- A new report from global charity Humanity & Inclusion (HI) shows that people with disabilities in Gaza are facing huge challenges in protecting themselves from violence and getting the help they need.
- Many cannot evacuate, particularly those with reduced mobility. Others are separated from their families whom they rely on for care. And for those who do manage to flee, their assistive devices are often destroyed or left behind in the chaos.
- HI is calling for protection and equal access to humanitarian assistance for people with disabilities in Gaza. They are urging humanitarian organisations and donors to adapt their activities to ensure that no one with disabilities is left behind.
- HI has also launched an urgent appeal for funds to support its crucial work helping the most vulnerable people in Gaza.
The attacks by Hamas and retaliation by Israel have a devastating impact on civilians. 1,400 people have lost their lives in Israel and more than 200 were taken hostage. More than 9,000 civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, mostly children and women, have been killed in airstrikes and violence so far (Hamas-Run Gaza Health Ministry). With the heavy bombardment of Gaza currently taking place, vulnerable people - particularly people with disabilities - are disproportionately affected. Global disability charity Humanity & Inclusion (HI) has teams on the ground identifying the most vulnerable people and providing aid and rehabilitation care.
People with disabilities facing huge challenges
“Many persons with disabilities, particularly those with reduced mobility, cannot evacuate. Many are separated from their families. They may lose assistive devices that are important to their daily life, such as glasses, hearing aids, wheelchairs. In normal time, this equipment helps them communicate with others and maintain their independence.”
says Reham Shaheen, HI Rehabilitation specialist from Gaza.
“Loss of hygiene products, diapers, catheters, etc., can also compromise their hygiene and dignity and increase the risk of infection. The risk of exclusion and harassment is also very high for persons with disabilities who find themselves in this chaotic situation. Protection and equal access to humanitarian assistance for persons with disabilities should be ensured.”
Most shelters are not adequately equipped to meet the needs of people with disabilities. Emergency shelters lack necessary mattresses and medical beds, leading to ulcers and other health problems that cannot be treated in unsterile conditions. The food distributed does not meet the needs of persons with swallowing difficulties.
“The situation is challenging; the location is not suitable for persons with disabilities. I cannot access the toilet because it is not adapted for someone with my level of mobility disability. The shelter is overcrowded, leaving no space for me to move with my wheelchair. I don’t have my medicines with me. The place is unclean, and my children are currently experiencing diarrhoea. I am avoiding eating because I am reluctant to use the inadequate toilet facilities. There is a shortage of water. I appreciate HI for providing me with a wheelchair.” says Mohammed, a 35-year-old male with a physical disability, married with five children who found refuge in a designated emergency shelter in Khan Younis, Gaza.
Difficulty to access health services
Access to health services, including rehabilitation, is more challenging for persons with disabilities than for other people due to stigma, discrimination and significant physical, economic and information barriers. HI's 2022 Needs Assessment in Gaza found that almost all families with a disabled person face barriers to accessing health services ( information compiled by OCHA.) Now that demand for aid is skyrocketing in Gaza, and new casualties occur as hostilities escalate, difficulties for people with disabilities to accede these services are intensifying.
Haytham, one of HI’s staff implementing the organisation’s current emergency aid distribution in Gaza reported:
“During our assessments, I’ve seen many persons with disabilities and children with disabilities using one piece of diapers over the whole day, maybe over 2 days. It’s miserable to see those people are suffering more and more over their health status in this crisis.”
Haytham also told us about a 3-year-old child with cerebral palsy. When the airstrikes began, the family fled their house in the east of Gaza city in haste to a very crowded area in the west, leaving behind the child’s walking aid, medicines and other care items. The child has been suffering from painful muscle spasms without his medicine.
HI is supporting the most vulnerable in Gaza
To date, HI has reached 68 of 91 shelters in the South and assessed the needs of 4,000 displaced people. HI has supported 805 people by distributing 400 assistive and mobility devices, 191 bandages, 36 kitchen utensils, 57 dignity kits, 475 diapers and 57 baby blankets.
The charity has also organised 21 recreational activities for approximately 18,000 children and youth. Around 20 staff and 75 volunteers and partner personnel are mobilised for rehabilitation and equipment distributions and recreational activities. HI also conducted 68 explosive ordnance risk education sessions, delivering safety messages to more than 4,000 children and adults.
HI has been present in Gaza since 1996.
- Download HI’s new report “Inclusive Humanitarian Action – Gaza” here: https://www.humanity-inclusion.org.uk/sn_uploads/document/2023-10-Factsheet-IHA-Gaza-Final.pdf
- Spokespersons available for interviews:
- George Graham, Chief Executive, Humanity & Inclusion UK – George has been to Gaza in the past and is an established campaigner on the impact of conflict on civilians, and particularly people with disabilities
- Reham Shaheen, Humanity & Inclusion Rehabilitation specialist in Gaza. Reham is Gazan, she left Gaza two days before the escalation of the conflict for a work trip and is now stuck in Jordan, separated from her husband and 3 children who are in Gaza. She is very knowledgeable and in touch with our team in Gaza daily as she is supporting them to implement our emergency response. She co-wrote the report.
Both George and Reham are media trained and fluent in English.
How to donate
Humanity & Inclusion has launched a Gaza Crisis Appeal.
Phone: 0330 555 0156
SMS: Text GAZA to 70450 to donate £10 to Humanity & Inclusion UK
Or send a donation in the post to: Gaza Crisis Appeal, Humanity & Inclusion UK, 9 Rushworth Street, LONDON, SE1 0RB