Takoma Park, MD—March 12, 2014—On the third anniversary of the conflict in Syria, Handicap International condemns the obstacles to delivering humanitarian assistance in Syria, and highlights the painful injuries and disabilities inflicted on Syrians.
Inside Syria, the United Nations counts 9.3 million people in need. Among them, an estimated 570,000 are injured. The collapse of Syria’s healthcare system has significantly increased the vulnerability of people with injuries and disabilities and older people, who find it increasingly difficult to access vital medical services.
This situation will have a serious and lasting impact on people with injuries, who risk developing permanent disabilities. In January 2014, Handicap International published a survey of displaced people in Syria who had been injured in the conflict. Sixty percent of the injured people interviewed were victims of explosive ordnance and had suffered serious physical harm. Twenty-five percent were amputees. A total of 88.5% said they did not have satisfactory access to rehabilitation care.
On Feb. 22, 2014, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution demanding that all parties to the conflict allow humanitarian access to Syrian civilians. This important resolution must be translated into action. Inside Syria, the violent and unrelenting nature of the conflict is making it extremely difficult for humanitarian organizations to conduct their operations.
The physical, psychological and economic consequences of the conflict are worsening by the day. “Restrictions on access to humanitarian assistance are a violation of international humanitarian law and are having a serious impact on people with injuries and vulnerable individuals,” says Florence Daunis, Handicap International’s Deputy Executive Director in charge of Operations. “They will also have serious consequences for the country in the future, and a generation of people will need medical and social services for life, as a result of this conflict.”
“Thirty-two years of action, often in situations of conflict and disaster, show us that it will take decades for Syria to recover from this conflict,” explains Elizabeth MacNairn, Executive Director of Handicap International U.S. “Once this conflict ends, the Syrian people will need to rebuild their shattered lives, a process which will require sustained support and significant investment from the Syrians themselves along with the international community.”
Handicap International’s response to the Syrian crisis
Since the start of the crisis and the launch of Handicap International’s operations, more than 180,000 people have benefited from the organization’s assistance, which is provided by a team of nearly 450 people. In Syria, the organization meets the post-operative needs of the injured in several health centers. It also identifies people with injuries and disabilities in camps and communities, provides them with follow-up rehabilitation care, and hands out food baskets and hygiene kits. In Lebanon and Jordan, Handicap International’s response has focused on identifying and supporting the most vulnerable people and providing physical rehabilitation services to people with injuries and disabilities. It also supplies essential non-food items to new arrivals living in conditions of extreme hardship, along with financial assistance to families in distress, and psychosocial support.
About Handicap International
Handicap International is an independent international aid organization working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. Working alongside persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our action and testimony are focused on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since it was founded in 1982, Handicap International has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. The network of eight national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States) works constantly to mobilize resources, jointly manage projects and to increase the impact of the organization’s principles and actions. Handicap International is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, and the winner of the 2011 Conrad N. Hilton Prize. Handicap International takes action and campaigns in places where “standing tall” is no easy task.