Yemen: Helping children with disabilities cope with conflict and displacement

6 April, 2012
Children are the most vulnerable and most affected by armed conflict. More than 60,000 Yemeni children have received psychosocial support through recreational sports and educational activities in Hajjah, Sa’ada, Amran, Aden, and Lahj. Credit: Yemen Humanitarian Team
Children are the most vulnerable and most affected by armed conflict. More than 60,000 Yemeni children have received psychosocial support through recreational sports and educational activities in Hajjah, Sa’ada, Amran, Aden, and Lahj. Credit: Yemen Humanitarian Team

Eight-year-old Sabry and his family fled conflict in Yemen’s Abyan region last year and sought refuge in Aden. They needed a safe place and better protection, especially for Sabry who is disabled.

More than 200,000 people from Abyan have been displaced by the conflict between armed groups and the Yemeni military forces, mostly in neighbouring Aden and Lahj Governorates. When Sabry’s family arrived in Aden, they had to settle in a crowded school with other internally displaced people.

“The situation in Aden schools was very chaotic. Many families had to queue for long hours in the sun to find a room to sleep,” says Sabry’s mother.

Sabry was born with developmental problems, possibly because his mother was sick during her pregnancy but could not afford medical treatment.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that during crises, children with disabilities face greater risks. They are often marginalized and their needs are overlooked. They face a higher risk of exposure to injuries, abuse and neglect. Sabry’s mother says that his condition worsened last year when the fighting started. “He was depressed and he isolated himself from the other kids. He started having convulsions.” 

But in Aden, the international NGO INTERSOS cares for vulnerable people such as Sabry. It provided him with medical treatment and gave his family mattresses and clothes. These were funded by the UN Emergency Response Fund (ERF). Sabry’s condition has started to improve.

“We are grateful for the assistance provided, mainly the cost of the medicine. Sabry’s situation has improved and now he can move and eat without any help,” says his mother.

“I hope we will continue to get help to buy Sabry’s medicine. I also hope that someday he will be enrolled in a special school. I would like him to have a normal life, like other children.” 

Around the world, many more emergency responders are recognizing the particular needs and vulnerabilities of people with disabilities. Earlier this year at the Fifth International Shafallah Forum on Crisis, Conflict and Disability in Doha, Qatar, more than 250 representatives from governments and humanitarian agencies discussed ways to ensure that people with disabilities are not forgotten during crises and conflicts.

 

Reporting by OCHA/ Yemen