Scenes of devastation following a huge explosion in Beirut leave no doubt as to the immediate and urgent needs of the more than 4,000 people injured. Humanity & Inclusion's 98-person team in Lebanon, alongside a network of partners, are mobilized to deliver expertise and resources to those in need.
Emergency evaluations conducted by Humanity & Inclusion in Beirut’s hospitals reveal that common injuries include complex fractures and amputations to extremities, such as fingers and toes. Many have already undergone surgery and will quickly need physical therapy and mobility aids, such as wheelchairs or crutches, to begin their recovery.
Humanity & Inclusion has worked in Lebanon since 1992. Caroline Duconseille, Humanity & Inclusion's Head of Mission, was on a roof terrace of Humanity & Inclusion’s offices in Beirut's Achrafieh quarter (just over one mile from the explosion site) at the moment of the explosion. “I felt the building tremble slightly," she recalls. "Then we heard the first explosion with white smoke, shortly followed by an enormous one and lots of orange smoke. The chairs began to fly everywhere and all the glass in the building opposite shattered. It was terrifying!”
The blast heavily damaged the offices, as well as the homes of several members of the team. Fortunately, nobody was seriously injured. “Once I had checked that all of my team was safe, we began to visit hospitals and partners to understand what the needs of the injured are. Humanity & Inclusion has an important role to play in the coming days to reduce the impact of this disaster."
When Abdullah was nine-months-old in November 2014, he was injured in a bombing raid in Syria that killed his father and destroyed his home. His head trauma caused hemiplegia, which affected his concentration and memory. He had problems talking, moving around, and controlling the movement in his left hand. He only spoke in rapid, garbled sentences.
Support from Humanity & Inclusion
In August 2018, at four-years-old, his mother took him to the HI-supported Mousawat Rehabilitation Center for the first time. There, Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation team provided him with physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychotherapy, and speech therapy.
After several months of rehabilitation care, Abdullah is improving in leaps and bounds. He can walk on his own and use his left hand, which was neglected before his rehabilitation. He can also coordinate the movement in both hands.
Singing with pride!
Following his speech therapy sessions, Abdullah now uses words correctly and expresses himself in complete sentences. “The first time I saw Abdullah, his self-esteem, and self-confidence was very low,” says a psychologist with Humanity & Inclusion. “He has accepted his disability and feels more at ease with himself.” At a recreation session for children and parents, Abdullah surprised everyone when he grabbed the microphone and sang happily and confidently in front of a whole room of people.
Thriving in school
Abdullah returned to school last September. "Abdullah's life is changing,” his mother says. “His teachers really like him, and he has made new friends.”
Assisting his mother
To help with her son’s rehabilitation, Abdullah's mother now attends consultations and has been given training. She has also joined a self-help group organized by Humanity & Inclusion. "The support group helped me feel less alone and gave me hope. My life is getting better.”
Changing attitudes toward people with disabilities
She has also joined a committee set up by parents to advance the rights of people with disabilities. "The neighborhood where we live has problems accepting people with disabilities, which is the main reason why they and their caregivers feel so much frustration. We’re strong enough now to change these negative attitudes," she adds.
Since 2011, Humanity & Inclusion’s team has cleared 7.5 million square feet of land in Lebanon, the equivalent of 130 soccer fields. In the last two years alone—2017 & 2018—our mine clearance experts found and destroyed 4,500 explosive devices.
Ending a persistent threat
Humanity & Inclusion’s four demining teams are currently clearing fields in the district of Bsharri, which was contaminated by anti-personnel mines in the 1980s. The mined areas are very close to several villages. Accidents just after the civil war, in the 1990s, made a lasting impression on the local population. Since then, Humanity & Inclusion has taught locals how to spot, avoid and report the explosive remnants of war they may come across, and have set up warning signs.
Adapting to the terrain
Depending on the season, Humanity & Inclusion’s mine clearance experts operate in different types of terrain. In the summer months, they work at high altitude, and in winter, when it starts to snow, they return to the lower ground. Sometimes the land is hard to get to and the mine clearance experts have to build a makeshift staircase with sandbags to access certain areas. Heavy rain makes the slopes slippery and sometimes prevents teams from working.
Hard-to-find and different types of mines
The mines in Bsharri are old and buried in thick undergrowth. Mine clearance experts use metal detectors to locate them. When they find one, rather than move it, the team leader detonates it on the spot. Other mines are plastic, rendering them undetectable. To find them, mine clearance experts probe large swathes of land.
Humanity & Inclusion stays in close contact with the people who live close to the minefields. It is essential to update them on operations, particularly if they own land cleared of mines. It is also vital to warn local shepherds, who are among the most frequent casualties.
After the civil war, many villagers had to sell their mined land and leave the region. Some abandoned their land all together. Since the start of the clearance operations, 30,000 villagers have returned. Today, 76% of owners have rebuilt their homes or started growing olives, pears, and grapes again.
