Handicap International launched an emergency project in May 2014 in four Syrian refugee camps to ensure that people with disabilities are able to access aid and services. Immediately following the fall of Mosul in June 2014, Handicap International deployed mobile rehabilitation teams to meet the needs of displaced Iraqis. The organization focuses its efforts in Iraq on emergency response initiatives, rehabilitation, and support for Disable People's Organizations (DPOs). Handicap International employs 66 national staff and six expatriates in Iraq.
Handicap International has operated in Iraqi Kurdistan since 1991. Iraqi Kurdistan is largely populated by ethnic Kurds who have sought independence from Iraq for decades. Kurdish rebellions in 1988 and 1991 were brutally suppressed by Saddam Hussein. Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, a Kurdish semi-autonomous government was formalized.
Due to the Syria conflict and extremist movements in Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan currently hosts 1 million displaced Iraqis, making living conditions extremely precarious. Another 2.1 million Iraqis are displaced in other regions, in addition to over 248,000 Syrian refugees currently in the country.
Emergency response: Syria crisis
Handicap International has been active since May 2014 in four Syrian refugee camps in the governorate of Erbil to meet the needs of people with disabilities and people with specific needs resulting from the crisis in Syria. Run in partnership with the Danish Refugee Council, this project aims to improve access to camp facilitates and the inclusion of people with disabilities in humanitarian relief efforts. Staff work hard to effectively identify needs, asses and refer the most vulnerable refugees, create income-generating opportunities, raise awareness, and ensure facilities are physically accessible. So far, 2,500 refugees and 60 non-refugees have benefited from this project. Handicap International also works to provide services to internally displaced persons in Iraq, including rehabilitation and education sessions on the risks posed by unexploded remnants of war.
Fixed and mobile disability teams provide injured and disabled refugees and displaced people with physical therapy, mobility devices, orthoses and prostheses, and psychosocial support. Staff provide physical therapy to people who have had limbs amputated and need to learn to use artificial limbs, as well as people with injuries such as complex fractures that could result in a permanent disability due to prolonged periods of inactivity.
Support for Disabled Peoples Organizations (DPOs)
Handicap International facilitates collaboration between Syrian and Iraqi DPOs and activists in order to ensure all parties are able to play a role in an inclusive democratic transition to the greatest extent possible. This project includes professional training and other capacity building activities, as well as micro-financing opportunities. 30 DPOs, 130 activists, and 500 other members of organizations are benefiting from these efforts.
These projects are possible thanks to Handicap International donors, and the following funding bodies: