In South Sudan’s Juba County, Humanity & Inclusion has identified more than 5,200 people with disabilities as well as very frail people who need support as the coronavirus makes its presence known. Vulnerable among the vulnerable, most are already displaced from their homes, and face numerous barriers to staying safe from COVID-19.
Nearly 11 million people live in South Sudan, and statistical modeling suggests that the coronavirus is likely to reach more than half of the population. For a country with just 24 intensive care unit (ICU) beds and very limited medical equipment, slowing the spread of the virus is paramount, and Humanity & Inclusion teams have been fighting to do just that since March.
The presence of the coronavirus was detected late in this East-Central African country. The first COVID-19 case appeared in early April. Trend analysis from 45 African countries that reported cases as of March 24, suggests almost all countries will reach 1,000 cases by the end of May, and 10,000 cases a few weeks after that. We are on standby for a rapid increase in the number of new cases in South Sudan within 3-6 weeks from end of April.
Humanity & Inclusion has been accompanying vulnerable people with disabilities and internally displaced people in South Sudan since 2006. Fearing the worst, our 95-person team had anticipated the risks, and had already adapted their activities to prevent the spread of the virus.
Disastrous hygiene conditions
“Our teams are making every effort to improve the country's emergency response to COVID-19 and to protect the most vulnerable,” explains Armogast Mwasi, South Sudan Program Director for Humanity & Inclusion. “From door-to-door outreach to the most vulnerable, to the coordination of working groups with the country's health authorities, HI is working at all levels. But the situation is complicated.
“Health and hygiene conditions are disastrous. 56% of the South Sudan population are without access to primary health care services. And out of approximately 2,300 health facilities, more than 1,300 (57%) of facilities are non-functional and health facility surveillance gap is at 40%. Plus, more than half of the population lacks access to safe water and a mere 15% have access to latrines. Currently the country is home to 1.67 million displaced people and 279,880 spontaneous returnees are living in the country.
“Even without the coronavirus, 6 million people are likely to experience crisis or emergency food security outcomes. Communities with high numbers of returnees and IDPs are particularly vulnerable, given that food sources and market supplies are already scarce. Closure of border crossings related to COVID-19 response have put pressure on already high food prices, exchange rate fluctuations, closure of businesses considered non-essential with key concerns on reduced income earning opportunities, further increasing their vulnerability. The result takes the form of negative coping strategies and disease outbreaks.
“So, as you can imagine, the conditions here are definitively not in place to effectively combat the spread of the pandemic, but our teams are doing their best to protect our beneficiaries, the persons with disabilities and older people, among the most vulnerable to this virus. The virus exacerbates the ongoing humanitarian crisis around health infrastructure, economy, livelihoods and water, sanitation and poor hygiene.
“The challenge for Humanity & Inclusion is to maintain access in the midst of movement restrictions, xenophobic and violent attacks to meet the basic needs of vulnerable people so they do not become even more vulnerable. We must ensure their access to food, hygiene products and health services, as much as possible.”
Humanity & Inclusion’s activities continue in the settlements of displaced people, but in addition HI now also contributes to prevention activities. Awareness raising and learning how to stop the spread of the virus is done with each beneficiary or target group, and the ways we do this are also adapted to protect each person from the virus. We have already conducted 389 house-to-house sessions, reaching 3,110 individuals.
For that purpose, HI led active and systematic identification, evaluation and referral of persons with specific needs or extremely vulnerable Individuals. By late March, the project had identified more than 5,200 people in two UN protection of civilian sites in Juba. All of these individuals will learn to protect themselves and their friends and families from COVID-19. On April 1, we launched home-to-home community engagement awareness campaigns on COVID-19 preparedness, prevention and response in the protection of civilian sites.
"Leave No One Behind" – One of our key messages:
“People with disabilities are at high risk of getting sick during the COVID-19 pandemic because they may not receive information on how to protect themselves. They may be unaware of where and how to access the services and support they need. Share all information you receive with persons with disabilities and their caregivers, so they can also be informed!"
Humanity & Inclusion has trained and identified 27 staff, as well as 69 community focal contacts, including older people, members of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs or DPOs), women and youth representatives, and religious leaders in two protection of civilian sites run by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
So far, teams have conducted 12 awareness-raising sessions, each with only eight participants, according to social distancing measures. Participants learn to protect themselves and provide the people they assist with prevention information. They were taught about the COVID-19 outbreak, the ways the virus spreads, signs and symptoms, and precautionary measures such as the use of face masks, avoiding handshakes, social distancing, and frequent hand washing. They also learned how to spread positive messages, regarding the protection of the people with disabilities, and how people with disabilities and their caregivers should be provided equal access to healthcare and supportive services.
