Handicap International’s teams in Lebanon are supporting Syrian refugees, providing emergency relief and crucially, offering access to rehabilitation care, prosthetics and orthotics. In parallel, it is running a development programme to improve the inclusion of people who are vulnerable or with disabilities in community life.
© Elias Saade / Handicap International
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Since 2011, more than a million Syrians, half of them children, have fled the fighting in their home country to seek refuge in Lebanon. The majority of these refugees are living in tiny apartments, collective or makeshift shelters and unoccupied houses, with no resources at all.
Since the summer of 2012, Handicap International has been supporting these refugees, in particular in the north of Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley. The organisation has set up a series of “Disability and Vulnerability Focal Points”, both permanent and mobile. Their role is to ensure that the most vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, receive the specific aid they need (distribution of crutches, wheelchairs, provision of prostheses, physiotherapy services, psychosocial support etc.) and are referred to other organisations where required. The organisation also provides physiotherapy and orthopaedic fitting services in the hospitals and clinics treating injured Syrian refugees.
In Lebanon, more than 139,000 Syrian refugees have already benefited from these initiatives so far.
Handicap International is also carrying out mine clearance operations in the north of the country following the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese conflict. It provides psychological and psychosocial support to Palestinian refugee children and is helping people with disabilities campaign for their rights.
Syrian refugees now make up over a quarter of the Lebanese population. Fear and tension have been building within the country.
Six years after the uprising, fighting is continuing in Syria, with thousands of people being forced to take refuge in Lebanon. There are currently more than 1 million Syrian refugees in the country, with an large number of vulnerable people among them.
In April 2014, a survey conducted in Lebanon and Jordan by Handicap International, working in collaboration with HelpAge International, found that 5.7% of refugees, i.e. more than 90,000 people, had serious injuries. In three out of four cases, these injuries will lead to a permanent disability due both to their severity and the lack of medical attention.
Lebanon is home to a sizeable community of Palestinian refugees. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in 2013, some 455,000 Palestinian refugees are currently living in Lebanon. A total of 53% are living in refugee camps, with the remainder housed in unofficial gatherings. This community is more or less acknowledged by the Lebanese authorities. However, it is still very difficult for these people to access the country’s healthcare and education services.
Landmines and explosive remnants of war
Fifteen years of civil war (1975-1990), followed by armed conflicts in 2006 and 2007, have taken a heavy toll in Lebanon. During the summer of 2006 alone, Israel dropped some 4 million cluster submunitions over Lebanon in under 72 hours. Even today, hundreds of thousands of unexploded cluster munitions pose a threat to the population.
Handicap International has been conducting mine clearance operations in Lebanon since 2006. Today, its demining teams are deployed in the north of the country, primarily on agricultural land.
Responding to the needs of people with disabilities is primarily focused on a package of specialist services, provided for the most part by local organisations. Campaigns have been undertaken to advance their rights, in particular by advocating for changes to the existing laws that will enable citizens with disabilities to live their lives in the same way as other people and enjoy the same rights. However, the implementation of policies and strategies to resolve disability-related issues is not systematic, particularly in the poorest or most remote regions. Generally speaking, people with disabilities in rural areas have very limited access to health, education and social protection services.
 Hidden Victims of the Syrian Conflict: Disabled, Injured and Older Refugees.