More than 80 million people in the world are living forcibly displaced from their homes, according to the latest data from the UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency. That number has doubled over the last decade, skyrocketing in the last few years.
Violent conflicts, human rights violations, weather-related disasters and food insecurity are among key factors forcing people to flee their homes.
Among the 80 million people currently displaced, 45.7 million are displaced inside their home country. Humanitarian law differentiates between these individuals, who are referred to as internally displaced people, and refugees, who flee their home and cross a border to seek refuge in another country.
More than two-thirds of all refugees come from just five countries:
- Syria: 6.6 million
- Venezuela: 3.7 million
- Afghanistan: 2.7 million
- South Sudan: 2.3 million
- Myanmar: 1 million
More and more people are displaced for years. For example, the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya was established in 1992 and has grown akin to a small city. With more an 180,000 people living there, it is one of the world’s largest refugee camps. The camp is home to refugees from Sudan, Uganda, Eritrea, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Humanity & Inclusion works alongside people living in the camp and nearby host communities to provide physical rehabilitation services and assistive devices such as wheelchairs and crutches, and improve the living conditions of for refugees, in particular those with disabilities, by ensuring equal access to services, raising awareness of discrimination and building the capacity of staff working with refugees to assess needs.
Displacement of people with disabilities
Approximately 15% of the 80 million people displaced worldwide are living with a disability. Globally, an estimated 12 million people with disabilities have been forcibly displaced from their homes by conflict and persecution.
Forced displacement disproportionately affects people with disabilities, who are often at higher risk of violence, exploitation and abuse, and face barriers to basic services, education and employment.
Having left behind their homes and belongings, many displaced people—including those with disabilities—depend on humanitarian organizations like Humanity & Inclusion to access health care, food, water, shelter and other necessities.
Header image: A man carries his daughter, who is wearing leg braces, through a refugee settlement in Lebanon. They are Syrian refugees. Copyright: Kate Holt/HI, 2021
Inline image: An occupational therapist helps a boy with prosthetic legs use a walker during a rehabilitation session at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. Copyright: Patrick Meinhardt/HI, 2019
Nyaduoth, 16, has newfound freedom with her tricycle, along with the chance to go to school. She serves as a shining example to her fellow Nguenyyiel refugee community that with access, anything is possible.
"My life was bad before I met the Humanity & Inclusion team," Nyaduoth says. In fact, she doesn't really like to think about it.
The young girl could not move on her own, was not allowed to go to school, and her own mother believed her disability was a curse from God. Nyaduoth comes from Ochom, a town in South Sudan, and has been living in Ethiopia’s Nguenyyiel refugee camp for several years.
Her life changed when she first got a wheelchair from Humanity & Inclusion and then a tricycle—finally she could move around freely. The Humanity & Inclusion team later convinced her mother that children with disabilities should enroll in school. Thanks to psychosocial support, Nyaduoth has gained more confidence. She's also made friends. She helps her church community and, to her mother’s delight, is a diligent student.
Nyaduoth participates in all of Humanity & Inclusion’s community awareness raising events for disability rights and inclusion, where she boldly shares her own experience. She also works in community outreach for another organization, teaching people in the camp best hygiene practices.
She could only crawl across the floor, whether it was dry as dust or muddy. Going to the bathroom was especially difficult. Nyaduoth’s father died when she was 3, and her mother felt her child was a burden. The local school did not accept her either. Nyaduoth had no opportunity to interact with other children, to learn or to make friends.
A wheelchair from Humanity & Inclusion was her first step toward independence. Next, was training her family and community in understanding that Nyaduoth has the right to choose her path in life, and that children with disabilities must have equal rights, not be discriminated against. Nyaduoth received psychosocial support, a barrier-free toilet and a hand tricycle, with which she can be mobile all by herself.
“Thanks to the tricycle and the support of Humanity & Inclusion, I developed my self-confidence and can now ignore the barriers of my disability,” Nyaduoth explains.
Today, she is a role model for anyone living with a disability. She appears at events and shows that education with a disability is possible. And, her mother no longer equates disability with incapacity.
"I am so happy when I see my daughter moving independently from one place to another," says the mother of seven children.
Her daughter is growing just like all the other girls in the camp. Nyaduoth has a boyfriend, and the young couple has promised to get married and take care of one another.
Image: Nyaduoth sits in her hand-operated tricycle outside her home in a refugee camp in Ethiopia. Copyright: Till Mayer/HI
Humanity & Inclusion teams continue to assist victims of the fire that broke out in Cox's Bazar, a Rohingya refugee camp, on March 22.
The blaze at the camp in Bangladesh affected more than 40,000 people, injured more than 550 people and killed at least 15 individuals. Humanity & Inclusion, which has been working in Rohingya refugee camps since 2013, assessed the needs of victims and launched an emergency response immediately. Read about our response in the first 48 hours after the fire.
