The Arab region[1] faces complex and growing humanitarian emergencies. Conflict, instability and violence in several Arab countries have had catastrophic consequences for civilian populations.  The armed conflict in Syria has forced millions to flee their homes and the recent Israeli military incursion into Gaza affected the entire population of 1.8 million people, more than half of whom are under the age of 18.[2] In Yemen, 14.7 million people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance, making it one of the largest emergencies in the world.[3]

Moreover, the number of natural disasters in the Arab region has tripled over the past three decades,[4] causing widespread human suffering and massive economic losses.  In 2011, drought in the Horn of Africa triggered a devastating famine in Somalia and critical levels of food insecurity in Djibouti. A tropical cyclone in 2010 caused an estimated US$1 billion in damage in Oman.[5]

Such emergencies cause a substantial increase in the number of persons with disabilities.  People incur permanent disabilities as a result of, for example, violence or falling debris. Injuries lead to disability because of the lack of access to essential health services.

The effects are devastating. In Gaza, initial estimates indicate that up to 1,000 of the 3,000 children injured during the recent military incursion will face permanently disability.[6]  A recent study found that 22.4 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan surveyed have some form of disability.[7] The number of persons with disabilities among the total Syrian refugee population could reach into the hundreds of thousands.

[1] The Arab region is comprised of the following countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, the State of Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

[2] OCHA, 2014a, p. 10.

[3] OCHA, 2014b, p. 14.

[4] CRED, 2014.

[5] Ibid.

[6] OCHA, 2014c, p. 2.

[7] HelpAge International and Handicap International, 2014, p. 12.