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Handicap International has been working in China for more than 16 years, in particular in poor and rural areas. The organisation works with both civil society and the government to promote the inclusion of the most vulnerable groups in society and people with disabilities. Handicap International also seeks to support their transition into the education system and workplace. The organisation runs rehabilitation programmes, in particular for victims of natural disasters.

A rehabilitation session, Handicap International China

© E. Mogster / Handicap International

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When major natural disasters such as earthquakes or extensive flooding occur in China, Handicap International offers emergency relief assistance to victims. Its first relief efforts were rolled out in the provinces of Guangxi, Heilongjiang and Inner Mongolia between 1998 and 2000, then in Sichuan, which was hit by earthquakes in 2008 and 2013, and also in Yunnan in August 2014. It is able to offer rehabilitation care, walking aids and emergency orthopaedic fitting (prostheses, wheelchairs etc.) for people with disabilities or injuries. It is currently continuing to support survivors of the earthquake in Yunnan in 2014, offering rehabilitation care and psychosocial support. Handicap International also organises rehabilitation sessions at a national level to ensure people with disabilities benefit from quality care.

The organisation also contributes to the development of more inclusive policies in conjunction with a number of partners at both government and civil society level so that vulnerable people can play an active role in society. The projects implemented focus not only on physical rehabilitation, but also on access to education and employment for both children and adults with disabilities. They also seek to promote their social inclusion and improve their knowledge of sexuality and reproductive health. The organisation also promotes the inclusion of people with mental health problems in society.

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Handicap International in Tibet: an operation spanning 15 years
© Handicap International

Handicap International in Tibet: an operation spanning 15 years

Handicap International began working in the Tibet Autonomous Region - where its many projects were designed to promote the social inclusion of people with disabilities - in 2000. In mid-2015, the organisation withdrew from the region and entrusted the follow-up of its projects to its former local partner, the Tibet Disabled Persons' Federation.


China is currently the world’s most densely populated country, with a total population of 1.3 billion people. There are more than 85 million people with disabilities[1] in the country, the majority of whom have extremely precarious living conditions.

According to the latest national disability survey[2], the mean annual income of people with disabilities in China is more than 50% below the national average. Only a third of people with disabilities requiring functional rehabilitation services have access to this care, and only a fifth of people who need mobility aids (such as prostheses, orthoses and wheelchairs) have access to them. Schools and workplaces are also difficult to access for people with disabilities.

Though the country has modernised, its rapid development has been has been accompanied by the emergence of new disparities. One of the most worrying consequences is the growing inequality between the poor regions in China’s interior and the rich provinces to the east and south. Many people also live in poverty in the west of the country. People with disabilities in these regions are particularly vulnerable.

Furthermore, China is prone to major natural disasters and its provinces are frequently affected by earthquakes and widespread flooding.

[1] Communiqué on major statistics of the second China national sample survey on disability. Beijing: Leading Group of the Second China National Sample Survey on Disability & National Bureau of Statistics of the People’s Republic of China; 2006.

[2] Conducted in 2006.

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