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Sisters share experiences as refugees with disabilities in Lebanon

Health Rehabilitation

Sidra and Marwa are from Syria, they are sister and found refuge in a camp near Beirut, Lebanon. They both have a disability, which create daily challenges for them. They received physical therapy care from Humanity & Inclusion.

Marwa during a physical therapy session.

Marwa during a physical therapy session. | © HI

Sidra and Marwa need physical therapy to ease the pain and improve their mobility. It is key to make their daily lives easier and to go to school.

Sidra, 15, and Marwa, 16, live with their family of seven in a tent in the Faida Camp for Syrian refugees, in Bekaa, Lebanon. They fled from Syria in 2011, just at the beginning of the war.

Sidra has cerebral palsy and Marwa has scoliosis. Both disabilities cause pain and make it difficult for the sisters to walk and to move.

Physical Therapy to ease the pain and improve mobility  

Sidra and Marwa received physical therapy treatment at the Mousawat Rehabilitation Center, operated by Humanity & Inclusion (HI)’s partner, to improve their walking and balance, and strengthen their muscles. Rehabilitation will eventually reduce their pain and improve their daily lives.

The sessions consist of active exercises for lower and upper limbs with the use of weights. They also do abdominal and bridge exercises to strengthen their back muscles, and use the treadmill and bicycle. These exercises have a psychological effect: to regain physical strength and ability is the first step to regain self-esteem and combat anxiety.

Being a teenager with a disability and a refugee

Sidra’s disability creates challenges to complete many activities that require physical movement, such as rolling and changing her position in bed, sitting, bathing, walking, and playing. Stumbling and falling regularly has prevented Sidra from performing daily basic chores and caused her to feel embarrassed. Sidra experiences low self-esteem from the stress and social isolation caused by her disability.

Marwa’s scoliosis affects her physical and social functioning in a similar way. Marwa has experienced several accidents. For instance, she once lost her balance and broke a knee while playing. The injury limited her movement for months, and caused her distress and anxiety.

“I had a fear that my health situation wouldn’t improve before the school reopened, and would have to walk with a limp in front of students,” Marwa says.

They both love playing with other children, but they experience bullying because of their disabilities.

To have a life like any teenager

By improving their mobility, physical therapy sessions have helped the sisters feel more included at school. 

“I see my children happier and more excited about life than ever before, whether during daily life activities, helping out at home, learning, playing or even when leaving the house,” their mother says.

I hope when we are grown up we will be able find jobs and be able to help our family,” Marwa says.

Date published: 02/17/22


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