through some of the challenges they face, especially children with disabilities. In addition to inclusive playgrounds, Growing Together will target the youngest children who are at risk of developmental problems. Simultaneously, the program will engage local child development service providers and help them become more responsive to the needs of boys and girls with disabilities and other vulnerable children. Learn more about the partnership.

  • Joint INGO Statement for the High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen

    April 03, 2018
    Contact: Michele Lunsford

    April 3, 2018, Geneva

    This statement is made on behalf of 22 international NGOs current working in Yemen.

    INGOs are delivering life-saving humanitarian assistance to millions of vulnerable Yemenis, despite the complex and serious nature of the security situation and sustained bureaucratic access constraints.

    For the record, we would like to formally acknowledge the dedication and commitment of all national, international and UN humanitarian aid workers in Yemen. Delivering humanitarian assistance in Yemen is neither safe nor simple, particularly for the thousands of Yemeni staff whose work to deliver shows fortitude and courage.

    The reality is that despite these gallant efforts, the humanitarian response is still failing to meet the basic needs of the 22 million Yemenis requiring assistance and protection. Yemeni people are dying of preventable illnesses, and the number on the brink of famine continues to rise.

    As INGOs we are grateful for the financial commitments made by member states here today, but more is needed to tackle a humanitarian catastrophe of the scale we see in Yemen. What we need is a marked increase in engagement from the international community in the complexities of this conflict in order to reduce the suffering of the Yemeni people.

    Therefore, today, INGOs are inviting donors and high-level Ministerial visits to Yemen, to enable you to ground your engagement and approach to supporting the country.

    • By being in Yemen you will better understand the short term but also the longer term needs of the Yemeni people, delve into the narrative and stories behind the figures cited in the HNO today. To understand the needs of the two million people that have fled their homes, the plight of the unpaid health worker, the frustration of the teachers with a classroom of hungry children, and the fear the conflict brings to daily life.
    • By being in Yemen you will better understand the grounded realities of delivering humanitarian aid and to be better placed to help resolve the daily impediments in delivering that support; to experience the frustration that comes from knowing that people are suffering because we are being prevented from reaching them – that more people could be helped if administration processes were fast tracked and security improved.
    • By being in Yemen you will better understand the modalities of the humanitarian response and the need for increased funding for livelihoods, community resilience building, and kick start the process of early recovery in parts of the country where there is some stability.
    • By being in Yemen you will better understand the devastation created by the failure of authorities to pay public servants for nearly two years. We need you to take responsibility for finding modalities to address this, and ensure hospitals, schools and water networks are operational.
    • By being in Yemen you will better understand that restrictions in imports and unstable supply chains lead to critical shortages, and to see the impact of inflated prices across basic commodities such as food, fuel and medicines.
    • By being in Yemen you will better understand that the future of the country is at risk as close to 2 million children are denied access to education.

    Finally, by being in Yemen you will foster and strengthen engagement with all important stakeholders. We need leadership from the international community that doesn’t just passively support a peace process but takes an active role in driving it forward.

    Despite the generosity of member states and the gallant efforts of the humanitarian response, the plight of the Yemeni people continues to deteriorate. We are all fearful that another year will pass, no progress will be made, and more people will suffer and die.

  • published Three deminers tell their stories in News 2018-03-26 13:15:20 -0400

    Mine action in Colombia | Three deminers tell their stories


    Leonela, 19

    Leonadia, 19, comes from La Union, a small village in Cauca. Here, she explains why she clears mines: “I wanted to be independent, leave home, and stand on my own two feet. I didn’t know anything about mines. I applied to be a mine clearance expert and did the one-month intensive training course. It’s my first job. We started working in La Venta, Cajibío, in July 2017. I cut the grass, prod the earth, and gradually move forward. It’s physical work. I know the risks but I tell myself everything’s going to be all right. It’s not always easy to share the kitchen, the tent, and toilets for six weeks, but we’re like a family. I’m proud of doing something to bring about peace in my country. I miss my boyfriend, but we call each other every day.”



    Virgilio, 39

    Virgilio, 39, fixes you with his serious, slightly mischievous stare. He supervises HI’s team of mine clearance experts in the municipality of Cajibío (Cauca, Colombia). It was a natural choice of career for Virgilio. “The country was very volatile when I was growing up. There was a lot of violence and it was very tense. I saw people maimed and wounded. My family and I were displaced by force twice - we had to leave Medellin and then Nariño. We had two hours to leave everything behind – our home, our plantations. Our animals were going to die. It was very hard. Today, I want to save lives and to help bring peace to my country. I started by working for an American mine clearance organization and, since 2017, for HI. When I tell people I clear mines, they say: “You’re crazy! You look for explosive devices in the ground without knowing exactly where they are!” I feel confident, though. The hardest thing is to be separated from my wife and son – I see them every six weeks. But I’m proud of my work and of helping restore land to indigenous communities and peasants.”



