Physical rehabilitation is an important part of the rehabilitation process. It is not an objective in itself but an essential part of fully integrating people with disabilities in society.
Restoration of mobility, the guiding force of all ICRC physical rehabilitation projects, is the first step towards enjoying such basic rights as access to food, shelter and education, finding a job and earning an income and, more generally, having the same opportunities as other members of society.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is an impartial, neutral and independent organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and other violence and to provide them with assistance. Established in 1863, the ICRC is at the origin of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. It strives through its delegations and missions around the world to fulfil its mandate to protect and assist the millions of people affected by armed conflict and other violence.
States party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – which seeks to “promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities” – are required to “take effective measures” to ensure that people with disabilities have access to rehabilitation services (Article 26) and mobility devices (Article 20).
Ensuring access to physical rehabilitation – which entails provision of physiotherapy and mobility devices (prostheses, orthoses, walking aids and wheelchairs) – is the general objective of the ICRC’s Physical Rehabilitation Programme (PRP). Since 1979, the ICRC has worked to open up access to appropriate physical rehabilitation services, and its physical rehabilitation activities have diversified and expanded throughout the world.
The term ‘rehabilitation’ describes a process that has two aims: to remove – or reduce as far as possible – restrictions on the activities of people with disabilities; and to enable these people to become more self-sufficient while enjoying the highest possible quality of life in physical, psychological, social and professional terms. Various means – medical care, therapy, psychological support and vocational training – may be needed to realize these objectives. Physical rehabilitation, though an important aspect of the rehabilitation process, is not an end in itself; it is an essential step in the full social integration of people with disabilities. Restoration of mobility, which is the basis of ICRC physical rehabilitation projects, is the first step in enabling disabled people to benefit from such basic rights as access to food, shelter and education, to find a job and earn an income and, more generally, to have the same opportunities as other members of society.
The ICRC has gradually acquired a position of leadership in the area of physical rehabilitation, mainly because of the scope of its activities, the development of its in-house technology, its acknowledged expertise and its long-term commitment to assisted projects. In most countries where the ICRC has provided physical rehabilitation support, such services were previously either minimal or nonexistent.
And, in most cases, ICRC support has served as a basis for establishing a national rehabilitation service. Between 1979 and 2016, the PRP provided support for more than 221 projects in 53 countries and one territory. Since 1979, large numbers of individuals have benefited from ICRC-supported physical rehabilitation services: a total of 481,145 prostheses, 871,142 orthoses, 65,255 wheelchairs and 561,263 pairs of crutches have been provided, as have physiotherapy and follow-up (repair and maintenance of devices).
In 2016, 398,409 people (7% more than the previous year) benefited from various services provided by ICRCsupported physical rehabilitation centres, component factories and training institutions. In all, 22,363 prostheses, 97,533 orthoses, 6,321 wheelchairs and 42,970 pairs of crutches were distributed; 204,222 people, some of whom also benefited from follow-up care and device maintenance/repairs, received physiotherapy. These figures include the 5,826 prostheses and 740 orthoses given to survivors of incidents related to mines/explosive remnants of war (ERW), and the 10,609 mine/ERW victims who received physiotherapy services. Children made up 35% of all beneficiaries and women, 20%.