Human Rights

Yemen war hits people with disabilities hardest: Amnesty



Disabled Yemenis participate in a protest against airstrikes the day before the international day of disabled persons, in front of the UN office in Sanaa, on December 2nd, 2018. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

The war that has ravaged Yemen has especially impacted the country's estimated 4.5 million people living with disabilities, Amnesty International warned in a report Tuesday (December 3rd).

The human rights group called on donors, aid groups and UN agencies to take steps to better assist people with disabilities in displaced people's centres.

"Yemen's war has been characterised by unlawful bombings, displacement and a dearth of basic services, leaving many struggling to survive," said Rawya Rageh, senior crisis advisor at Amnesty.

"The humanitarian response is overstretched, but people with disabilities -- who are already among those most at risk in armed conflict -- should not face even greater challenges in accessing essential aid," she said.

The conflict between government forces and the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) has raged since 2015, sparking what the UN terms the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Amnesty reported that many people with disabilities who have been forced to flee the violence had to leave behind their crutches or wheelchairs in the chaos of war.

In the worst cases, it was the disabled people themselves who were left behind by their families after being separated while fleeing their homes, said the report.

Public health care 'hit hard'

Published on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the report documented the experience of 53 women, men and children with a wide spectrum of disabilities.

Amnesty pointed to "design flaws" in camps for the displaced, including in latrines and at aid distribution points, that were impacting people with disabilities.

These "strip people with disabilities of their independence and dignity by forcing them to rely on their families or others", it said.

A 75-year-old man with limited mobility said he needed to have his sons take him to the latrine, telling the group's researchers: "They drag me. They cannot carry me."

Rageh called on organisations providing humanitarian aid to "do more to overcome the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from meeting even their most basic needs".

The brutal war and economic collapse had hit hard public health care and social welfare services, "resulting in a systematic failure to guarantee the rights of people with disabilities".

"Many rely on handouts or fend for themselves -- with some forced into poverty to pay for basic supplies like medicines or adult diapers," Amnesty said.

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