Yesterday, Handicap International met with International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone to urge the UK government to make sure that aid reaches the hidden victims of the conflict in Syria – tens of thousands of injured and disabled refugees. The message was delivered through a petition signed by 81,021 supporters from the UK and worldwide, along with a new report showing how much the most vulnerable Syrian refugees are struggling to meet their specific needs.
The petition and report were delivered by humanitarian photographer Giles Duley, himself a triple amputee after stepping on an IED in Afghanistan in 2011, along with Handicap International’s Emergency Co-ordinator for the Syria crisis, Thierry Benlahsen, and the organisation’s UK Director, Aleema Shivji.
On receiving the report, International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone said: “This is a timely report that highlights an important issue. In a crisis of this kind, it is typically the most vulnerable – including those with disabilities, the elderly and the chronically ill – who find themselves at the greatest risk. That is unacceptable.
“We have been clear that the international response to Syria must not forget the needs of the most vulnerable. We have targeted our funding accordingly, including £7 million to Handicap International itself. We will continue to support efforts to ensure that these groups are not overlooked. We must leave no-one behind.”
Giles Duley added, “Having been badly injured myself, I know there is little point in saving someone’s life, if you do not give them their life back. So often, and rightly so, the priority is on emergency medical treatment, but rehabilitation and ongoing psychological support are of equal importance.”
“In Jordan I met a young Syrian man who had been paralysed and was now in a wheelchair. He was living on the 4th floor of a building with no lift; he was unable to get out. In a situation like that, how can you stay positive? We have to make sure people with disabilities can access the specific help they need to rebuild their lives. We have to give them hope.”
Since the petition was launched in November, tens of thousands of people have signed, both online and at special campaign events held as part of the Forgotten 10 Challenge. Soroptimist International clubs led the way by collecting signed petition postcards at events around the UK, and thousands of school students took action to raise awareness and encouraged their peers to support the campaign.
New report shows disabled, injured and older refugees disproportionately affected
The Minister’s comments come as a new report, published by Handicap International and HelpAge International, shows that disabled, injured and older refugees are paying a double toll as a result of the conflict. They are at far greater risk of falling through the gaps of humanitarian relief, with a far higher impact on their health, living conditions and social integration than for other refugees, as well as increased psychological distress.
The report also reveals that one in five Syrian refugees is disabled; one in seven is affected by chronic disease; and one in 20 suffers from injury, with nearly 80% of these injuries directly resulting from the conflict.
Handicap International and HelpAge International are calling on DFID and all national and international humanitarian stakeholders providing assistance to Syrian refugees to change the way aid is delivered so that disabled, injured and older refugees are no longer the hidden casualties of the conflict.
Source Article from Humanity & Inclusion