A CHARITY is raising awareness of the plight and ongoing stigmatisation of the 30 million impoverished disabled people in the Middle East and North Africa, including refugee children, this Easter.
Embrace the Middle East has been working with local partners to address prejudice against disability, and a lack of understanding, in the area. In its latest appeal, released last week, the charity calls for the UK — where, it says, disability and poverty was similarly “intertwined” — to offer support and a greater understanding of the needs of disabled refugee children, who are “already traumatised” by conflict.
The children, it says, “are totally unable to help themselves, and completely reliant on family members to meet their needs. Hidden away, and living in poverty, many have very poor health and little chance of any form of education.”
Embrace reported that one Syrian woman, Nahla, aged 20, who has a brain-development disorder, had felt “isolated and misunderstood” from early childhood, and was “pushed to the margins” before the civil war broke out in 2011. Her town was bombarded three years ago, when she was forced to flee with half a million children across the border to Lebanon.
But, a year ago, Nahla began attending the Zvartnots Center, an Embrace partner in Beirut, which runs sessions for children and adults with severe and profound learning disabilities. Ten of the 40 children and adults that attend the centre are Syrian refugees.
“Nahla has a wonderful talent in needlework and embroidery. She has also become an accomplished dancer with the Zvartnots dance group, and has performed at the annual folk-dance festival in Beirut,” an Embrace spokesperson said. “By helping her discover her gifts, Nahla has grown immeasurably in her confidence and self-esteem.”
The director of programmes and partnerships at Embrace, Jamie Eyre, said: “The demand is so great that [our partners] are struggling to meet very specific needs. These children urgently need food and nutrition, medical checks, physiotherapy treatment, urgent medicines, and special education. I cannot stress enough just how important it is to get help to these children, and we are so grateful for all the support we have already been given, but more help is needed.”
For more details, or to donate, visit www.embraceme.org.