Thanks to support from Humanity & Inclusion donors and the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, communities in Lebanon can return to their homes and live in safety.
Humanity & Inclusion in Lebanon
Humanity & Inclusion began working in Lebanon in 1992, supporting local associations with rehabilitation and psychosocial support projects. Since 2011, our mine action teams have been clearing landmines and other explosive remnants of war left from previous conflicts. In the summer of 2012, we began supplying relief to Syrian refugees in Lebanon with a special emphasis on helping those with disabilities and serious injuries. Learn more about our work in Lebanon.
"Hi from the field," comes direct to you from our field staff. Learn why our mine action team is planting trees after clearing weapons in Colombia. Step inside a rehabilitation center in Bolivia, where our donors ensure that children with disabilities can thrive.
Watch and share!
Meet Erika Romero, Humanity & Inclusion's demining area manager in Colombia and learn why our mine action team is planting trees in places where they've cleared weapons.
Meet Rana, a physical therapist with our Lebanon team. With a goal to get more Syrian refugee children into school, and of course to improve their quality of life, she assesses children at a rehabilitation center.
Take a step inside an inclusive classroom for children with visual disabilities in Niger and watch as these incredible children learn how to read and write in Braille.
When villagers in Laos found unexploded ordnance (UXO) left over from war, they immediately reached out to Humanity & Inclusion's mine action team to help remove them. Watch our deminers in action.
While visiting Humanity & Inclusion in Chad, Gilles Lordet from HQ met up with our demining team. There, he followed their every step and got to see the SAG200 (like a HUGE combine tractor) in action!
Valérie Beauchemin, HI's country director for the Andean States, visits a rehabilitation center where our team conducts physical therapy sessions for children ages 0-3 in Caracollo, Bolivia. Join the tour and meet sweet kiddos, Ruban and Nicolas!
Millions of families have been forced to abandon their homes after years of conflict and violence. In places like Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, people struggle to stay alive in their communities, until they have no other choice but to flee.
This month marks two anniversaries that no one is celebrating: Four years of conflict in Yemen and eight in Syria.
- An estimated 190,350 Yemenis have fled to neighboring countries
- More than 280,000 people are seeking refuge in Yemen
- An estimated 400,000 Syrians have been killed, according to the United Nations
- As of December 2016, 4.81 million Syrians have fled the country
- 6.3 million Syrians are displaced internally
- More than 10 million Syrians are exposed to the risk posed by explosive remnants of war
- 2.1 million Iraqis displaced inside the country
- More than 360,000 Iraqis displaced, living in unfinished and abandoned buildings
Humanity & Inclusion provides emergency care to people with disabilities and injuries living in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. Every day, our teams meet beneficiaries who share horrifying stories of bombs, torture, terror, and escape. But we take stock of their strength. Their survival. And together we set new goals. We celebrate new victories, however small.
Abdelkrim, 60, from Homs, Syria
"One day, while I was in front of the house, I saw planes in the sky. I thought I saw an unmanned aircraft in the middle of reconnaissance. Then it launched a missile that exploded in the street. Shrapnel came into my left leg." Abdelkrim bandaged his leg and when he finally made it to a doctor, he was told it had to be amputated due to infection. Today, Abdelkrim is recovering thanks to the rehabilitation care he receives from Humanity & Inclusion's team in Jordan. "I wish the war would end and that everyone could return in peace and security."
Warda's family, from Iraq
In February 2017, Warda and her family were caught in an explosion as they were fleeing Mosul, Iraq. After having both of her legs amputated, the young woman recovered in a hospital on the outskirts of the city, with her husband and daughter, who were also injured. Humanity & Inclusion's rehabilitation team provided Warda and her family with psychological support and physical therapy.
Yesser, 12, from Yemen
Yasser was doing homework next to his father when they were both struck by an explosion. Yasser lost his leg and his father did not survive. Today, Yasser receives rehabilitation care from Humanity & Inclusion's team in Yemen.
Wafa, 42, from Homs, Syria
"The planes attacked the city and sent bombs without any mercy to the families and innocent children who still lived there." In July 2012, three bombs fell on Wafa's house. During the attack, Wafa broke her left leg. "When I came out of the coma, my burns and my leg were terribly painful. But this pain was nothing compared to what I felt when I learned that four of my children had died. I could not protect them." Today, Wafa receives rehabilitation care from Humanity & Inclusion's team in Jordan.
Ali, 1, from Iraq
In April 2017, Ali and his family were used as human shields in Mosul, Iraq. Caught in a bombing, Ali was severely injured and his parents and brother were killed. The young boy receives rehabilitation care from Humanity & Inclusion's team in Iraq. Our team also provides his aunt and uncle, who are taking care of him, with advice on how to help Ali with physical therapy exercises.