Over the last few weeks, more than 1,700 people traumatized by the disaster received psychosocial support from Humanity & Inclusion through individual and group sessions. The teams have also distributed more than 3,000 supply kits with hygiene and cooking items to people in need. Many Rohingya refugees also received physical therapy and replacements for crutches, walkers and other mobility aids burned in the fire. Affected people have also been informed about available services, especially concerning protection for children and isolated women.
Humanity & Inclusion's logistic teams are assisting partner organizations with transport of humanitarian aid supplies. Since the disaster, Humanity & Inclusion has delivered more than 34,000 hot meals to refugees in the camp.
Displaced by recent fighting in Palma, families are in urgent need of access to water, food and shelter. Humanity & Inclusion’s teams are assisting pregnant women, older people, people with disabilities, children and vulnerable populations.
Approximately 3,000 people have been displaced following attacks by armed groups on the town of Palma in northern Mozambique since March 24.
“Many people are terrified by the attacks and have gone into hiding, without access to food or water," says Marco Tamburro, Humanity & Inclusions program director in Mozambique. “Humanitarian response to the crisis must take into account the most vulnerable and ensure no one is left behind. The aid effort should guarantee vulnerable people, such as people with disabilities and older people, receive the support they desperately need.”
Humanity & Inclusion just completed a needs assessment in two Cabo Delgado districts that are heavily affected by movement of displaced people.
People with disabilities often have difficulty accessing humanitarian aid. Humanity & Inclusion is setting up a disability working group in Pemba with two local organizations, FAMOD and AIFO. This group will monitor displaced people, identify people with disabilities from Palma, determine their needs and ensure they are included in the emergency response.
Since 2017, a total of 670,000 people have fled violence in the region.
Image: A refugee family stand outside a home in northern Mozambique. Copyright: HI
Mohamad is one of thousands of Syrian bombing victims. Paralyzed from the waist down after an explosion in 2012, he has learned to live again, with help from Humanity & Inclusion.
Mohamad was returning home after work down a crowded street when an explosion suddenly ripped through the air. This is his story, in his own words:
I woke up four or five hours later in a field hospital. The first words I heard from the doctors were: “He has a one-in-a-hundred chance of survival.”
I had surgery, thank God. I lay on my back for six months before I came to Jordan for essential medical care.
My hip broke as I was being treated and I developed pelvic calcification. My health was very bad at the time. I was very depressed as well.
I’ve had rehabilitation care and I was given a medical device, a bed, a wheelchair, a walking frame, casts, and a special chair for the bathroom. They’re a big help. But it’s hard to find yourself in a wheelchair overnight. I had problems accepting my new condition. But I've come to terms with it now.
Life was different before my injury. It was great. I worked in the stone-dressing business. I used to go out with my friends. I enjoyed swimming. I also liked riding my motorbike.
I felt I had to work hard to overcome my handicap. I followed a training course in crafts–assembling accessories, creating perfumes, and making candles–and then became a trainer myself. We recently organized an exhibition at the Arabela shopping center in Irbid. We also visited several bazaars. It was a great experience.
Humanity & Inclusion and the Syria crisis
Since the organization began its response to the Syria crisis in 2012, Humanity & Inclusion has helped 1.8 million Syrians in six countries through emergency rehabilitation, psychological support, and supplying prosthetics and other assistive devices. As of December 2020, Humanity & Inclusion provided 14,000 prosthetics or orthotics to Syrians and conducted rehabilitation sessions with 180,000 people. Learn more about our work and the Syria crisis.
Header image: A man named Mohamad sits in his wheelchair in front of his home in Jordan. He is a Syrian refugee. Copyright: Said Khlaifat/HI
Inline image: Mohamad crafts in his home in Irbid, Jordan. Copyright: Said Khlaifat/HI
Faiso’s right hand was burned severely by hot water in 2017, causing her to lose the ability to complete basic tasks like writing, bathing and getting dressed. Two years later, Faiso’s mother reached out to Humanity & Inclusion for support.
In 2019, Humanity & Inclusion hosted a routine awareness event, informing people living in the Ifo Refugee Camp in Kenya of the rehabilitation services its team provides. After the session, Faiso’s mother decided to take her daughter to Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation center.
The team assessed Faiso’s hand and determined she would need surgery to regain full range of motion. Before surgery, Humanity & Inclusion provided psychosocial services to Faiso and her family to create a supportive structure for her recovery.
After the procedure, Humanity & Inclusion conducted home visits to provide additional counseling and rehabilitation, helping Faiso gain the ability to independently feed, dress and bathe herself. After 22 at-home rehabilitation sessions, Humanity & Inclusion’s team determined Faiso had regained the use of her right hand.
Faiso's care was supported by a multi-year project funded by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, with the goal of strengthening the environment for refugee and host communities in Kenya through the provision of community-based services including protection, rehabilitation, and psychosocial support.
Faiso, now 10, is in grade one at the Sunlight Primary School. During Humanity & Inclusion’s most recent home visit in January 2021, Faiso was joyful and bonding with her siblings.
