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Landmark World Health Assembly Resolution adopted today commits states to act on physical rehabilitation, enhancing lives and saving livelihoods

Press Release | London, 27th May 2023, 11:00 GMT
  • 2.4 billion people with an injury or illness would benefit from rehabilitation, to enable them to work, complete their education and care for their families. 

  • More than 50% do not have access to these essential services in many of the world’s poorer countries, causing preventable impairments and stopping them from working.

  • Humanity & Inclusion (HI) has been a leading voice in a four-year campaign to get rehabilitation recognised as a global health priority.

  • A landmark Resolution has been adopted by 194 member states at the World Health Assembly in Geneva on 27 May, to create a global standard and spark funding.

Around the world, 2.4 billion people are living with a health issue that would benefit from rehabilitation and this number is growing. But in some low- and middle-income countries, more than 50% do not have access to these essential services. 

This means that millions of people are developing preventable long-term disabilities, stopping them participate in society and carry out productive roles. Others who already have impairments are getting worse. 

In a global context of conflicts, natural disasters and an ageing world population, the lack of rehabilitation for all who need it is a serious public health issue and a question of human dignity, according to global disability charity, Humanity & Inclusion. 

On 27 May, at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, 194 countries adopted a landmark resolution, committing them for the first time to develop and strengthen rehabilitation in their health systems.  

The resolution – the highest level of international commitment - sets out nine actions for governments to introduce and integrate rehabilitation in health systems, increase services like physiotherapy, occupational therapy, prosthetics and orthotics, strengthen the rehabilitation workforce and develop training.  

By creating a global framework, government investment in rehabilitation services, which has been a major barrier in the past, is expected to follow, as well as donor and private funds.  

HI has been a leading voice in collective action to call for this resolution, collaborating with 17 other civil society organisations in the Global Rehabilitation Alliance which was established in 2018. As a result, HI and partners were invited to input into the drafting of the resolution. 

HI is currently supporting countries where challenges to advance rehabilitation services remain significant. In almost all the 35 countries where HI has 62 rehabilitation projects, it also accompanies and supports health authorities. 

For example, HI has recently assisted Jordan’s Ministry of Health to develop its guidelines on rehabilitation services and is now supporting implementation. 

In Cambodia, it supports the provincial rehabilitation centre in Kampong Cham to provide quality services and delivers training for clinicians and management. 

In Madagascar, it has helped set up ortho-prosthetic and functional rehabilitation services in partnership with the Ministry of Health. 

HI has found that by improving patients’ daily functioning and independence through rehabilitation, they have more access to education, employment and community activities and will need less long-term support from health workers and caregivers.  

Independent evidence demonstrates that rehabilitation shortens hospital stays, reduces readmissions and secondary health problems thus generating economic benefits for the health system and for households. 

Valentina Pomatto, Inclusive Development Advocacy Manager at HI, says: 

“Rehabilitation has long been overlooked in countries’ health systems. After an illness or an accident, some people develop a disability that could have been prevented with the help of rehabilitation.  

“Others see their mobility deteriorate without the right orthotic or prosthetic devices and in the absence of physical therapy that could have had a positive impact on their social and professional inclusion.  

“We know that nothing can change unless there is political will, a strong commitment to make things happen. This resolution at the 2023 World Health Assembly fixes this commitment into words and holds those in charge of delivering on this commitment accountable.”  

 George Graham, Chief Executive of HI UK, says:  

“One in three people worldwide live with conditions that might benefit from rehabilitation. But a large majority cannot access these essential services.   

“This resolution will encourage States to develop their rehabilitation services. HI staff working in poorer countries are ready to support and accompany them.” 

In Jordan, 13% of the population have disabilities but this rises to 23% in the refugee community. Ahmad is a Syrian refugee living in Jordan who had difficulty walking after a war injury affected his knee in 2011. In 2015, the construction worker fell from the third-floor accommodation block he was building, which caused a brain concussion, seizures, and worsened his knee problem. 

He said: “If there was easier access to services and I had started rehab from day 1, I could have avoided so many complications. I believe I could have avoided the accident that led to a bigger disability.” 


Notes to Editors 

*Pictures, case studies, spokespeople and op eds are available* 

Please contact Rand Odeh, HI UK Media Officer, on +447535 024 895 or [email protected]


The World Health Assembly is the annual meeting of the governing body of the World Health Organization (WHO), which adopts a number of resolutions. 

The Resolution 

The resolution on rehabilitation outlines 9 actions/commitments. It does not set obligations, but it represents the political will of member states. The resolution also establishes a system for reporting and monitoring progress in implementing the commitments so members can be held accountable. 

The resolution demands member states to strengthen financing mechanisms for rehabilitation services and the provision of technical assistance. This requires dedicating appropriate budget to rehabilitation to meet the needs of the population, as well expanding the coverage of rehabilitation for example via public insurances, social protection schemes. 

For more information see here .

Humanity & Inclusion (HI) 

Since 1982, HI has implemented projects on rehabilitation and advocated for rehabilitation to be recognised as an essential service which can improve health and quality of life. 

HI has long-term expertise in rehabilitation across multiple countries and regions, setting up rehabilitation services in countries with no provision, training local rehabilitation specialists, working with governments and the health sector to build capacity and eventually transfer ownership of these services.  

Examples of rehabilitation include: 

  • Preparing a person with an amputation to be able to use a prosthetic and making, fitting and refitting the prosthesis.

  • Positioning and splinting techniques to assist with skin healing, reduce swelling, and to regain movement after burn surgery.

  • Physical exercise training to improve muscle strength, voluntary movements and balance in persons with stroke or Parkinson's disease.

  • Modifying an older person’s home environment to improve their safety and independence at home and to reduce their risk of falls.

  • Educating a person with heart disease on how to exercise safely.

Press contact

Rand Odeh, Humanity & Inclusion UK
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +44 (0)7535 024 895
About Humanity & Inclusion

Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Humanity & Inclusion (HI) is a charity working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work tirelessly alongside disabled and vulnerable people to help meet their basic needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.

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