Handicap International is officially founded to respond to the needs of 6,000 Cambodian amputees living in refugee camps along the Thai border. Jean-Baptiste Richardier, co-founder of Handicap International, recalls "... this particularly vulnerable group was not provided with aid adapted to their needs. Providing specific aid during emergency relief efforts was not the done thing back then."
Opening of an orthopedic-fitting and rehabilitation care workshop in Angola, the organization’s first African program.
Launch of the Mozambique program during the civil war to provide assistance to people with disabilities in the province of Inhambane.
Intervention in Romanian orphanages following the fall of the Ceausescu regime, the organization’s first mental health project.
Handicap International joins forces with five other NGOs to form the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).
1993: Balkans War
Handicap International is one of the few NGOs to provide support to populations on all sides of the conflict.
Intervention in Rwanda in aid of injured survivors of the genocide and isolated children. Prix Cristal (Crystal Prize) for financial transparency.
1996: Sierra Leone
Intervention launched in Sierra Leone in aid of the victims of the civil war. This same year, Handicap International received the Nansen prize, the most prestigious prize that can be awarded by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), for its work amongst refugees and victims of landmines.
1997: Ottawa Treaty
Signing of the Ottawa mine ban treaty. In recognition of its efforts, Handicap International is made a co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Mine risk education in Casamance, Senegal. Demining in Kosovo, where Handicap International is named disability and physical rehabilitation coordinator.
Support for victims of the earthquake in Gujarat.
2004: South-East Asia
Emergency intervention in South Asia following the tsunami of 26 December, extended into 2005.
2006: United Nations
Adoption of the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, to which Handicap International made a major contribution.
2008: Oslo Convention
Signing of the Oslo convention on cluster munitions, for which Handicap International had campaigned since 2003 as part of an international coalition.
Emergency intervention in Haiti following the earthquake of 12 January, then in Pakistan after the country is hit by devastating flooding in August.
2011: Libya/Ivory Coast
Post-conflict emergency intervention in Libya and the Ivory Coast. The Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize is awarded to Handicap International.
2012: 30 years & Syria
Operating in nearly 60 countries, Handicap International marks its 30th anniversary. As violence in Syria escalates, hundreds of thousands of Syrians flee to neighboring countries. Handicap International launches an emergency response to aid refugees in Lebanon and Jordan.
2013: Syrian crisis
According to the UN, 3.6 million Syrians have been displaced internally and more than 1.3 million people have fled Syria to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and other countries. Handicap International helps hospitals and clinics care for injured refugees by supplying rehabilitation equipment and organizing physical therapy sessions for patients. Handicap International is the only organization offering emergency rehabilitation care in northern Syria.
Dr Jean-Baptiste Richardier, executive director and co-founder of Handicap International, reflects on 30 years of action
“The outrage that led to the foundation of Handicap International 30 years ago stemmed from an unshakable determination to help 6,000 Cambodian amputees left out of the humanitarian relief effort launched in aid of the Khmers people. Lost amid an unprecedented exodus (up to three million people were crammed into makeshift camps on the border with Thailand), this particularly vulnerable group was not provided with aid adapted to their needs. Providing specific aid during emergency relief efforts was not the done thing back then.
To combat this blatant violation of their rights, we had to fall back on our own resources, the stubborn determination of the families concerned and the support of the community. Later, in Laos, then under embargo, we were able to rely on the incredible ingenuity of village communities. In Angola and Mozambique, we learned how to work in an almost clandestine manner under civil war conditions, which we were to rediscover a few years later during the endless Balkans conflict. A series of major natural disasters, such as the earthquake in Armenia in 1988 and Haiti in 2010, underlined the importance of supplying immediate aid to the injured during emergency situations. The discovery of Romanian orphanages in 1991 led us to extend the scope of our activities to include mental health.
Our determination to help the most vulnerable groups, including in extreme situations, has proven its worth. We have earned the legitimacy we need to combat certain now illegal weapons – landmines and cluster munitions. This same determination drives our teams today and motivates their tireless efforts in nearly 60 countries: in the Dadaab camps of Kenya, the schools of Rwanda, rehabilitation centers in Haiti and Liberia, with the families of people with disabilities in Colombia and Burundi, and the victims of forgotten diseases, such as filariasis, in Burkina Faso, and on land contaminated by mines and cluster munitions in Laos, Mozambique and Lebanon.
Our history is intimately connected with the most terrible injustices of the last 30 years. It would not be complete without mentioning the amazing people who have helped us, and the fraternity that exists even under the worst possible conditions. It is this mutual support that motivates us to carry on, to provide tangible, practical solutions to problems, made possible by the help of local communities and the spirit of solidarity. This is something that has never failed us: in every culture, in every part of the world, families never give up. It is our duty and our responsibility to do the same.”