Yemenis Handicapped by Poor Care, War Lack Aid

According to official information, there are nearly two and a half million handicapped in the country, whose conditions range from motor disability to deafness, point out that the main causes of disability in Yemen are spinal fever, traffic accidents not treated in a timely manner, the inheritance of diseases due to poor primary care for children, lack of treatment and health services, the incidence of diabetes, and war wounds.

Dr. Amt Al-Razaq Ali Hamad, minister of Social Affairs and Labour ,reported that the government allocated 5% of the proportion of governmental jobs for the handicapped in Yemen. During Yemen’s celebrations on the international day for the handicapped Dr. Hamad confirmed, “The political leadership represented by President Ali Abdullah Saleh has given special attention and outstanding care and for the handicapped.”

“The last two decades have witnessed legislative actions at the national and international levels in the care and rehabilitation of the handicapped, including the issuance of Presidential decree No. 25 of 1991 to reform the National Supreme Committee, headed by the Prime Minister.

“Also the issuance of law No. 61 of 1999 which ensures care and rehabilitation of the handicapped, as well as the law No. 2 of 2002 to establish a fund for the handicapped and ratify the International Convention of the rights for the handicapped.”

Dr. Hamad, continued, “the allocation of government jobs to the handicapped in Yemen is a positive step taken by the Government to alleviate their suffering and integrate them in daily life.” The governorates of the Republic witnessed rhetorical and artistic celebrations on the occasion of special day.

In Ibb governorate, the local authorities announced that it had allocated a quota of ten percent of official jobs for the handicapped of the governorate – an increase of five percent from the Cabinet resolution.

According to government statistics, the number of the handicapped in the governorate of Ibb exceeded that of all other governorates in Yemen, exacerbated by natural disasters, wars and mines, and traffic accidents in cars and motorcycles.

The information indicates the number of the handicapped is 44,880 people in the census of 2004.

But the same information shows that aid reaches only 30% of the total number of the handicapped in the province and the rest do not receive the assistance of governments and humanitarian organizations.

Many directorates of Ibb province experienced the scourge of conflict, and the brief 1994 conflict between the North and South especially affected the area, during which ghastly incidences of bloodshed and even people being butchered in front of their parents, including women and innocent children, were witnessed.

During this period, those areas suffered attacks from Communist militias associated with the South, which flooded the area with weapons and landmines, the number of which exceeded twice the region’s population, which led to hundreds of man-made disabilities.

Previously, the central regions of Yemen had suffered from marginalization in the seventies and eighties, and received little in the way of official services and care.

An especially intense war zone was the al-Nadera directorate and its environs.  Many live mines are still believed to be spread around the area, which consists of 3700 square meters.

Some of the fields have been referred in 2007 to the Committee of Demining, which has cleared 37 fields around eight villages. Still, the areas around 33 villages remain uncleared and still highly dangerous.

A total of 26 mines were detonated in 2006 and another 444 in 2007.

Najib al-Halmi, chairman of the local Committee for Social Affairs and Labor reported that mine explosions in the isolated villages of al-Fajra, al-Ariza, and al-Sharnamt had killed four women and disabled 33 others in recent years.

A victim tells his story

The region is Kahlan Fort and Nqil Saleh on al-Aut mountain and the story’s narrator is a mine victim whose leg was amputated after a mine explosion that occurred when he was just 16-years old, in 1981. But he was not the only victim, as his brother was killed, his father was injured, and a third boy was wounded to the extent that his ankle is still impaired.

This narrator is a popular poet and a former soldier, forced into earlier retirement by his wounds – 45-year old Abdu Saleh al-Halmi.

We visited him in his modest home, a squat, one-floor building housing a family of eight located in the suburbs of Ibb city. His salary barely reaches YR 22 thousand.

Above all, he hopes to find his son Izzedine a government job to help pay the family’s expenses and to alleviate the burden on his father.  He then narrated some verses of poetry that reflected his personal tragedy.

