17 Jul 2014

Handicap International - HI Expands Emergency Response in Iraq

In response to the influx of refugees into Iraqi Kurdistan following the advance of ISIS, Handicap International is expanding its emergency team, which has been working in the region to support Syrian refugees.  The team’s first priority for the newly arrived Iraqi refugees is to identify the most vulnerable individuals, especially people with disabilities, to ensure they can access humanitarian aid.

“When tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people need food, shelter, and care, people with disabilities and older people need even more support because they can’t move around very easily and go out in search of assistance,” says Benedetta Di Cintio, Handicap International’s head of mission in Iraq.

Di Cintio recently spent several days visiting displaced people to determine the scope of their needs. “I came across sick people whose lives were in danger simply because they couldn’t get access treatment available just a few kilometers from where they were,” says Cintio. “I met people who were taking refuge in a school, who, just a few days before, had still been living normal lives. Among them was a little girl with epilepsy who needed medical treatment. Her mother told me that she had run out of medication and couldn’t buy any more where they were.”

 “Our emergency relief effort is expected to last several weeks, but we want to develop longer-term projects,” says Di Cintio. “Since the situation is still very unstable, we need to prepare for different scenarios to ensure we’re able to adapt to new developments.” 

Handicap International mobile teams will visit vulnerable people identified in the Dohuk area of Kurdistan with the help of the network of disabled people’s organizations that Handicap International helped to create during the 20 years it has been working in the country. “Identifying these people is essential,” explains Benedetta. “In some of the villages where we spent the last few days, several groups of displaced people told us that they hadn’t come in contact with any aid organizations up until now.” 
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