On International Day of Persons with Disabilities; their Economic and Social Conditions Continue to Deteriorate
Israeli naval forces killed 6 persons with disabilities, including a child, who suffered psychological disorders, during their participation in the Return demonstrations along the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip, which started on 30 March 2018, with wide popular participation of hundred thousands of the Gaza Strip population from various ages. Moreover, 94 persons have become with permanent disabilities due to the amputation of their limbs. More disabilities are expected among those wounded during their current treatment.
Today, Monday, 01 December 2018, marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which was proclaimed in 1992 by the United Nations Resolution (47/3) at the end of United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons 1983-1992. This came as part of the international community’s efforts to adopt this occasion to emphasize the importance of respecting, promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities all over the world based on general principles of human rights, including the International Bill of Human Rights which ensures total equality between all humans without any form of discrimination based on gender, race, color, origin, or any other forms.
This occasion coincides with the deterioration of the suffering of persons with disabilities in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), which resulted from serious escalation of war crimes committed by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians and their property in general and persons with disabilities and their families in particular, being the most vulnerable categories in the society. The closure policy in the oPt has significantly deteriorated the living conditions to disastrous levels. In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli authorities’ policy to impose the illegal and inhuman closure for more than 12 years led to deterioration of the economic and social conditions of the population, unprecedentedly increasing the unemployment and poverty rates and food insecurity among the Palestinian population. As a result, the economic and social conditions of persons with disabilities and their families, who have suffered extreme shortage in the rehabilitation and social welfare services, health services and education and employment services.
The disability rates in the Gaza Strip and the reasons behind the disabilities resulted from social, environmental and family factors were constantly affected by the Israeli ongoing attacks against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. The number of persons who suffered permanent disabilities during the first Palestinian Intifada in December 1987,was about 2525, while 6000 persons suffered permanent disabilities in al-Aqsa Intifada (September
2000 – 2005). Moreover, the number of persons, who suffered permanent disabilities during the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip in 2012 was about 16 persons. The number of persons with disabilities in the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip in 2014 was about 53, while 180 wounded civilians suffered permanent disabilities due to their injury.
Furthermore, the number of persons with disabilities in the Gaza Strip increased due to the ongoing Israeli attacks against the Palestinian civilians who participated in the March of Return activities along the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip, which started on 30 March 2018, with wide popular participation of hundred thousands of the Gaza Strip population from different ages. The Israeli forces used excessive force against the peaceful protestors, who were about 300 meters away from the border fence and did not pose any threat to the Israeli soldiers’ lives.
The number of persons, who suffered permanent disabilities after being targeted by the Israel forces during their participation in the March of Return activities on the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip in the period between 30 March – 09 November 2018, was about 94 persons, who had their lower, upper limbs or fingers amputated. Among the casualties, the Israeli forces killed 6 persons with disabilities, including a child, who suffered mental disorders, during their participation in the peaceful demonstrations. Dozens of institutions for the rehabilitation of persons with disability in the Gaza Strip were either comprehensively destroyed and/or seriously damaged due to the Israeli forces’ attacks. This aggravated the suffering of persons with disabilities and prevented them from receiving many healthcare and rehabilitation services they received in those institutions and so deteriorated their living conditions.
According to the latest official statistics, the number of persons with disabilities in the Gaza Strip reached 127,962 persons, i.e. 6.8% of the total number of the Gaza Strip population. The statistics indicate that the largest number of persons with disabilities lives in Gaza City and they are about 38,878 persons and then comes the northern Gaza Strip where the number of person with disabilities was about 31,459 and then Khan Younis where the number of persons with disabilities is 25.392. Meanwhile, in the Central Gaza Strip, the number of persons with disabilities was 19,175 and in Rafah they are 13,058.
The persons with disabilities suffer from serious deterioration in the level of enjoying their rights in light of the ongoing Palestinian political division and the conflict over powers between the National Unity Government in Ramallah and authorities in charge of the Gaza City, and in light of the absence of any real interest in the implementation of the legal obligations arising from Palestine’s accession to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2014, and the non-application of the provisions of law of the Palestinian Disabled Rights 4/1999 which allows them to enjoy their rights in relation to healthcare services, rehabilitation, education, employment, and other rights related to entertainment, sports and participation in cultural life of the society. The persons with disabilities have suffered irregular payment of their financial allocations by by the Ministry of Social Affairs
though the deterioration of their economic and social conditions and their families’. They, as a result, have suffered from extreme poverty and deprival of many rehabilitation and care services and shortage of many medical devices needed by many of them. Despite Palestine’s
accession to the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 02 April 2014, and entering into force, the Palestinian Authority (PA) didn’t take any measures to harmonize the Palestinian legislations or implement the Palestinian Law No. 4 for the year 1999 concerning the rights of the disabled, including issuance of the cards special for those persons with disability that include the basic services in the field of health, rehabilitation, training and education. PCHR has called upon all ministries and governmental organizations to comply with the provisions of the law in order to guarantee the right of persons with disabilities to rehabilitation and employment, including activation of 5% of persons with disabilities in all governmental organizations as minimum in preamble to disseminate it in the NGOs and Private sector institutions. Seven rehabilitation centers, supervised by UNRWA in the Gaza Strip, are facing risks to close and stop provision of their services in the field of care and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities due to the financial crisis that the UNRWA is facing as a result of the U.S stopping funding them. This would lead to the dismissal of more than 130 employees working in these centers.
On this occasion, PCHR stresses that all parties shall exert more efforts to guarantee more respect, promotion and protection of civilian and political rights of persons with disabilities in addition to their economic, social and cultural rights. Thus, PCHR:
- Calls upon the international community, including the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention and the UN bodies to pressurize the Israeli authorities and oblige them to stop their violations of the rules of the international humanitarian and human rights laws and their violations against Palestinian civilians;
- Calls upon immediate end to all the Israeli authorities’ violations committed against persons with disabilities, including killing and injury, and stopping all forms of targeting rehabilitation and educational institutions designed for disabled persons;
- Calls upon the international community to ensure Israel’s respect for international human rights instruments, especially those pertaining to the rights of disabled persons;
- Calls upon the international community to provide technical and financial aid for persons with disabilities and organizations that provide care and rehabilitation services for them;
- Calls upon the PA to commit providing various services for persons with disabilities, including speeding up the issuance of the “disabled” card stipulated in the Rights of Disabled Palestinians Law to provide decent living conditions for them and for their families; and
- Calls upon the ministries and governmental organizations to comply with the provisions of the law to guarantee the activation of 5% quota of persons with disabilities in all governmental organizations as minimum in implementation of the provisions of law.