The mandate of HI in Gaza and throughout the Palestinian Terrirories is to improve the daily lives of the most vulnerable people (people with disabilities, women, children and elderly people), by empowering local disabled people’s organisations and activists to seek the recognition of the rights of most vulnerable segments of society.
HI's information stand at an event in Gaza, April 2015 | © Tom Shelton / HI
HI has been working in Palestine since 1996 with a main mandate to support disability organisations. In 1999, the organisation launched an education initiative on the risks of anti-personnel landmines and other explosive remnants of war. A large number of development initiatives have since been run, in partnership with local associations: functional rehabilitation, psychosocial support, Disabled Persons Organisations (DPO) empowerment, local inclusive development, access to education and access to employment. Following the summer 2014 humanitarian crisis in Gaza, HI complemented its development intervention with emergency and post emergency response in the fields of rehabilitation, reconstruction, and anti-personnel landmines and other explosive remnants of war risk reduction.
Ongoing projects include initiatives to encourage faire access to employment for people with disabilities, improving access to rehabilitation through home-based services, and psychosocial support for vulnerable school children.
Faced with an ongoing crisis with Israel and a long-standing blockade in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian people, including people with disabilities, get by as best they can.
The situation in which HI intervenes in Palestine is unique and particularly complex. The living conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories remain very tense and Palestinians living in the Gaza strip and the West Bank are particularly vulnerable. The already precarious socio-economic situation has deteriorated since the summer 2014 Israeli Offensive, “Protective Edge”. Lack of employment opportunities have driven the unemployment rate to over 38%, further exacerbated by strict restrictions of movement of goods and people. With service sectors and non-governmental organisations resources stretched thin, Palestinians are struggling to meet their basic needs, especially persons with disabilities who are often overlooked and lack proper representation in development and relief efforts.
In the West Bank, a resurgence of violence since October 2015 has led to further isolation of the most vulnerable segments of society with increasing difficulties to access care and employment opportunities as well. As is the case in the Gaza Strip, lack of proper coordination between civil society organisations has led to the deepening of vulnerabilities of persons with disabilities.
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.