    Horacio, 43

    “I come from the NASA indigenous community in Corinto, Cauca. My wife, Francy, is a student. I’ve always helped to defend my country. I was a soldier in Florencia for eight years. It was a bleak time and I don’t find it easy to forget those years. I remember one particularly awful experience: we were being chased so we had to run and climb through some barbed wire. My friend, another soldier, who was close to me, stepped on a mine, which exploded. He was covered in blood and his leg was badly injured. Two other soldiers behind him were wounded. They were taken away in a helicopter. My friend didn’t survive – he died in the air. It was awful. We were really close. And it could have been me. Two years later, I’d reached the end of my tether, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I left, got married, and started working on coffee plantations again.

    At the end of 2016, I applied to be a mine clearance expert with Humanity & Inclusion (then, Handicap International). I’ve seen so many people with injuries, people maimed by the conflict. I never want another child or indigenous person to be injured by a mine again. What drives me is the team. We’re like a family. We spend our lives together. We get up at 4:30 am and go to bed at 9:00 pm. We stick together when we’re feeling stressed, and remind each other that our job is really worthwhile. My dream is to lead a team of mine clearance experts one day.”

  • published Issue 10: Running from bombs in The Next Step 2018-03-19 11:46:05 -0400

  • published Bringing hope to Syrians in The Next Step 2018-03-19 11:45:16 -0400

  • published Issue 8: Historic Laos visit in The Next Step 2018-03-19 11:44:27 -0400

  • Burundi Emergency | Thousands of unaccompanied children descend on Burundi

    Following ongoing clashes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than 10,000 people have left South Kivu and are taking refuge in south-western Burundi. Humanity & Inclusion (which works under the operating name “Handicap International” in Burundi) is on the ground, assisting the most vulnerable, including thousands of unaccompanied children.

    “We are preparing to implement protection activities targeted at the most vulnerable people, particularly children, who account for more than 65% of refugees,” explains Audrey Lecomte, HI’s Head of Mission in Burundi. “Many of them arrived without their parents and are particularly at risk from violence, exploitation, or abandonment. We want to protect girls and women by providing them with psychological support and making them aware of the risk of violence. HI needs funding to launch its emergency response.”

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    “The needs of refugees in transitional camps are considerable. These camps are designed to provide very temporary accommodation and are now operating beyond full capacity. Access to services such as health care and aid remains extremely limited given the needs of these refugees.

    “Many people without shelter sleep grouped together in hangars. The shortage of water and sanitary facilities, such as toilets, has increased the risk of a cholera epidemic. The most vulnerable people including children, women, older people, and people with disabilities are particularly at risk. We’re expecting to see a new influx of refugees in the weeks ahead.”

    Our work in Burundi

    Present in Burundi since 1992, HI helps ensure people with disabilities have access to basic services and rehabilitation and are involved in their social and economic environments. Learn more about our work in Burundi.

  • Project Update | Investing in Maternal and Child Health in Togo

    Photo: Renovation of the pharmaceutical storage unit at Tabligbo district hospital, Togo.

    HI is improving health facilities for pregnant women and newborns in the maritime region of Togo. Thanks to these interventions and others, neonatal mortality is expected to fall by 20% by the end of 2019.

    In Togo, the majority of pregnant women and newborn babies do not have access to appropriate healthcare during pregnancy, delivery and the early years. Sadly, the consequences can be fatal—the infant mortality rate in Togo is high, particularly in the maritime region, and 398 in 100,000 mothers die as a result of complications during childbirth.


    Currently, many women have to travel long distances to reach the nearest health facility. And when they arrive, they find expertise and access to medication is often unavailable. As a result, women are deterred from attending pre-natal appointments, reducing the chances for health actors to provide basic care, and to detect any concerns with how the baby is developing or how the mother’s health is faring.

    Funding from the French Development Agency (AFD) has allowed HI to invest in the renovation of ten health centers in the maritime region of Togo. Pictured is the pharmaceutical storage unit at Tabligbo district hospital, where simple improvements to the security and quality of the building allow the hospital to store and prescribe all necessary medicines to support the maternity unit.

    Across the ten centers, many different adaptations have been made, from increasing the number of toilets and making them accessible to people with disabilities, to increasing the number of maternity rooms to 31, up from 3. The project also provides training for health center staff to ensure that all essential maternity care can be correctly administered.

    The project is due to run until 2019, at which point HI aims for neonatal mortality in the maritime region to drop by 20% and maternal mortality by 25%.