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Children traumatised by five years of war

Libya

Handicap International has been working in Libya since 2011. Due to the country’s extreme political and security instability the organisation relocated its Tunisian delegation to Tunis in July 2014. Anne Barthès who has been leading the mission since last February reflects on the programmes currently being run by Handicap International, five years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

Group of children of refugees families in the suburb of Tripoli.

Group of children of refugees families in the suburb of Tripoli. | © Handicap International

Vulnerable children

“Since August, we have been working exclusively with children from displaced families in Tripoli, with a particular focus on children with disabilities. A mobile team, consisting of a physiotherapist and two psychosocial workers, visits displaced persons’ camps and the surrounding area, since people are sometimes accommodated by host families. Assisted by representatives of the displaced population, this team identifies disabled children with specific requirements relating to their disability. The team supplies crutches, walking frames, wheelchairs, etc., along with rehabilitation. If necessary, it refers families to the nearest health centres.

Promoting the inclusion of disabled people

“Our teams also raise displaced people’s awareness about disability, offering advice on improving disabled people’s inclusion in family, group, and community life. Another important function of these awareness-raising sessions is to inform people about psychosocial problems: after five years of war and multiple displacements to escape from fighting, many children exhibit signs of anxiety, depression or even psychological trauma. Some become totally introverted. And yet, psychological issues remain poorly understood and even taboo in Libya. We put the families of children displaying these symptoms in touch with organisations offering appropriate support, such as leisure activities in playgrounds or group discussion sessions, sometimes with their parents present.

Supporting health structures

“We offer support to physiotherapy departments in four hospitals and in health centres: we donate equipment such as crutches, walking frames and wheelchairs and train medical staff how to identify individuals with psychosocial problems. 

Providing information on existing services

“Displaced families have very little knowledge about available medical services, opening hours, costs, etc. People are missing out on the care they need even though these services exist. For this reason we are putting together a brochure with information on health centres in Tripoli, their locations and specialties, which we will be distributing to displaced families at the end of August.”

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