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Radical change needed for older, disabled and injured Syrian refugees - report

Source: Handicap International - UK - Wed, 9 Apr 2014 09:09 GMT
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© Sébastien Nogier / Handicap International
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

London, 9th April 2014. New research published today shows that older, disabled and injured Syrian refugees are paying a double toll as a result of the conflict. The report, released by Handicap International and HelpAge International, provides new data showing how much these vulnerable refugees are struggling to meet their specific needs.

The two agencies are calling on all national and international humanitarian stakeholders providing assistance to Syrian refugees to change the way aid is delivered so that disabled, injured and older refugees are no longer the hidden casualties of the conflict. More precise targeting and registration of refugees and better training of staff will ensure humanitarian assistance is accessible, appropriate and effective, says the report.

The Syrian crisis has now generated the largest refugee movement since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The report shows that, hidden amongst the overall refugee population, disabled, injured and older refugees and those suffering from chronic diseases, are facing significant difficulties in accessing appropriate aid.

Invisible, the most vulnerable people are at far greater risk of falling through the gaps of humanitarian relief, with a far higher impact on their health, living conditions and social integration than for other refugees, as well as increased psychological distress. Yet, studies of humanitarian assistance show how these same groups are often neglected in the assessment, the collection of data, design and delivery of humanitarian relief.

The report’s findings, based on primary data collected across 3,200 refugees, are stark:

  • 30% of refugees in Jordan and Lebanon have specific needs:
    - One in five refugees is affected by physical, sensory or intellectual impairment,
    - One in seven is affected by chronic disease,
    - One in 20 suffers from injury, with nearly 80% of these injuries directly resulting from the conflict.
  • 77% of older refugees (60+) are affected by impairment, injury or chronic disease.
  • Refugees affected by impairment, injury or chronic disease are twice as likely as the general refugee population to report signs of psychological distress.
  • 65% of older refugees present signs of psychological distress.
  • 45% of refugees with specific needs have problems carrying out simple daily tasks.

“The lack of psychosocial or mental health care is a major challenge, significantly affecting the well-being of older people but also placing an additional burden on their families” says Toby Porter, Chief Executive Officer of HelpAge International. “Aid needs to be tailored specifically so that older, disabled and injured Syrian refugees are provided with appropriate treatment, so that this in turn may help to reduce the trauma of displacement.”

Thierry-Mehdi Benlahsen, Regional Emergency Coordinator from Handicap International, says: “Displacement has a severe negative impact on the daily life of disabled and injured people, who need urgent access to health services but also long-term medical, financial and social support. Addressing the needs of all refugees is critical to the delivery of principled and impartial aid. As such, the findings of the report have far reaching consequences for the way humanitarian response activities are designed and delivered.”

To ensure that people with specific needs are no longer the forgotten casualties of this conflict, Handicap International and HelpAge International are making eight recommendations, such as appropriate collection of information so that older, disabled and injured refugees can access essential services such as healthcare, income support and rehabilitation services.

Notes to editors
This research is based on primary data collected in October and November 2013. The report, along with the full range of statistics and recommendations, is available to download at: http://bit.ly/HiddenVictims

The report is being launched at an event at ALNAP at 3pm today, 9th April. To register, please visit http://www.odi.org.uk/events/3911-disability-elderly-syrian-refugees

Experts available for comment

  • Thierry-Mehdi Benlahsen, Regional Emergency Coordinator, Handicap International
  • Lydia De Leeuw, Regional Inclusion Programme Manager, Handicap International / HelpAge International
  • Aleema Shivji, Director of Handicap International UK and humanitarian expert
  • Marcus Skinner, Humanitarian Policy Manager, HelpAge International

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

HelpAge International
Sarah Gillam
sarah.gillam@helpage.org
Mobile: +44 (0) 7713 567624
Tel: +44 (0) 207 148 7623

About Handicap International and HelpAge
Handicap International and HelpAge International are working together to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan and Lebanon. Using their joint expertise, the two organisations identify the needs of the most vulnerable groups, including older and disabled people, to ensure their access to essential relief services (e.g. shelter, physiotherapy) and to provide them with direct cash assistance. They are also training other humanitarian organisations to ensure these people are taken into account in their own aid programmes.

Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Handicap International is a 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

HelpAge International helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives. Our work is strengthened through our global network of like-minded organisations – the only one of its kind in the world. www.helpage.org

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of the Thomson Reuters Foundation. For more information see our Acceptable Use Policy.

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