World Compassion Fellowship is partnering with Operation Mercy, an international relief and development organization started in 1991, in order to provide holistic rehabilitation care for Syrian refugee and Yazidi internally displaced families who have someone with a disability that needs physical or occupational therapy. This approach doesn't focus on just the person with the disability, but also on the whole family. These families not only face the enormous challenge of having fled from their homes due to war, but also face the additional burden of having to care for someone in the family with a disability while living in a refugee camp with little access to health care or basic living supplies. The longer term rehabilitation and therapy sessions will have a positive impact not only for the person, but also the whole family.
On our recent medical trip to Iraq, we organized Mobile Medical Clinics in northern Iraq where we ultimately saw up to 500 patients. We were struck by the many special needs cases among refugees and displaced persons that have little access to health care or ongoing physical and occupational therapy. We met families who fled from war and were disabled due to war related injuries, birth defects or other causes. One Yazidi mom of 3 children was fleeing an attack on her village when she fell and broke her neck. She became paralyzed in her hands and feet. Her 8 year old daughter had to be pulled out of school and now must take care of the household. This tragic situation impacted the whole family.
Over 1 billion people in the world, about 15% of the world population, experience various forms of disabilities, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Eighty percent of persons with disabilities live in poor countries, the least equipped to address their needs. All over the world, persons with disabilities continue to face barriers in their participation in society and lower standards of living. Disabilities are a contributing factor for poverty, reduced access to education and health, exclusion and discrimination for both persons with disabilities and their families.
The vulnerability of families that have family members with disabilities is unfortunately increased by war and displacement. The wars in Syria and Iraq have had a severe impact on the people. As of 2019, the Kurdish Region of Iraq, is hosting approximately 678,000 internally displaced peoples (IDPs) - many who are Yazidis - and 226,000 Syrian refugees (IOM 2019, UNHCR 2019). Responding to the needs of refugees and IDPs, Operation Mercy was moved several years ago to make a focused effort to make a tangible difference in the lives of the people with disabilities and their families. They train local staff who are themselves IDPs or refugees to then do physical therapy home visits in seven camps. Operation Mercy's staff teaches, empowers and encourages the families throughout the visits in a holistic approach of treating the person with disabilities and his or her family physically and emotionally. This mission aligns with the mission of World Compassion Fellowship and we've agreed to work together to provide holistic rehabilitation care.