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1 in 5 Syrian refugees has a disability, new survey reveals

Emergency Inclusion
Jordan Lebanon United Kingdom

A new study by HI and iMMAP shows that much more can be done to ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities in humanitarian responses.

Haya, a disabled SYrian refugee, with her two children.

© Sébastien Nogier/HI

More than 60% of Syrian refugee households include a person with disability, and 1/5 of refugees in Lebanon and Jordan have a disability, according to a new study by HI and iMMAP[1].

The survey ran from 2017-2018, and so far has resulted in two reports, four factsheets and a Data Dashboard that provide statistical figures on people with disabilities among Syrian refugees and their access to humanitarian aid.

Yahoko Asai, HI's Regional Inclusion Technical Coordinator, explains the study’s importance:

What is the purpose of conducting a survey on disability among refugees?

This survey intends to give humanitarian actors precise information on persons with disabilities among Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, and to encourage those actors to adapt the ways they conduct their humanitarian programs, by including the needs of people with disabilities.

Why was such a survey needed?

There is an increasing interest in disability in humanitarian contexts. But we had, so far, very limited information on the number of persons with disabilities and how various barriers affect their daily lives.

The lack of data is one of the main reasons why they face exclusion and discrimination. Without data, humanitarian actors are not aware of the barriers that persons with disabilities face in accessing humanitarian assistance such as shelter, water, health and education.

Researchers disaggregated the data by disability, age, gender, and location. It is a precious source of precise information to know who has disabilities, where a person is, what difficulties s/he faces and what actions s/he thinks are important.

What are the major findings of the reports?

In both countries, 22.8% of the surveyed Syrian refugees have disabilities. It means that more than 1 in 5 refugees has a disability.

Also, 61.4% of the households have at least one member with disabilities. This figure suggests that many households are required to provide additional time and money, as well as physical and emotional effort to care for their family members, and to seek relevant information and services.

Humanitarian actors must do a better job of considering the impact of disability on households, and plan adequate family support programs.

The study suggests a strong relationship between poverty and disability…

Yes, the data from Jordan found that poorer households are more likely to have children with disabilities than households in higher income brackets. Around 80% of children with disabilities reside in poor households.

What are the causes of disability?

Around 28% of persons with disabilities reported illness or disease as the primary cause. Many also report having a disability from birth. Also, about one third of persons who reported illness, injuries and malnutrition as causes of their disability say that it was linked to the conflict.

The report includes anxiety as a form of disability. Why?

Anxiety and depression can lead you to experience difficulties communicating, going outside of your home, being active in your daily life.

The study found that children frequently experience anxiety and depression. In Zaatari camp in Jordan, in particular, almost 20% of children aged 5-17 feel intense anxiety on a daily basis.

This data suggests the strong need for humanitarian actors to focus on mental health and psychosocial support, with careful attention to the young.

The study details the barriers that people with disabilities face.

It is much harder for a person with disability to get a job, And children with disability, especially boys, are more likely to drop out of school.

The results also describe barriers. Some infrastructure, like bathrooms, are not always accessible to persons with disabilities. Such inaccessibility also affects persons without disabilities.

In some locations, health services are not accessible due to high costs, lack of transportation or discouraging behaviour from the frontline staff.

Thanks to the survey, humanitarian workers know exactly where the gaps are and what has to be improved.

What are the next steps?

HI and iMMAP will continue to broadcast the report to humanitarian actors, hold meetings to explain its findings, and advocate for inclusion of people with disabilities in humanitarian responses.

Our actions will include collaboration with the Australian Foreign Affairs department (DFAT), which made this study possible, to advocate for other donors to make their humanitarian actions inclusive to people with disabilities.


1. IMMAP is an international NGO that provides professional information management services to humanitarian and development organizations by collecting, analyzing, and visualizing data, which enables them to make informed decisions to ultimately provide high-quality targeted assistance to the world’s most vulnerable populations.

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