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New study shows legacy of disability from explosive weapon use in Syria

Source: Handicap International - UK - Wed, 22 Jan 2014 12:25 PM
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Rarad, a young girl amputee in an IDP camp, Syria © Brice Blondel/Handicap International
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

London, 22nd January 2014. With the Geneva II Middle East peace conference poised to begin, Handicap International has released a new study on the causes and types of injuries observed by the organisation’s teams working with Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Syria. Out of the people interviewed who had sustained new injuries due to the crisis, 60% were victims of explosive weapons and were suffering from serious physical injuries.

Handicap International calls on the international community to bring an end to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and to ensure that civilian populations can access humanitarian aid and health care. The organisation wishes to draw the international community's attention to the terrible legacy the Syrian conflict will leave behind, in terms of the number of people left disabled who will require extensive, long-term care management.

From November 2012 to October 2013, Handicap International conducted 1,847 interviews with displaced persons in Syria, in the areas where the organisation is working to provide them with physical care and psychological support. Almost half (913) of those interviewed had sustained injuries related to the current conflict. One in five of these people were aged below 17 years old.

It is particularly disturbing to note that, of these injured people, 60% were injured by explosive weapons, and 31% had sustained gunshot wounds. The people harmed by explosive weapons were often suffering from severe physical injuries: over 60% had fractures or complex fractures, 25% had undergone an amputation, 21% had peripheral nerve damage, and 7% had irreversible spinal cord injuries.

“In the very short term, people with these injuries require immediate and adequate care to avoid developing permanent disabilities or even putting the victim’s life in danger,” explains Aleema Shivji, Director of Handicap International UK.

88.49% of the people interviewed who had sustained injuries related to the crisis reported that they did not have satisfactory access to rehabilitation services prior to Handicap International’s intervention. The victims of explosive weapons need to access appropriate health services urgently, in order to avoid complications and in some cases death.

These people also need long-term medical, financial and social support, often for the rest of their lives, and the large number of victims will require significant resources. Handicap International wants to draw attention to the devastating legacy this conflict will leave for a whole generation of people with injuries and disabilities. Preparations need to be made right now to deal with these terrible consequences.

The organisation has observed that, in countries undergoing post-conflict reconstruction (e.g. Cambodia, Angola, Vietnam) the needs are often underestimated in terms of developing health and rehabilitation services, training related staff and providing economic and social support.

-Ends-

Notes
The report is available to download at: http://bit.ly/Syria-Explosive-Weapons

Experts available for comment
Aleema Shivji, Director, Handicap International U.K.
Thierry-Mehdi Benlahsen, Regional Emergency Coordinator, Handicap International
Eric Weerts, Physiotherapist and Technical Advisor for Emergency and Rehabilitation, Handicap International.

Press contact
Tom Shelton
Email: tom.shelton@hi-uk.org
Mobile: 44 (0)7508 810 520
Tel: 44 (0)870 774 3737

About Handicap International
Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Handicap International is an independent charity working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work tirelessly alongside disabled and vulnerable people in over 60 countries worldwide. www.handicap-international.org.uk

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