“Those who planted these mines were honored today, they are the deans and colonels. But we are retired with the private’s rank.  Our minds are shattered and our broken bodies keep us from helping our large families.

There are others who were injured throughout the land, well near two hundred and fifty people – they live in a tragedy and can’t put chicken or vegetables on the dinner table, and we can’t even teach our children.

Although we heard about assistance, we have not received help from the international, local, or government organizations – all this while there are men and women who were injured and had their limbs and hands amputated and they are now in a deplorable state.” he said.

The directorate of al-Seda also suffered.  Aiss al-Kobri, chairman of the local handicapped assembly, pointed out that the number of handicapped in the area is 1,100, including 350 women – almost all as the result of mine explosions.

He demanded that government and international organizations help assure these victims’ civil rights by providing technical, educational and material assistance. In addition, he made an appeal for the training and compensation of the handicapped and to deliver those who planted the mines and escaped prosecution to be brought to justice, no matter the delay.

In the directorate of (Sabrp , Alrdmh Baddan and al Shaer), there are no statistics on the handicapped because the lack of official interest in their plight.  There is a need for intervention from humanitarian organizations to carry out adequate studies in order to provide more adequate assistance.

The total number of beneficiaries in the province of Ibb from the Handicapped Fund stands at 10,374 cases, estimated at a mere 9.5% of the total number of cases in the governorate.

According to the Director of the Social Affairs Office in the governorate, Naser al-Baadani, Ibb has been promised a greater share of handicapped-related assistance than any other governorate, under the aegis of the International organizations(AC DM) .

The program is slated to start work in the province at the beginning of this year, starting pilot programs in Al mshnh and Jibla, which were chosen for their general accessibility and the relatively high levels of infrastructure and community interaction.

The assistance aims at reducing the disability rate and spreading community awareness through education and media campaigns, which will emphasize the role of religion, school, and civil society in alleviating the suffering of the disabled.

Besides, the program envisions building schools and training centers as well as implementing courses on teaching and providing the means of specialized training for the labor market.

Also, awareness of the dangers to society of motorcycles, cars accident, natural disasters, and wars will be raised, with the assistance and supervision of the Office of Social Affairs, Health, Education, and Information.

Committees will expand their activities to rural areas, in an attempt to provide rehabilitation, assistance, and treatment.

Much of the early success of the plan is due to Ahmed Abdullah al-Hajri, governor of Ibb, who enthusiastically attended workshops in Taiz and Sana’a, and advocated on behalf of the initiative.

The handicapped Federation in Ibb consists of seven affiliated advocacy groups which represent deaf, mute, physically handicapped, blind, and war victims.

The Fund for the Handicapped in Ibb Province

The director of the handicapped Fund, Muhyeddin Kashaf, stated that the number of beneficiaries in Ibb and its surrounding areas was 1,290.

He reported that the Fund provided them with medications and other aid, such as 100 sets of crutches and 200 electric and ordinary wheel chairs in addition to various walkers and mobility aids, which provide only a small amount of relief compared to the huge number of the handicapped.  In the mean time, assistance has not been forthcoming from the donor organizations.

Asked of subsidies originating from nongovernmental organization, donor countries, or domestic authorities, Kashaf responded, “the revenue allocated to the governorate is estimated at YR 40 million annually and is projected to reach YR 50 million this year.”

“Only, bureaucracy in dealing with the funding authorities is hampering our work. There are cases which need urgent treatment and first aid, it is essential that we have swift access to facilities and funding – so far this is lacking.

“There are no means of transportation to our office for many rural residents, making it so that we cannot so operate and provide services effectively in the governorates – Ibb governorate is sprawling, as is neighboring al-Dalea.

“Patients are unable to go to the provincial capitals to present their applications for aid because of poverty and disability, and we lack an adequate budget for the branch so that we can continuously monitor cases.

“We just have one operation room, which receives cases and generally transfers them on to Sana’a, where they may wait for months for proper attention.”