By Logan Sullivan, Regional Advocacy Officer
A native of Portland, Oregon, Logan Sullivan works with colleagues and partners to ensure all measures are put into place to enable effective and efficient delivery of aid to crisis-affected populations in and around Syria.
The world watches Syria and it counts. On Monday, December 9, 2013, we counted the 1,000th day of conflict and halted progress, the 110,000 lives lost to war, the millions of homes abandoned out of fear and necessity, and the excess of 8.7 million livelihoods strangled by displacement—and we have no choice but to continue counting. We count the 2.2 million refugees and the 6.5 million internally displaced Syrians. And we count all that they’ve lost knowing full well that there is so much more to lose, as the wellbeing of generations to come remains very much at stake.
We try to quantify the vital needs of those inside Syria who are denied aid as a result of conflict, insecurity, and restrictions imposed on humanitarian access by parties to the conflict. But by nature of the growing inaccessibility of populations within Syria, the true volume of their unmet needs remains untallied. The human rights and international humanitarian law violations are equally as difficult to monitor, but the tallies proposed by watch groups are staggering. Increased pressure on parties to the conflict by the international community, along with thorough and collaborative efforts amongst humanitarian actors to access the vulnerable, are urgently needed to address these issues of humanitarian access.
We also count the injuries and situations of disability that result from three-and-a-half years of violence. We know that approximately 18% of refugees in Jordan and Lebanon (well over 250,000 people) are living with at least one impairment, be it physical, visual, auditory, or intellectual. We also know that approximately two-thirds of refugees over the age of 60 have at least one impairment, and more than 20% of refugees of all ages face at least one challenge in carrying out their key daily living activities. Physical accessibility of services, effective outreach mechanisms, further inclusive interventions, and prioritization of these vulnerable groups are needed to prevent them from “slipping through the net”’ of the response.
There are indeed plenty of factors that we are unable to count or quantify: the perpetual traumas endured day-by-day on behalf of so many; the incomprehensible stresses of uprooting one’s whole life to flee; the psychological strain of a war-torn home; and all that comes hand-in-hand with immeasurable misfortune.
In response to these concerns—and to the increasing exacerbation of just about all factors affecting vulnerability—Handicap International’s Emergency Response Division is providing both physical rehabilitation and psychosocial care for the most vulnerable crisis-affected populations in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. From the beginning of our regional emergency intervention last year through October 2013, more than 72,000 vulnerable people and family members have been assisted through physical rehabilitation and psychosocial activities. More than 28,000 individuals benefited from the provision of non-food aid, 13,000 from accessibility features built in Zaatari refugee camp, and 12,000 from a first stage of weapons risk education.
Additional emergency activities in the region include the provision of assistive and mobility devices, provision and fitting of prosthetics and orthotics, cash assistance, inclusion advocacy, and more—all supplemented by longstanding development programs in six countries across the region.
After 1,000 days of deadly hostilities, aid organizations carry on providing assistance as efficiently and effectively as possible in defiance of the uncountable complications and barriers that persist. Without increased humanitarian access inside Syria, without the delivery of promises in the form of adequate funding, and without putting the most vulnerable (people with disabilities, with injuries, older people, and others) at the forefront of concerns, what amounts of suffering and devastation will we be counting in another 1,000 days?