REPORT – Hidden victims of the Syrian crisis: disabled, injured and older refugees

Posted by: on Dec 7, 2013 | No Comments

The Syrian crisis has generated the largest refugee movement since the Rwandan genocide and is described as the defining refugee crisis of our era. Within this refugee population older, disabled and injured refugees face specific challenges that contribute to their vulnerability.

Yet, studies of humanitarian programming show that these same groups are often neglected in the assessment, data collection, design and delivery of responses. Therefore, in October and November 2013, Handicap International and HelpAge International undertook a research project to highlight the number and needs of Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon living with impairment, injury and chronic disease – for the purposes of this study these groups are referred to as “people with specific needs”.

The report aims to contribute to the evidence base humanitarians use to design responses, and to support the delivery of inclusive activities which identify and respond to the needs of people with specific needs.

The study shows that among the Syrian refugees surveyed:

  • 30 per cent of refugees have specific needs: one in five refugees is affected by physical, sensory or intellectual impairment; one in seven is affected by chronic disease; and one in 20 suffers from injury, with nearly 80 per cent of these injuries resulting directly from the conflict.
  • Refugees with and without specific needs have the same basic concerns – a lack of income, availability and quality of shelter, and access to basic healthcare, food and essential household items.
  • The difficulties faced by those with specific needs in addressing basic concerns and accessing adequate levels of assistance have more severe consequences for their health and living conditions than the general refugee population.

Supporting refugees with specific needs demands a change in the type of humanitarian assistance available, and the way in which it is delivered. Handicap International and HelpAge International recommend that national and international actors involved in providing assistance to Syrian refugees:

  • Collect, analyse and use sex, age and disability disaggregated data (SADDD) to support programme design and implementation.
  • Sensitise and build staff capacity to identify and include people with specific needs in service delivery to address both their basic needs (eg. income and health care access etc.) and specialised needs (eg. physiotherapy, provision of prosthetics etc.).
  • Ensure all services and assistance are available and accessible by people with specific needs.
  • Develop strategies that strengthen existing family and community support mechanisms for people with specific needs.
  • Address gaps in the quality of primary healthcare services for those with chronic disease.
  • Ensure medical assistance and longer-term rehabilitation is available for post-operative patients (to avoid creating disabilities).
  • Ensure projects that address the needs of refugees with specific needs receive the necessary funding support.
  • Support central governments and local authorities to adapt strategies, services, infrastructure and regulatory frameworks to ensure accessibility by older, disabled and injured refugees, and support recognition of their rights.

Download the study in English.

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