In Gaza, the lives of civilians are still at risk from explosive remnants of war left after the Summer 2014 conflict. Several thousands of explosive devices are still buried under the rubble of the houses and infrastructure destroyed in the fighting. Handicap International is organising risk education sessions to prevent more people falling victim to these weapons. The organisation also implements development projects throughout the Palestinian Territories.
© Tom Shelton / Handicap International
Following a succession of violent incidents between Palestinians and Israelis during the summer of 2014, the Israeli army launched ‘Operation Protective Edge’. More than 2,000 Palestinians, for the most part civilians, were killed during this operation, with more than 10,000 others injured. On the Israeli side, five civilians and 67 soldiers were also killed. 216 schools and 33 hospitals were destroyed. The 50-day conflict was extremely violent, displacing the people of Gaza to areas where they were less exposed to fighting. After returning to their homes at the end of the conflict, the Gazan people are now at constant risk from the lethal threat of explosive remnants of war.
Since March 2015, Handicap International has delivered risk education sessions to civilians. More than 30,000 adults and children benefitted from them. The organisation assesses damaged or destroyed buildings to determine the level or type of risk posed by the potential presence of explosive devices. If necessary, following the audit, civil engineering teams are deployed to clear the rubble and demining teams are called in to neutralise explosive remnants of war.
In the six months following the conflict, Handicap International and its four local partners also organised 28,000 rehabilitation sessions for more than 4,800 people. In addition, around 6,400 people have been referred to specific services provided by other organisations. Handicap International has also distributed 2,500 mobility aids (crutches and wheelchairs) and 4,000 non-food items, such as blankets and hygiene kits. Finally, more than 2,000 people have received psychological support.
Handicap International has been working in the Palestinian Territories since 1996. The organisation collaborates with local Palestinian associations on all of the activities outlined above. In addition, it is working to improve the care of children with cerebral palsy, promote the rights of people with disabilities and their inclusion in society, and improve their access to healthcare and education services.
Faced with an ongoing crisis with Israel and a 7-year blockade in Gaza, the Palestinian people, including people with disabilities, get by as best they can.
The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has deteriorated since 2000 and the second Intifada. Following Hamas’s election victory and its formation of a government, international aid to the Palestinian authorities was frozen. Both economic and social conditions deteriorated rapidly. Since the expulsion of Fatah in 2007, Gaza has been subjected to a blockade by Israel and Egypt.
During the events of summer 2014, 440,000 people were forced to seek refuge in collective shelters, with thousands of civilians killed or injured. There was widespread destruction, with more than 200 schools and around fifty hospitals destroyed.
Restrictions on the movement of Palestinians are affecting people with disabilities particularly badly, as they find it extremely difficult to get around and access the services they need. The hilly nature of the country, particularly the West Bank, together with the lack of public and accessible transport, further exacerbates these difficulties.
People with disabilities have to contend with discrimination at every level of society, in particular in the areas of education and employment. This situation is especially problematic for women with disabilities and the mothers of children with disabilities.