Kamal, 15, from Dera'a, Syria
"I woke up with shards of glass all over my body and the bedroom door had collapsed on me. The air was dusty. My brother was trying to take me to my mother's room, but I could not hold onto both of my legs." The family manages, with difficulty, to bring Kamal to the nearest hospital: "My whole body was covered with blood. I was operated on briefly at first, then I had two operations to both my hand and my legs. I've never used weapons, and yet it was me that was bombed. I feel only sadness. When you do not feel safe in your own country, where can you be?" Today, Kamal receives rehabilitation support from Humanity & Inclusion in Jordan.
Ali, 20, from Syria
In 2013, Ali lost the use of his legs after being seriously injured in a bombing in Syria. The young Syrian refugee now lives with his family in a makeshift camp in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon. Humanity & Inclusion's rehabilitation team has been helping him adapt to his disability through physical therapy.
Having spent years living in war zones and then as refugees in foreign countries, many Syrians with disabilities have gone without physical therapy, psychological support, and other vital medical care for long periods of time. Without proper care, disabilities and impairments become more severe and difficult to treat. That’s why Humanity & Inclusion continues to seek out Syrian refugees in countries like Lebanon and connect them with rehabilitation services.
The organization helps people like Bayan, 13, and her two brothers, who all have cerebral palsy. Her family fled the war in Syria two years ago and now live in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon. Humanity & Inclusion covers the cost of the children's rehabilitation sessions. The family could not afford this sort of care before.
"Physical therapy is the most important thing for my children,” says Aisha, Bayan’s mother. “Without it, their condition will get worse and worse. This is the first time Bayan’s ever had this type of treatment. Unfortunately, because she didn’t receive treatment earlier, she’ll never walk again. But it might not be too late for her brothers.”
The whole team at the rehabilitation center is involved in caring for the three children and each is showing gradual signs of improvement. Bayan's mother and her children also receive mental health counseling. Aisha participates in self-help group to give mothers the chance to talk through the challenges they face every day.
For Syrian refugees with disabilities in Lebanon, receiving mental health care in addition physical rehabilitation is vital to recovery. Since June 2017, Humanity & Inclusion has partnered with the Mousawat Rehabilitation Center in the Beqaa Valley to provide children with disabilities and their families with mental health care.
Children at the center have access to comprehensive rehabilitation services including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and psychosocial support. Every week, the mental health and rehabilitation staff meet to discuss their patients’ cases and how they can provide a holistic treatment plan.
The center also offers parents psychological support, including a parental support group. At the start of the project, parents were reluctant to speak with psychologists, for fear of being stigmatized by their community. Today, it has become common for them to request these services.
Currently, about 300 children and their families are treated free of charge thanks to Humanity & Inclusion. The organization focuses mainly on early intervention and follow-up care with the parents. Many families are beginning to return to Syria, so it is important, for example, that parents learn the rehabilitation exercises needed for their child’s treatment so they can continue them in Syria.
A few months after her son Abdel’s birth, Ibtissam realized that he did not react like other babies: he could not grasp objects, he could not sit up by himself, and he was having spasms. When her son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, she turned to various rehabilitation centers to treat her child.
“The public centers would not accept us because I’m a Palestinian national,” says Ibtissam. “I was referred to a private clinic, but the cost of the sessions was far too high. That's when I was told about Mousawat Rehabilitation Center. Through its partnership with the center, Humanity & Inclusion provides free rehabilitation services to needy families.
For the past two years, Abdel has received occupational, physical, and speech therapy at the center. The staff has also taught Ibtissam physical therapy exercises to do with Abdel at home.
Since he began his treatment, the boy has made continual progress: "His physical impairments have improved significantly,” says Ibtisam. “He is also starting to understand when I talk to him, which he couldn’t do before. I hope that in the future he will be able to express himself, for example, when he is hungry or in pain. I would like him to become more and more independent.”
A psychologist helps Ibtissam through the process. "He gives me advice on how to communicate with my child without getting tense,” says Ibtissam. “I’ve learned to give Abdel space, so he becomes more self-sufficient.”
Parents of children treated at the center attend a support group. It gives mothers the opportunity to talk about the daily challenges they face and to support each other: "I realized that even if my family doesn’t accept my son, I have to do my best to include him in it,” says Ibtissam. “This self-help group has given me hope again.”
Download the Report:
This report identifies indiscriminate bombing of civilians as the overriding factor forcing millions of Syrians to flee their homes. Based on interviews with Syrian refugees in July 2016, a document review, and expert interviews, the report identifies the large scale use of explosive weapons in populated areas as the most significant cause of the mass displacement of Syrians.Sign up
Download the Report
This report features in-depth interviews of more than 200 Syrian refugees in Lebanon who confirm and detail the devastating and lasting social and economic effects of the use of explosive weapons. Over half of the refugees interviewed were displaced within Syria before fleeing to Lebanon, experiencing consequences ranging from personal injury to the death of one of more family members, the destruction of homes, infrastructure and/or livelihoods. The report finds women are most vulnerable.Sign up