June 18, 2014 - The attacks of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS)—which now controls Mosul and other important cities in northern Iraq—have caused hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to flee their homes. Many have made their way to Iraqi Kurdistan, sheltering in schools, mosques, tents, and in the homes of relatives. UNHCR estimates that 40% of these refugees are considered vulnerable: People with disabilities, the injured, and other at risk individuals. In order to address this situation, Handicap International, already present in Iraqi Kurdistan since 1991, is launching a new project to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people among the displaced.
“Kurdistan is increasingly becoming the only safe area in the north of Iraq,” says Benedetta Di Cintio, Handicap International’s Head of Mission in Iraq. “If a solution is not found quickly to the current armed conflict, it is very likely that many more people will flee to Iraqi Kurdistan, which is already hosting 229,000 Syrian refugees. Humanitarian actors have already started to organize the distribution of relief goods. Handicap International will ensure that people with disabilities and injuries have access to aid and services. These people represent more than 15% of the displaced populations and without focused effort to reach this group, they risk being left out of the humanitarian response.”
Handicap International will work in the internally displaced populations (IDP) camps. “The goal of our intervention is first to identify the people with disabilities and injuries among the displaced populations, and to assess their needs, in order to be able to address them through personal support,” says Di Cintio. “We should be able to provide direct assistance to about 1,500 people and their families in the next three months.”
“Beyond this, we are working with other humanitarian actors to ensure that all people with a disability or an injury have priority access to aid and to the services. We have been working on this issue since January 2014. For example, our teams ensure that Syrian refugees with limited mobility can more easily access water and hygiene facilities in the camps. We will do everything we can to provide all of the major organizations responding to this crisis with the tools they need to address the challenge of accessibility.”