Reaching as many people as possible
In order to effectively raise awareness of COVID-19, and to reach the greatest number of people with stay-healthy messages, the team has involved media, and has sponsored one radio talk show reaching approximately 280,000.
With the support and input from organizations of persons with disabilities, we have adapted the national task force’s COVID-19 awareness materials. Two posters and a radio script will be used for wide circulation throughout South Sudan.
Simultaneously, Humanity & Inclusion has been coordinating with national authorities and humanitarian actors in three of the five established COVID-19 working groups. These groups are risk communication and community engagement, infection prevention and control, and case management. HI staff are participating in bilateral meetings and the national coordination platform, clusters, and technical working groups. In the health cluster, HI has been appointed the lead agency for coordination of the sub-group on COVID-19 mental health and psychosocial support national hotline and disability working group.
Humanity & Inclusion works to protect the most vulnerable
As of May 7, we count 141 new projects that aim to protect our beneficiaries and staff from the virus, and to help them during their countries' lock downs. As COVID-19 takes aim at our planet's most vulnerable neighbors, we're ensuring that people with disabilities, people with injuries from conflict, children, women, and especially older people have the information--and even the soap--to stay healthy. Learn more about our COVID-19 response.
“This will help protect people from COVID-19,” Akhter Mohammad says amid a growing pile of finished masks he has sewn. He and his wife care for their three children in a rural area of Afghanistan’s Dand district of Kandahar. Akhter is 28, the oldest of 15 brothers and sisters, and therefore carries a responsibility to also look after his extended family, including his parents. His village offers few opportunities for work aside from for harvesting, which doesn’t provide enough income to support a family like his.
Akhter’s role was further challenged when he was injured from conflict, leaving him with a permanent disability. Without access to rehabilitation in his village, he endured years of pain, and his knee became misaligned, causing even more discomfort.
In 2019, Humanity & Inclusion heard of his condition, and paid for him to make daily, 1.5-hour journeys to Kandahar, where the team would help him find a more dependable livelihood. He chose sewing, learning stitches alongside students with and without disabilities.
Humanity & Inclusion’s experience showed that a new skill, on its own, wouldn’t prove useful if Akhter was still in pain. So, the team arranged for him to receive physical therapy. They also explored accommodations that would make his day-to-day living easier. For Akhter, physical accessibility was never made a priority within his family or community. It wasn’t until meeting our team that he learned about accessibility and was able to benefit from the accommodations made by our team in the classes.
With a certificate of completion and a sewing tool kit from his course in March 2020, he was ready. But so was COVID-19.
Noting a dearth of personal protection equipment across Afghanistan, Humanity & Inclusion reached out to Akhter and his classmates to see if they wanted to learn to sew masks. Mask-making classes had to be remote, due to a lockdown, but students were interested.
With a new pattern, Akhter got to work. "It’s a way to practice, as well as a source of income,” Akhter says. “This effort helps fulfill the shortage of PPE, especially here in the rural area, where people don’t have access to the city to purchase masks anymore, because of lockdown."
His first customers are his neighbors. He also shows them how to use the masks properly, and shares the stay-healthy messages he learned from Humanity & Inclusion. Hospitals and pharmacies also need masks, so his customer base is not limited.
“It’s a good moment for me,” he says. “I am feeling happy with the response and appreciation of the people when they see masks are available in their village. For me it is a time to fill the need and make relations.”
Dreaming of growth
Akhter is optimistic about tailoring. He makes clothing for his children and other family members, and has recently started receiving orders from customers who require different designs and sizing. This challenge encourages him to learn even more in-depth sewing skills.
He dreams of becoming a successful tailor, and, after the lockdown, he plans on opening a tailor shop—the first in his village. His goal: to train as many young people as possible to become tailors, just like him.
COVID-19 response in Afghanistan
Humanity & Inclusion’s team in the country is spreading awareness messages with beneficiaries like Akhtar. In addition to receiving information from the government, Akhter and his family is receiving guidance from our team on how to stay safe from the virus.
Humanity & Inclusion works to protect the most vulnerable
As of May 5, we count 141 new projects that aim to protect our beneficiaries and staff from the virus, and to help them during their countries' lock downs. As COVID-19 takes aim at our planet's most vulnerable neighbors, we're ensuring that people with disabilities, people with injuries from conflict, children, women, and especially older people have the information--and even the soap--to stay healthy. Learn more about our COVID-19 response.
Humanity & Inclusion donors know that children like three-year-old Sanaullah deserve a fighting chance when the adults' wars cause them harm. Children like Sanaullah rely on Humanity & Inclusion donors to consistently step up to provide rehabilitation care, artificial limbs as they grow, crutches, wheelchairs, and a welcome smile from staff.
Please, make a tax-deductible donation and help a child like Sanaullah. We make every dollar you give count:
$20 can provide a pair of crutches
$35 can fit a child recovering from grave injuries with an artificial limb
$50 can provide a course of daily rehabilitation sessions to help child who is hurting learn to play again
Join us in supporting innocent victims. Any amount makes a difference.
*Any funds raised beyond the needs of our response will be used to support other vital programs in the area and around the world.Donate
"Six years ago, I stepped on a landmine in my vineyard," Hazrat explains. The young man was only 19 years old and was about to begin a day of work with his father and brother when a landmine devastated his life. On that day, he lost both of his legs.
Following this tragedy, his family preferred to leave their native village in Afghanistan, but decided to stay in the same district of Panjwai—a region where insecurity is widespread. There, they have very limited access to health services and a poor transport system. This is one of the reasons why in the last five years, Hazrat has not received any rehabilitation care—including the use of a wheelchair.
Gaining strength through rehabilitation care
Everything changed in 2019 when Hazrat met Humanity & Inclusion’s mobile emergency team. Since then, the young man has been regularly followed in his village, located nearly 50 miles from the Kandahar Physical Rehabilitation Center, which is run by Humanity & Inclusion. The mobile team goes directly to his home where they provide him with rehabilitation care, treatments, advice to compensate for his muscle weakness, as well as, psychosocial support.
A new, fitted wheelchair = independence
Hazrat is most excited about how much his life has changed since receiving his new wheelchair and learning how to use it. "Before, I couldn't move at all,” he continues. “My parents carried me from one place to another inside my home. I couldn't go outside and visit my neighbors and sisters. I am now in the position to do so. I am free and happier.”
Finding independence and success
"We were very worried about Hazrat and his future," his father says. "We came to consider him as a burden because he always needed someone to help him in every movement. He couldn't move alone and go to the bathroom or outdoors. He always had to be assisted by someone in the family. Now everything has really changed. We are less worried because he is independent and because he is also thinking again about his future. He's going to go to school to study and he can succeed!"
On January 31, the Trump Administration announced a roll-back of its landmine policy, effectively allowing the U.S. to resume the use of antipersonnel landmines—a weapon the U.S. hasn't used in decades, and one that's banned by 164 other countries.
We are devastated. Our executive director, Jeff Meer told the Associated Press that it's "a death sentence for civilians."
Help us tell President Trump to abandon his landmine policy. Sign our petition NOW.
Since 1996, Handicap International has managed the only rehabilitation center in Kandahar, Afghanistan, providing comprehensive services to disabled people. In 2015, the center hosted more than 7,000 patients. On average, 20% of new arrivals have a lower limb amputated as a result of landmines, improvised explosive devices, and other weapons.Read more
The worldwide use of banned explosive weapons such as landmines and cluster bombs increased significantly in 2014 and 2015, largely due to unchecked use in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar, and Tunisia. To mark the international day of landmine and cluster munition awareness, April 4, Handicap International is calling on the international community to strongly condemn this practice, and for an immediate end to the use of these weapons.
Banned under international law, these weapons have been used at an alarming rate in recent years. Cluster munitions use is at its highest level since 2010, when the Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force. Handicap International is calling on States and non-State armed groups to immediately end the use of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, as well as their sale, and transfer. Any use of these weapons must be unanimously and systematically condemned.
According to the latest Cluster Munition Monitor report, published in August 2015, cluster munitions were used in five countries between July 2014 and July 2015: Libya, Syria, Sudan, Ukraine, and Yemen—all States which have not signed the treaty. Not since the ban treaty entered into force in 2010, have so many States or non-State actors been involved in the use of cluster munitions. The Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) has also found cluster munitions used on numerous occasions in Yemen and Syria.
In stark contrast, the Cluster Munition Monitor found only two countries impacted by the use of cluster munitions in 2011 and 2012, and three in 2013.
79% of victims are civilians
The latest Landmine Monitor report, published in November 2015, found an alarming and “significant increase” in the use of anti-personnel mines and improvised explosive devices by non-State armed groups in ten countries: Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, Pakistan, Syria, Tunisia, Ukraine, and Yemen. The last time the Monitor reported use of these weapons in ten or more countries was 2006.
The vast majority of casualties of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions are civilians—79% of reported casualties.
“The repeated use of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions reveals a total disregard for civilian lives and, in some cases, a deliberate intention to target them,” says Emmanuel Sauvage, the organization's anti-mine action regional coordinator, based in Amman, Jordan. “Cluster munitions kill and main during an attack. They also leave explosive remnants behind that function like anti-personnel mines and can cause casualties long after a conflict has ended.”
Yemen is a particularly revealing example. For several months, explosive weapons have been used by all parties to the conflict on a massive scale in populated areas. Anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions have been deployed regularly. In May 2015, Human Rights Watch, for example, confirmed the use of cluster munitions in the north of the governorate of Saada, close to the border with Saudi Arabia. Cluster munitions landed less than 600 meters from several dozen homes. Anti-personnel mines were also used on several occasions this summer. In total, since March 2015, Human Rights Watch has recorded 15 incidents involving six types of cluster munitions in at least five of Yemen’s 21 governorates: Amran, Hajja, Hodaida, Saada, and Sanaa.
Handicap International is calling on States and non-State armed groups to immediately end the use of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, their sale and transfer, to strongly condemn their use under any circumstances and, when they are party to a conflict, to apply pressure on their allies not to use these weapons.
Sayed is lying on his bed, playing with a helicopter, at the Kandahar rehabilitation center in Afghanistan. Although his father, Mohammad, shows a lot of affection towards his child, his words are more guarded: “Sayed used to play a lot with other children and his brothers and sisters, but the accident had a big impact on his life, and ours.”Read more
Already present in the field, Handicap International’s teams are ready to launch an emergency response after a violent 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit Afghanistan and Pakistan today, October 26. According to initial estimates, dozens of people have been killed and hundreds have been injured at the epicenter in Badakhshan, a mountainous area of the Hindu Kush, 106 miles from Kabul.Read more
In Afghanistan, Humanity & Inclusion continues to run programs under the operating name "Handicap International."
Humanity & Inclusion in Afghanistan
Working in Afghanistan since 1987, Humanity & Inclusion focuses on helping victims of landmines, preventing future mine accidents, and promoting disability-inclusive development.
Afghanistan has been in a near constant state of conflict and war since the late 1970s and is one of the poorest countries in the world. A large proportion of the population continues to have severe insecurity, poor housing, and limited access to drinking water, electricity, medical care, and employment.
Under these difficult circumstances, disabilities resulting from war or conflict, or endemic poverty, are extremely common.
Our Current Work
Currently, our team in Afghanistan is composed of 166 Afghans and four expatriates who diligently carry out our mission, which is to:
- Assist victims
- Provide rehabilitation services
- Support local Organizations for People with Disabilities
Humanity & Inclusion works to ensure that all action plans resulting from the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Convention of Cluster Munitions and the Mine Ban Treaty are coordinated with each other.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs & Disabled (MoLSAMD), this project develops monitoring tools to:
- Evaluate progress throughout the country
- Organize training on victim assistance concepts for local Organizations for People with Disabilities (OPDs or DPOs)
- Provide support aimed at affecting policy related to landmine victim assistance
Humanity & Inclusion's rehabilitation work in Afghanistan is to build the capacity of government and national institutions to guarantee and improve access for people with disabilities to functional rehabilitation care.
Our team works to enhance the quality of rehabilitation service available by:
- Promoting the recognition and inclusion of rehabilitation in the Ministry of Health’s policies on basic care
- Enabling people with disabilities to access rehabilitation services at a dedicated center at the Herat Regional Hospital
- Managing a rehabilitation center in a regional hospital in Kandahar that runs physiotherapy sessions, and produces prostheses, orthoses and mobility aids
- Assisting rehabilitation centers in developing new medical techniques
This project also oversees seven community health centers and provides technical and financial support to local hospitals by funding certain physiotherapy posts and training medical staff.
Supporting Local Disability Rights Organizations
Humanity & Inclusion supports local Organization for People with Disabilities (OPDs or DPOs) by connecting them with potential partners, both locally and internationally.
The organization also amplifies their advocacy by helping OPDs or DPOs get their needs addressed by local political leaders.
Our Past Work
Humanity & Inclusion has been in Afghanistan since 1987, fostering a culture of dignity, access, and inclusion for ALL people with disabilities and who are vulnerable. Our work continues to evolve to meet the dynamic needs of the communities where we serve.
Read on to learn more about our past work in Afghanistan and consider investing in our future.
Database and Project Management
Humanity & Inclusion implemented this project in Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka to improve the quality of project management through use of an open source software developed for French NGOs.