The 23rd and 24th of May 2017 marks the first year since the adoption of the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016. The Charter marks an important step in recognizing the humanitarian community’s need to better include persons with disabilities in all aspects of their work. QANDIL, though not a signatory to the Charter at this point, supports the goals contained within and has continually worked to better address the concerns of persons with disabilities in its work. Furthermore, QANDIL has also taken steps to include more people with a more diverse set of backgrounds and perspectives, particularly through the organization’s Outreach projects.
Across the KRI QANDIL has been active in improving access for persons with disabilities to services and assistance. In 2016 QANDIL completed renovations to seven schools in Sulaymaniah. One of the schools, in Afreen, had new bathrooms installed for students with specific mobility requirements. In another, in Harem, QANDIL constructed a concrete floor so that pupils in wheelchairs could partake in physical games outside. These structural modifications were also complimented by trainings for teaching staff aimed at educating and supporting them on understanding the different educational requirements of students, particularly those that needed either physical or psychological support. Education can be a vital means to break down barriers between communities, reducing the stigma surrounding disabilities and helping to alleviate and combat isolation sometimes felt by persons with different needs. Through the education project QANDIL has taken a lead in raising awareness within communities as well as establishing mechanisms for better inclusion.
However, inclusion first requires identification and recognition of the specific needs of different community members. In this way QANDIL’s Protection Assistance and Reintegration Centre (PARC) provides an incredibly important service. During April 2017, of the 545 cases that the Syrian refugee population brought to PARC, five percent (27 cases), concerned people with long term severe or moderate physical disabilities. Through the PARC, people can be referred to specialists that may assist them with their specific needs. The PARC also has mobile teams that visit households that have been identified as having specific needs. During the same month, QANDIL teams visited 852 households, both Syrian and non-Syrian, throughout the Erbil governorate, of these 95 were identified as having specific requirements in terms of disability. For these cases QANDIL works with partners referring the persons concerned to specialists who are able to provide services, possibly for health, but also potentially in terms of livelihood.
Although the charter focuses long-term “physical, psychosocial, intellectual or sensory impairments[i]”, it is important to note that in some cases persons are identified as having specific needs, but it is possible to provide medical treatments that have a considerable impact in reducing the effects of a disability. On February 1st 2017 QANDIL protection teams in Khabat identified a family of 11 that had five persons with blindness. Although it was treatable, it shouldn’t be forgotten that this family, had fled the fighting in Mosul and Nineva, whilst being either fully or partially blind. To cause further stress to the family, four of the five persons effected with blindness were children. Osman the father of the children, was himself unable to see and yet managed with the help of his community to flee Tal Afar and eventually arrive at Hasan Sham U3 IDP camp. Upon encountering the family, QANDIL has worked with the Barzani Charity Foundation (BCF), Doctors Aid Medical Activities (DAMA), Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) as well as local hospitals and authorities to facilitate medical treatment for members of the family. At the time of writing, the family has received medical treatment designed to either partially or fully restore a person’s sight, but a second round of medical tests still needs to be conducted.
The Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action calls for more than just providing projects and aid to persons in need of physical and or psychological support, it also requires organizations to recognise the value and need to have a more diverse representation throughout the project cycle. QANDIL’s Outreach projects exemplify this approach. The two projects, in Duhok and Erbil, start by mapping the assets of the community to understand what capacity is already available and then work to support and nurture the communities’ strengths to provide sustainable services across the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. In both Duhok and Erbil, a careful and conscientious approach is utilised to include persons with disabilities in discussions, to be sensitive to their specific needs and requirements, but perhaps most importantly to empower them to be decision-makers within their communities and within the ongoing development of the project itself.
On the anniversary since the adoption of the Charter, QANDIL recognises that despite progress more can be done and it stands ready to commit to more. It is hoped that other actors in humanitarian response will endeavour to harmonise the goals of the Charter within their work and staff at QANDIL remain ready to offer their experience, share their expertise and provide platforms to create a more inclusive humanitarian community. If you or your organization would more information about the Charter, or to endorse it please visit:
Names of persons changed to protect the identity of IDPs