In Syria, the situation remains grim.
More than 100,000 have died in the country’s civil war, according to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon.
Almost a third of Syrians have been displaced, more than two million as refugees.
But one number that we don’t know -- and is likely overwhelming -- is the number of Syrians who now have disabilities.
“There is a huge ratio of injuries leading to amputation,” said Thierry-Mehdi Benlahsen, the regional emergency coordinator for Handicap International, who has spent the last year working mostly with Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan. “A huge ratio of spinal cord injuries, generally related to gunshots or shellings. It’s approximately double of what we used to see in other crises. It’s a highly disabling crisis.”
Many wounded Syrians have no way of getting adequate care since the country’s health care system has been decimated. According to the humanitarian group Syrian American Medical Society, more than a third of hospitals have been destroyed and 57 percent of them damaged. Half of the nation’s doctors have fled, the group also claims, as have 70 percent of support staff.
Since last summer, Handicap International has been helping victims of the conflict, and for a long time was the only aid organization doing such work. Handicap International is primarily providing mobility aids, such as wheelchairs and crutches, fitting prostheses for amputees, and offering psychological care and physical therapy. In refugees camps, where residents may have to walk miles every day for water, food and other aid, it’s critical work.
Some refugees are so traumatized that they resist care, Benlahsen said, often recoiling at the touch of a physical therapist.
“It’s particularly striking with children,” Benlahsen said. “Children who didn’t smile for the last two months, who don’t talk anymore, who are just thinking about what they will be facing in a matter of hours."
He added: “But when they get new smiles on their faces, when the amputated try to play football with the other children…their own coping mechanism. That’s something really rewarding to see.”
Here are a selection of photos of Handicap International personel working with displaced Syrians and refugees with disabilities. Photos and captions were provided by the organization.
Ten-year-old Rarad, who had her left leg amputated following the bombing of her home, stands in the front of the tent she occupies with her family in a displaced camp, Idlib Governorate, Syria.