“I am very grateful for the support I was accorded by the Humanity and Inclusion team from Ifo camp.,” she says. “I was at first afraid of the surgery but after the counseling session by the Humanity & Inclusion team, I accepted to undergo the procedure. My mother was also very supportive. She would always encourage me to continue with the counseling sessions for recovery. Now I can move my right hand without any challenge or discomfort and eat comfortably, I can even draw using my hand and also help my mother in doing light house chores like sweeping the floor.”
Shohelur was speechless when he saw his charred wheelchair among the ashes.
The wheelchair that gave Shohelur independence, the standing frame used for his physical therapy exercises, and his inclusive learning materials were all destroyed as a fire spread through a refugee camp for Rohingya families in southern Bangladesh on the night of January 14. Shohelur and his family managed to escape the flames, but they returned home the next morning to find all of their possessions destroyed.
“Everything has ended for my family and every dream has ended in our life, we need support to return to our normal life,” Shohelur’s mother said to a member of Humanity & Inclusion’s team providing support in the camp. With nowhere else to go, Shohelur and his family are temporarily living with relatives in another shelter at the refugee camp.
Shohelur, who has Cerebral Palsy, loved that his wheelchair made it possible for him to play outside with his friends. Humanity & Inclusion had provided the young boy the wheelchair, toys that support his development, and physical therapy sessions.
In the aftermath of the fire, which destroyed hundreds of shelters, Humanity & Inclusion is assisting thousands of refugees who find themselves displaced again.
So far, Humanity & Inclusion has distributed supply kits – which include non-food items like clothes and sleeping mats – to more than 500 households. The organization’s local team of psychosocial workers is providing psychological aid after the traumatic events.
Humanity & Inclusion is also working with its long-standing beneficiaries at the camp to assess the fire’s damage and identify what belongings – like Shohelur’s wheelchair – need to be replaced. Shohelur has already received a new toilet chair, mattress and standing frame, and the Humanity & Inclusion team has taken his measurements to make sure his new custom wheelchair fits just right.
Shohelur says he loved his chair. It helped his balanced and allowed him to sit independently. Before the fire, he always enjoyed his physical therapist’s company. He was always smiling through his sessions!
Header image: A charred wheelchair lays amid ruins after a fire at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Copyright: HI
Inline image: A young boy named Shohelur sits in a chair while Humanity & Inclusion staff take his measurements for a custom wheelchair. They are at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Copyright: HI
Authorities in Bangladesh are relocating thousands of Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char, an island in the Bay of Bengal. 750,000 Rohingya—including more than 400,000 children—have been refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, since an eruption of violence in Myanmar in August 2017. Gilles Nouzies, Head of Humanity & Inclusion's Asia programs, shares the following statement:
“Any project to relocate Rohingya refugees from Cox’s Bazar camps to the island of Bhasan Char should only proceed if the United Nations deems the island both habitable and assures the human rights of residents: Rohingyas should be guaranteed the right to free movement, safety, healthcare, education, legal support and livelihoods... Any relocation or repatriation of Rohingya refugees should also be voluntary-based and done with their clear consent.”
Milagros Chacin and her family are among as many as 4 million refugees who have escaped the economic crisis in Venezuela by fleeing to Colombia. HI has given financial assistance to more than 200 refugee families, including Milagros Chacin’s, to help with basic necessities like buying food and paying rent.
Milagros Chacin left her job as a nurse behind when she, her husband, and their four children fled to Riohacha – a coastal Colombian town about 55 miles from the Venezuelan border – in July 2019.
“I couldn't even manage to feed my children anymore,” she said. "When we arrived in Colombia, we thought everything would be different. We hoped life would be better. We needed money, so we sold our phone, our shoes, even our children's shoes. My husband began scouring the streets for empty bottles to sell for recycling.”
As if uprooting their lives and fleeing to a new country wasn’t difficult enough, challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have made circumstances even harder for refugee families as resources become scarcer.
“People lost their jobs and homes,” Milagros Chacin said. “The humanitarian canteen, where we used to eat, closed. We only eat once a day now. And we've already changed accommodation several times. It pushes you to the edge of despair.”
HI staff met Milagros Chacin in June and provided the family with financial assistance to help cover their basic needs and psychological support to push through such traumatic experiences. The family is living in a makeshift shelter made from plastic sheets.
"We used it to buy food and we paid our landlord the three months’ rent we owed him," Milagros Chacin explained. "I also bought mattresses so my children don't have to sleep on the floor anymore. The phone calls really gave us hope. It's so hard, living like this.”
Despite the hardships they’ve faced, Milagros Chacin and her family are hopeful for their future.
“My dream is to be self-sufficient one day, not dependent on anyone else,” she said. “We want to start our own small business so we can be free again.”
A disability can exclude a person from their work or community. Humanity & Inclusion rehabilitation services help people regain mobility and get back into employment and social activities. Since 2019, Humanity & Inclusion physical therapist Rana Abdel Al has worked with persons with disabilities in Lebanon. Among them, many were injured during the war in Syria.Read more