FEEDBACK – Syria Donor Conference: an event to call for an inclusive Syrian humanitarian response

Posted by: on Mar 19, 2019 | No Comments

With the third Brussels Conference to Support the future of Syria and the region taking place last week (12-15 March), HI took the opportunity to gather partners and other conference participants in side event titled “Including persons with disabilities in the Syrian humanitarian response”.

Humanity & Inclusion (HI), the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Government of Australia (DFAT) co-hosted the panel discussion to highlight the multiple deprivations resulting from barriers to health care for persons with disabilities and people with impairments due to the conflict, and to discuss inclusive solutions to improve access to health care for Syrians in- and outside of Syria.

Health care needs : an urgent and long-term concern

The availability of health care services has been dramatically affected by eight years of crisis. The conflict has eroded and overburdened the system, while the number of people in need of health services (e.g. due to conflict-related injuries or non-conflict related recent impairments) has gone up. The number of persons with disabilities will likely increase, either through exacerbation of medical conditions, such as diabetes, due to lack of appropriate treatment, new impairments resulting from the conflict, or through a lack of health care services for people with non-conflict related injuries.

“As the Brussels Conference is happening, we need to be thinking about not only the short-term implications of disability but a lot of the long-term implications,” said Amany Qaddour, the Regional director of Syria Relief and Development (SRD).

Data to identify and respond to the needs of persons with disabilities in Syria and neighbouring countries

Lack of disability-disaggregated data impedes identification, monitoring and analysis of needs and challenges faced by persons with disabilities. HI & IMMAP* conducted disability assessments among Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, revealing that 61.4% of households have at least one member with a disability.

“People don’t know what services are available to them or where to find them,” said  Bahia Zrikem, HI Humanitarian Policy Coordinator.

REACH and the Health cluster did a similar study in Idleb, Western Aleppo and Ar-Raqqa governorates in Syria. The data shows that, on average, 30% of adults live withhave a disability. This is double the WHO global average of 15%.

“The same study also showed that persons with disabilities also faced considerable challenges to access education and water (see link to the study below). Inside Syria, the prevalence of disability is also striking, with nearly half of the people in some areas of the country possessing some sort of disability”, according to REACH Regional Syria Coordinator Nanki Chawla.

Other challenges, such as intersectionality and the subsequent need for data disaggregated by disability, age and gender to better tailor the response, and the growingmental health care needs among Syrian people inside and outside Syria were also mentioned by the participants.

Good practices & commitments from donors 

Sarah Schmitt, Second Secretary with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), reiterated her country’s commitment to an inclusive humanitarian response in Syria. An assessment conducted in 2016 found that many humanitarian aid programs were not inclusive enough, in part due to stigma surrounding disability in the host countries of Jordan and Lebanon causing access to education and livelihoods opportunities to be incredibly limited. Detailing the four pillars guiding Australia’s humanitarian response (funding research, advocacy, benchmarks, and targeted supports) in Syria, she noted that:

“We [The Australian government] have been able to create a systematic approach and ensure a more inclusive response.”

DG ECHO’s Jean-Louis De Brouwer, Director for Europe of Eastern Neighbourhood and Middle East, emphasized that “advocacy on inclusive humanitarian action is key” when approaching this issue.

Panelists concluded that there is a pressing need for all humanitarian actors to mainstream inclusion of persons with disabilities in their programs. All actors must commit to an inclusive Syrian humanitarian response that is in line with their commitments to the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action and the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, by sharing evidence, building resources and capacity, improving accountability, and influencing policies and practices.

To know more, read:

  • Removing Barriers on the inclusion of Syrian refugees with disabilities in Jordan & Lebanon, 2018, HI & IMMAP

Download the country reports:



Download the factsheets:

Demographics and disability

Access to services



  • Responding to the humanitarian needs of today – preparing for the Syrian response tomorrow, 2019, HI:

Cover : Responding to the humanitarian needs of today – preparing for the Syrian response tomorrow

 Humanitarian Access, Continuity of Services and Protection of Humanitarian Workers

Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas (EWIPA), Contamination and Mine Action

Health Care and Health Needs – Physical Rehabilitation, Psychosocial Support and Mental Health

Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in the Syrian Humanitarian Response

Durable Solutions/ Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

*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.