On the fourth anniversary of the Syrian conflict, which began March 15, 2011, Handicap International calls on the international community to guarantee people with injuries and illnesses access to care. This task has become incredibly difficult since the closing of certain borders, with local teams reporting fewer Syrians crossing the borders, but more severe injuries among those who do.
The numbers associated with this crisis are tragic. The conflict has caused more than 191,000 deaths, and one million injuries. Tens of thousands of Syrians now require prostheses, orthoses, and long-term rehabilitation care. Four million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries, while another 7.6 million people have escaped their homes, but remain displaced inside Syria.
Handicap International has deployed 600 people to respond to the needs of people with injuries, disabilities, chronic conditions, and psychological trauma. The operation is Handicap International’s largest and most complex in its 33-years of action.
“Handicap International is taking immediate action to prevent the development of permanent disabilities,” says Florence Daunis, Handicap International’s director of operations and technical resources. “Once peace is restored in Syria, the country will need substantial resources to ensure people injured in the conflict have access to rehabilitation care and adapted orthopedic devices for the rest of their lives.”
Since the launch of operations in Jordan and Lebanon in 2012, Handicap International has continued to scale-up activities, expanding its response to Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan. Teams have supplied aid to more than 360,000 people, and fitted 2,700 people with orthotic devices. A total of 190 people visit camps and communities to find the most vulnerable people, including people with disabilities, to help them access services and facilities.
“We constantly adapt our approach to the situations of Syrians who stayed in their country, and to refugees—who move from camps to reception centers to host communities—in order to respond to the needs of vulnerable people as effectively as possible,” Daunis says. “We are determined to keep track of them. We set up telephone hotlines in Jordan and Lebanon so that refugees experiencing the greatest difficulties and those living in host communities—making them less visible than in a camp setting–can call us so we know where to find them, and how best to help them.”
Handicap International’s hotline in Jordan fields between 500 and 600 calls per month. “The needs are acute,” says Jeff Meer, Executive Director of Handicap International U.S. “We know that in addition to the general vulnerabilities among this refugee community, at least 30% of refugees in Jordan and Lebanon have specific needs, ranging from physical impairments to chronic diseases and injuries related to the conflict, that require the kind of tailored, inclusive response that Handicap International is particularly well suited to provide.”
Access to rehabilitation and orthopedic- and prosthetic-fitting for survivors is key to preventing permanent disabilities, loss of autonomy, and social exclusion. Such access helps to reduce the long-term impact on health systems and, more generally, Syrian society.
Handicap International also signed, with 20 other humanitarian and human rights organizations, a new report called “Failing Syria,” published on March 12.
The report examined three Security Council resolutions adopted in 2014 that demanded action to secure protection and assistance for civilians. However, the report found that humanitarian access to large parts of Syria has diminished and more people are being killed, displaced and are in need of help than ever before.
The agencies presented a score card that compares the agreements made in last year’s Security Council resolutions 2139, 2165, and 2191, with the reality on the ground today. The grim statistics reveal how the resolutions have been ignored or undermined by the parties to the conflict, members of the Security Council and other UN member states, leading to the worst year of the crisis for civilians:
- More injuries: 2014 has seen reports of 76,000 people killed in the conflict out of a total of at least 220,000 deaths over four years.
- Aid struggles to reach hidden populations: 4.8 million people reside in areas defined by the UN as “hard to reach”, 2.3 million more than in 2013.
- Humanitarian needs have increased: 5.6 million children are in need of aid, a 31 per cent increase since 2013.
- Needs further outstrip humanitarian funding: In 2013, 71% of the funds needed to support civilians inside Syria and refugees in neighboring countries were provided. In 2014, this had declined to 57%.
“The sad reality is that the Security Council hasn’t been able to apply its resolutions,” says Handicap International’s advocacy director, Anne Héry. “The situation worsened again over the past year, both in terms of protecting civilians and access to humanitarian aid. We need to do everything possible to ensure there’s an opening so that we can case-manage the numerous victims and immediately reduce the physical and psychological suffering of people living in Syria.”
- Hidden victims of the Syrian crisis: disabled, injured and older refugees (2014)
- Syria: Causes and types of injuries (2014)
- New video: Why we care (2015)
About Handicap International
Handicap International is an independent international aid organization. Its teams have operated projects in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 33 years. Working alongside persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our action and testimony are focused on responding to their essential needs and improving their living conditions. Since it was founded in 1982, Handicap International has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. More than 3,500 people currently work for the organization. Handicap International is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the co-winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, the 1996 Nansen Refugee Award, and the winner of the 2011 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize.