An air strike struck the Afghan home of Juma, 14, leaving him with quadriplegia. Regaining his independence is his top goal, and Humanity & Inclusion is right by his side to reach it.
One night in October 2019, the lives of Juma and his family were rocked by a terrible explosion. His family’s home was targeted in an air strike that killed his 3-year-old sister and injured his father. A severe injury to his brain and spinal cord left Juma with quadriplegia, and difficulty speaking.
Displaced, mourning and permanently injured, Juma and his family are paying a heavy toll for an air strike in a conflict they know nothing about. Following the tragedy, Juma’s family fled their village in central Afghanistan's Ghor Province, and took refuge in a camp for displaced people near the city of Herat, where they live in a small mud house in extreme poverty.
Juma's father was left disabled by a shoulder injury, and can no longer work. Isolated and without income, the family’s main concern is how to meet their basic needs.
Before Humanity & Inclusion arrived at the camp, Juma hadn’t received any help. Unable to move, the teenage boy spent most of his time in bed. Sometimes his mother would take him outside to enjoy the sun and fresh air.
Everything changed when Humanity & Inclusion's mobile emergency team first traveled to meet Juma in September 2020. The team visited his home and provided him with rehabilitation care and taught his parents exercises to do with their son. The team also gave the family advice about coping with everyday problems. Juma continues to receive regular follow-up care.
"When Humanity & Inclusion came to our home, hope returned,” explains Juma's mother. “It was really hard for me to carry my son all day. He couldn't move at all and he was depressed.”
Juma’s mother says she is already seeing her son make progress.
“The team started his treatment right away and gave him a wheelchair and equipment. I also learned how to do his rehabilitation exercises with him,” she says. “He can move his hands again, he is feeling better, and he can do certain things by himself. I am really grateful to Humanity & inclusion for their help."
Support for the whole family
In addition to providing physical rehabilitation to Juma, Humanity & Inclusion is also providing psychosocial support for his entire family. The family talks with the mobile team’s counselor, sharing their feelings, discussing their problems, and brainstorming solutions together. This psychosocial support makes it easier for the family to cope with the trauma they’ve endured and the challenges they face. They are not alone.
As for Juma, he has regained some of his mobility and his morale is improving.
“I would like to walk again and go to school, just like the other children,” he says.
Juma is a brave boy and continues to do his rehabilitation exercises with his mother. His beautiful smile has returned, giving hope to the whole family.
Header image: A teenage boy named Juma sits in a wheelchair surrounded by other children in Afghanistan. Copyright: O. Zerah/HI
Inline image: Juma laughs during a rehabilitation session with a member of Humanity & Inclusion’s team in front of his family’s mud home in Afghanistan. Copyright: O. Zerah/HI
Ali was out grazing his family's goats one day in March 2020, when he took a step that would change his life forever.
He stepped on an explosive remnant of war, one of the many weapons left from war that contaminates his village in Afghanistan.
The 9-year-old boy was seriously injured and rushed to a hospital. Doctors there had no choice but to amputate Ali's leg below his knee.
"Ali couldn't walk after his accident," says the boy’s uncle. "We were desperate. We couldn’t leave him alone. Without his leg, he needed help from dawn till dusk. We were all stressed and really upset."
Plagued by conflict, poverty, explosive weapons
Ali lives with his parents and five siblings in a village in Afghanistan that is mired by conflict. Villagers face extreme poverty, cut off from vital resources, their farmland contaminated with explosive weapons. Ali's father, who used to work as a day laborer, can no longer find work.
Ali was caring for his family's goats – their only means of survival – when the blast stole his right leg.
Road to recovery
Soon after Ali's operation, the Humanity & Inclusion team began working to fit him with an artificial limb at its rehabilitation center in Kandahar. Humanity & Inclusion teams have worked in Afghanistan since 1987.
"I’m really grateful to the Humanity & Inclusion team for doing their best to make Ali's prosthesis so quickly, and for helping him do his walking exercises," says Ali’s uncle, who accompanied his nephew at the rehabilitation center. "He can walk now and he’s really hopeful about the future."
Ali began physical therapy in April and was fitted for his first artificial limb soon after. During six, daylong sessions with the Humanity & Inclusion team in May, Ali learned to walk again and final adjustments were made to his prosthetic.
Within two months of the tragic event, Ali went home to his family with a new artificial leg that helps him be the same active boy he was before. Since then, Ali has returned a couple of times to Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation center for follow-up care and minor repairs to his artificial limb.
"The first time I visited the center, my uncle had to carry me," Ali explains. "I couldn't walk. But now I can go home on my own two legs and play with other children again. I feel happier since I got my new leg."
Dreams beyond the region's conflict
Ali is a fighter and a lover of cricket. But even with his new leg, Ali's life is not back to normal.
Conflict continues in the region where he lives. The threat of Covid-19 is ever-present. Schools are closed. Survival is uncertain. Still, Ali dreams of a peaceful future in which he can return to the classroom.
"Now I have a new leg I can go back to school and get an education," Ali says. "I could do anything I want. I like drawing a lot but what I really want to do when I grow up is to be a doctor so I can help people!"
Header Image: A Humanity & Inclusion team member, who is wearing a mask and medical scrubs, squats on the floor of a rehabilitation center in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He is fitting a prosthetic leg on a young boy named Ali, who is sitting on a bench. The boy is smiling at the man.
Inline Image: A young boy named Ali sits on a bench outside in Afghanistan. His left leg is amputated below his knee. Copyright: Jaweed Tanveer
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.
"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."
Demand the U.S. join the Mine Ban Treaty. 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
Following a few days of interruption in August 2021, Humanity & Inclusion has resumed its activities in four provinces in Afghanistan: Herat, Kunduz, Kandahar and Nimroz.
Read an update from August 30.
Humanity & Inclusion in Afghanistan
Humanity & Inclusion has been active in Afghanistan since 1987. Devastated by 40 years of war, Afghanistan remains one of the countries in the world most heavily polluted with explosive remnants of war. There are 2.6 million registered Afghan refugees in the world, most of whom are living in Iran and Pakistan, according to the United Nations Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Another 3.5 million people are displaced by the conflict within Afghanistan.
Since the Taliban toppled the former government and took over the country following the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2021, international aid is largely suspended. Basic services like health and education are insufficient, and the country is on the edge of bankruptcy. World Food Program warns that half of Afghanistan's population face acute hunger as humanitarian needs grow to record levels.
In Kandahar, Humanity & Inclusion continues to operate a rehabilitation center that opened in 1996 to serve people with disabilities, including landmine victims.
Areas of Intervention
- Physical rehabilitation, prosthetics and orthotics
- Mental health and psychosocial support
- Mine risk education
- Victim assistance
- Covid-19 emergency response
Humanity & Inclusion 255-person team promotes and advocates for the rights of survivors of landmines and other people with disabilities. The organization provides technical support to Afghan authorities and other key stakeholders, contributing a more inclusive society and enhancing access to medical and other basic services.
At its rehabilitation center in Kandahar, Humanity & Inclusion specialists provide physical therapy services, including a workshop for manufacturing artificial limbs and orthopedic braces.
The Afghan team has provided support to the Ministry of Public Health's health facilities linked with the Basic Package of Health Services in rural communities in Herat to develop activities on Mine Risk Education and provide rehabilitation services. In Kandahar, Humanity & Inclusion has trained medical personnel.
The team provides community-based psychosocial support and emergency home-based rehabilitation services in key districts.
Our Past Work
Humanity & Inclusion has been in Afghanistan since 1987, fostering an inclusive culture for all people, including people with disabilities and survivors of conflict. Over time, we have evolved our work 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.
Community-Based Risk Education
Over its 20 years of work in Kandahar, Humanity & Inclusion has established a network of more than 400 active community volunteers who are engaged in community-based risk education activities, including referring community members for rehabilitation care.