The War And Disability

root - Posted on 15 January 2002

by Mitch Jeserich

Here is a small compilation of information concerning the effects of war on the global disabled population. The information is still incomplete, but I think it is evident that war and violent conflict violate Articles 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 13, 16, 21, 23, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Furthermore, war and violent conflict also create conditions to violate Articles 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 13 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons.

The following information is grim, but it is worth noting that Dr. Nawaf Kabbara, from the Arab Organization of Disabled People, said that disabled people galvanized the peace movement in Lebanon's civil war from 1975-90. Furthermore, Lucy Wong-Hernandez, E.D. Disabled People International, said, "We are committed to make sure that children are protected and that children who become disabled from these situations are not left ignored, un-served, and marginalized from society. DPI will be actively present advocating for and raising awareness about war affected children with disabilities and all children during the Children's Summit at the United Nations in New York 2001." I hope as an international policy institute, WID will also take notice of war and disability.

The effects of war on people who previously had a disability:

-"Disabled children have greater difficulty escaping during attacks, especially those with a moving, learning, or visual difficulty. Parents may have to make difficult decisions about who to leave behind when fleeing. In 1993 a Lebanese man admitted that he fled his home taking a cow rather than his disabled daughter, because the cow was of more use." (CBR News)

-"Most conflicts today are civil wars—the victims are civilians rather than soldiers. Targeting civilians means that women and children are increasingly vulnerable, and yet rehabilitation services (for the disabled) often focus on men." (CBR News)

-"Other disabilities in conflict situations are linked to the breakdown in infrastructure and the economy. Disabling diseases such as polio and measles become more common because drugs and vaccines are not available. The nutritional status of children will probably worsen as food supplies decline, leading to an increase in nutritional disabilities. Warfare can be hidden, for example the trade sanctions against Iraq. The lack of food, medical equipment, drugs and fuel leads to more disability." (CBR News)

-"Most medical clinics in East Timor were burned down during the violence after the referendum. Many disabled persons were provided with health care from these clinics." (Disabled People International)

-"In a conflict situation, attitudes towards disabled persons may be worse because poverty is more widespread and disabled people are seen as more of a burden." (CBR News)

-"In refugee settlements, disabled people may not have access to relief services because of difficulties moving around, carrying, and queuing." (CBR News)

"The government pays more attention to the veterans than to the civilian even if the civilian was injured by a military weapon." (Son Song Hak, Cambodia)

The increase of disability during times of war and violent conflict:

-Since the last Intifada began in Palestine this past year, there are 2,500 new disabled persons. (Dr. Nawaf Kabbara, The Arab Organization of Disabled People)

-"Afghanistan has experienced 20 years of war that has left 15 to 20 percent of the population disabled. There are about 10 million land mines laying around the country." (CBR News)

-In the past ten years six million children have been injured in armed conflict and many more have witnessed or taken in part in acts of violence, leading to emotional disturbances." (CBR)

-"Many wars today are low intensity conflicts—they aim to wound and disable people rather than to kill them, for example, land mines. Leaving people disabled puts a greater economic burden on families and nations rather than killing them." (CBR News)

-"There are about 110 million landmines planted in the world. Over one million people have been killed or injured by mines since 1975. About 70 people are injured or killed by land mines daily. Mines are being laid 25 times faster than they are being cleared. In Angola, one person in 470 has had a limb amputated." (Mines Advisory Group)

-Children in many regions all over the world are caught in the cross-fire, and are left parentless, homeless, with serious health problems, disabled and traumatized, permanently by war." (Disabled People International)

-"Many children's bodies have been mutilated and made permanently disabled from the conflict in Sierra Leone." (Disabled People International)

"It is estimated that about 37 percent of people involved in war lose their hearing. It is estimated that 35 percent of land mine survivors in Cambodia are women." (Disabled People International).

-"Disruption of health services increases the prevalence of disabling diseases like polio and can lead to more disabilities resulting from birth difficulties." (CBR News)

-"The 1994 massacre in Rwanda left more than half a million people dead in a space of three months. Of those who survived, many had seen family members murdered and others became disabled du to machete wounds. Emotional trauma were therefore widespread among children. Some were in a state of shock while others lost the power of speech." (CBR News)


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