In July 2011, Handicap International launched emergency operations in eastern Kenya in response to a massive influx of refugees from Somalia. Fleeing drought and famine in the Horn of Africa, hundreds of thousands of people settled in the Dadaab camp. With a population of 450,000 people, it became the world’s largest refugee camp. Still present in the camp, Handicap International provided assistance to 12,000 people in 2015.
1st August 2016 is the 6th anniversary of the entry into force of the Oslo Convention which bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions. Despite the undeniable success of the Convention, which has now been signed by 119 States, the use of cluster munitions has reached record levels since 2010.
Since 2006, Handicap International has cleared more than 25,000 items of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Laos, the most heavily bombed country per capita on earth. Leonard Kaminski, the New Zealand-born chief of operations for Handicap International’s demining program in Laos, answers questions about Laos' UXO problem and the organisation’s efforts to clear these weapons.
More than 50,000 people in Laos have been killed or injured by explosive remnants of war leftover from the Vietnam War. Millions of bombs still litter the land. Handicap International mine risk education teams educate children and adults about how to protect themselves and reduce the risk of accidents from these deadly weapons.
Between 1964 and 1973, the U.S. dropped millions of bombs on Laos as part of secret campaign to cut off North Vietnamese supply routes through the country. Today, Laotians like Nang, a mother of five, are still being injured and killed by explosive remnants of war. Handicap International helps victims to regain their economic independence. In 2015, the organisation gave Nang two goats so she could start her own business.
He was born in Kompong Cham province, while she was born in Takeo province, further south. Under normal circumstances, they would probably never have met. But Tirean and Navea were both victims of mines in the 1980s. Now married, they are both supported by Handicap International's rehabilitation centre in Kompong Cham.
In early 2016, Handicap International launched weapons clearance actions in the governorates of Kirkuk and Diyala, in Iraq. After several months of preliminary non-technical surveys and the marking of contaminated areas, clearance operations will soon start in these regions.
Two years ago, we met Nouay Phonesomxay, a Lao cluster bomb victim and Handicap International deminer. In May 2016, we caught up with Nouay as he and his team cleared land around Ponntong village, which was located near the former Ho Chi Minh Trail. During the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese used the Ho Chi Minh Trail to bring supplies through Laos to support troops in Southern Vietnam. This route was heavily bombed by the U.S., and a high level of UXO pollution remains in the area today.
Baramulla Tigers against the Kupwara Tigers. In early June 2016, Handicap International organized the first ever cricket match to include players with and without disabilities at Handwara degree college, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. A big success and an opportunity to promote the inclusion of young people with disabilities in society.
Handicap International provides risk education in Jammu and Kashmir about the explosive remnants of war that contaminate the ground in villages close to border with Pakistan. The organisation also provides rehabilitation care to the most vulnerable people.
The conflict that tore through Gaza in summer 2014 not only caused extensive material damage, it left nearly 10,000 unexploded devices behind, including rockets, missile warheads and bombs. Since March 2015, Handicap International’s teams have been raising the awareness of people living in the worst-affected neighbourhoods to prevent potentially deadly accidents. One such session, in Deir Al-Balah, led to the four unexploded devices being defused.
Handicap International’s demining expert, Simon Elmont, coordinates the organisation’s efforts in Iraq to protect civilians from explosive remnants of war. These actions aim at clearing areas contaminated in previous wars and zones affected more recently by conflicts, such as territories occupied by the Islamic State group.
Mali: Weapons risk reduction 30/06/16
Since March 2016, Handicap International has worked with almost 20,000 people in northern Mali, raising awareness of small arms and light weapons and explosive remnants of war. This awareness-raising campaign will continue for another year. The objective is to reduce the very high number of accidents in this region of the country, where weapons are commonplace following the intense fighting that took place in 2012-2013.
In Iraq, Handicap International runs psychosocial support sessions for people affected by the current crisis, many of whom have been displaced from their homes. In Kirkuk governorate, the organisation runs regular group sessions to help people overcome trauma related to the conflict.
Handicap International has been providing support to displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees in Iraq since 2014. In Kurdistan, the organisation runs a regional project called “Syrian Disability Representatives”, which aims to support Syrian representatives able to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities who have fled the conflict in Syria and found refuge in the region.