Ever since its inception in 1968, PRCS has focused on the rehabilitation of disabled persons in Palestine and the Diaspora, guided by the fact that “each Israeli missile that targets Palestinians causes two problems: a health problem that requires medical treatment and a social problem that requires the rehabilitation of the wounded to ensure that they play and active and productive role within society”. This statement has and continues to guide PRCS’ actions in this field.
Such a vision is not an intellectual luxury. On the contrary, it stems from a deep belief in PRCS’ patriotic and humanitarian mission as well as from its identification with the pains of Palestinians, their tragedy as well as the oppression and suffering they are undergoing today.
Perhaps this vision is best captured by the following sentences from late Dr. Fathi Arafat’s book on “Health, war and steadfastness”: “From the depths of our wounds we have learned how to heal wounds. From the roots of pain we have learned how to plant smiles and hope. From the gloom and darkness of despair we have learned how to weave the threads of a bright future. And from the coldness of our tents we have learned how to spread warmth and tenderness in a mother’s heart overcome with hollowness after her son was killed”. This also reminds us of the words of a famous rehabilitation expert: “Caring for the disabled is basically a matter of will and belief. To a lesser extent, it is also a matter of experience and capacities”.
Guided by this philosophy, and immediately after its inception, PRCS started -mainly in Lebanon- to provide professional rehabilitation to victims of Israeli attacks in its rehabilitation centers, so as to turn them into productive individuals capable, in turn, of rehabilitating other wounded Palestinians. Hence, PRCS developed several rehabilitation projects including the Pottery Project at Haifa hospital (Burj al Barajneh camp near Beirut) and Al Ramleh Center with its Handicrafts Project and Metalwork Design Project.
Following the return of PRCS’ leadership to Palestine, and precisely after the Society’s 7th General Conference in Khan Younis in 1996, the rehabilitation of disabled persons was given even more attention. Rehabilitation services were expanded to include not only wounded Palestinians, but also all those suffering from physical, mental, hearing and speech disabilities. With a view to achieving this national and humanitarian objective, PRCS created a special department whose efforts and dedication, as well as those of other PRCS departments, enabled the Society to establish tens of rehabilitation centers in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It also developed other centers which had been run by its branches since the 1980s, mainly in Nablus and Hebron, and created a university-level rehabilitation college in Khan Younis which grants Bachelor degrees in this field. Moreover, PRCS created several workshops for the productive rehabilitation of disabled persons in Khan Younis, Hebron, Nablus and Ramallah Governorates, as well as many other centers in various West Bank towns and villages.
At each of its Conferences, PRCS adopted the necessary decisions with a view to promoting disabled persons, enhancing the rehabilitation process and developing the Society’s philosophy in this field which is based on the principle of universality and on the understanding of each disabled person’s needs in order to develop an infrastructure that would enable the disabled to enjoy their rights regardless of race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex and disability.
As disabled persons differ in their skills and capacities, and as each disability has its own requirements, PRCS developed a variety of tools and services to cover the needs of each disabled person as well as to ensure he/she becomes an active and productive individual. Unfortunately, however, many disabled persons continue to suffer from discrimination, marginalization and non-affirmative action, turning them into a burden for their societies.
Moreover, while the philosophy of humanitarian service is based on securing the needs of individuals and ensuring equality, rehabilitation services have their own specificities as they target disabled persons and aim at ensuring the continuous development of such services to enable the disabled to enjoy the same rights and shoulder the same responsibilities as their peers, in line with the principles of the International Movement of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies which guide PRCS, and with special focus on marginalized and underprivileged groups.
Hence, PRCS aims at implementing a Rehabilitation Policy that is in line with the principles and basics underlying PRCS’ philosophy in this field. Such a Policy would be based on the following:
Considering PRCS’ rehabilitation vision and services as complementary to the development process;
Providing rehabilitation programs and services to disabled persons in line with needs and resources;
Promoting team work in the field of rehabilitation as well as when cooperating and coordinating with PRCS Departments so as to better serve disabled persons;
Promoting the Disabled Persons Act within the local community and ensuring its implementation at PRCS centers, taking into account the following:
1.All PRCS facilities must be disabled-friendly; 2.The law for the employment of disabled persons must be observed. Such employment must be suitable to each individual’s skills and capacities;
Disabled persons must be further integrated into society according to a development framework;
Continuous education programs must be provided to train specialized staff capable of keeping abreast of developments in this field.
Relations with relevant governmental, local and international bodies must be developed and enhanced.