More than 160,000 people have fled the conflict in Sudan to seek refuge in South Sudan, according to the United Nations. But the infrastructure is extremely fragile in this country which was only created in July 2011 following the partition of Sudan. Handicap International is now planning an initial six-month emergency response, aiming to prevent and reduce impairments and improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable people.
The refugees are living in several camps set up by international organisations. “We sent a team to the area where the refugees are staying (the Upper Nile district) to determine the scale of our operations,” explains Hélène Robin, manager of Handicap International’s emergency response in South Sudan. “Several humanitarian organisations are already working in the camps. However we have identified that certain needs are not being met, particularly those concerning the most vulnerable people.”
“Our goal is to provide a more specific response targeting the most vulnerable people, including people with disabilities who are often excluded from humanitarian aid operations, either because they are unable to move around or due a lack of appropriate services. We have also noticed that many people are not aware of the types of aid they can receive. It is therefore up to us to locate these people, inform them, and even help them access appropriate facilities. We will also teach families how best to support and care for disabled and vulnerable relatives.”
The local communities who normally live in this extremely poor region have also been affected by the influx of refugees. Handicap International’s team intends to provide support to all vulnerable populations that we find in the area.
Despite acute needs in the region, there are no physiotherapy services in place, despite the importance of physiotherapy in emergency situations. Handicap International intends to deploy several physiotherapists, who will work in the camps and health facilities. These physiotherapists will also be part of mobile teams to ensure aid reaches isolated people. This entails caring for children suffering from malnutrition and respiratory infections in order to improve their chances of recovery, prevent any possible complications, and reduce infant mortality. Mothers will also be involved in the care and case-management of their children.
The physiotherapists will also attend to victims of serious traumas and injuries by providing support in hospitals and via mobile teams. Our support for healthcare will also include supplying specific equipment (such as walking aids, crutches, walking frames, etc.) and training health staff in a number of straightforward techniques. Walking aids will also be distributed directly to beneficiaries.
Handicap International will also take action to protect and include vulnerable people in the emergency response. Staff will ensure that the most vulnerable refugees benefit from access to aid and that they are included in the actions put in place by other humanitarian organisations.
One specific team will be sent to the field to promote the identification and inclusion of the most vulnerable people present in the camps. This team will be supported by mobile teams of refugees, trained to work in communities to identify and register vulnerable individuals. If necessary, the mobile teams will drive disabled and vulnerable people to appropriate facilities such as health centres. Our teams will also raise the awareness of other humanitarian organisations to ensure that they take into account the specific needs of vulnerable people. This will entail, for example, ensuring that water distribution points are accessible to people with disabilities.
In order to put these emergency actions in place, Handicap International will draw on its knowledge of the situation and its long-standing presence in South Sudan. The organisation intervened in the region for the first time in 2005 to help displaced people and refugees returning to their region of origin, which had been devastated by conflict. These initial emergency actions evolved into long-term projects, including social inclusion projects to promote the participation of people with disabilities in the development of their country, and victim assistance projects in the State of Jonglei and in Juba.