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“Rehabilitation matters – The appeal made by people in conflict-affected areas”


Advocacy | Armed violence reduction | Rehabilitation | Colombia | International | Iraq | Laos | PUBLISHED ON May 16th 2024
Gloria and her son Sebastian outside of their home, in Pasto (Colombia)

Gloria and her son Sebastian outside of their home, in Pasto (Colombia) | © Juan Manuel Vargas Ramirez / HI

In conflicts, saving lives is the priority. But beyond survival, people living in areas affected by conflicts should access other essential services that enable them to live healthy and dignified lives.

Among these essential services, rehabilitation (like physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy among others) and the provision of assistive technology (like prosthetic devises, wheelchairs, and hearing aids among others) are often deprioritised. As a result, people who have been injured during conflict, people with pre-existing health conditions, persons with disabilities, and the many who bear the physical and psychological consequences of conflict are left behind.

This is the focus of our new publication "Rehabilitation matters: the appeal made by people in conflict-affected areas", which can be accessed through its report and dedicated website. Photo exhibitions based on the portraits of people featured in the publication will be organised in various locations in the coming months (stay tuned for more information!).

The publication sheds light on the often-forgotten people who struggle to access the services and care they need and to exercise their rights. Their struggle extends beyond the period of conflict, as explosive ordnance and weapons of all kinds contaminate large areas and remain a significant threat, causing indiscriminate harm to the population for many years after.

The stories of the seven people featured in this publication are a call to action: it is time to ensure that quality rehabilitation and assistive technology are provided for everyone who needs them, everywhere.

  • Gloria and her son Sebastian, who has Down's syndrome and multiple health complications, fled their village in Colombia. In the city where they now live, Sebastian has received rehabilitation services, but he cannot get the physiotherapy sessions he needs because of long waiting lists.
  • The horrors of war have caused physical and psychological suffering for Shaha, a young girl in Iraq who lost part of her family and was injured by an improvised explosive device. Thanks to rehabilitation, she is now able to move her hand and fingers.
  • Mr Ngok was eight years old when he lost his right hand in an unexploded ordnance accident in Lao PDR. He had to wait almost twenty years before he could access the rehabilitation services and devices he needed.

Andres, 41, was heavily injured in an explosive weapon accident, in Colombia. He sits in the patio of his building in Pasto.

 “Recovery was a bitter process, because the system is precarious and there is little state support and aid for the victims.”
© Juan Manuel Vargas Ramirez / HI

Mrs Xoua Xiong and her family live in a rural Hmong community, in Houameuang district, Lao PDR.

“After receiving my prothesis, at school I felt more confident, and it was easier for me to write. If somebody looked at me, they could not guess that I was an amputee.”
© Simon Cote Production / HI

Their powerful stories are backed up by figures. In 2022, 3015 people were injured by landmines and explosive remnants of war, and 17038 people were injured by explosive weapons, with a potential need for long-term assistance. More than 50% of people who need rehabilitation services do not have access to them, and in some countries access to assistive technology is as low as 3%.

Rehabilitation and assistive technology have been proven to reduce health complications, promote autonomy, social participation and economic productivity. What are we waiting for to invest adequately in this essential component of health?

To read the report in French, click here

To read the report in English, click here

To visit the web site, click here

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