The metal external fixations reaching out from nine-year-old Harith’s leg testify to the severity of his accident. “They began bombing our neighborhood late last year,” explains his father, Younes. “One morning, we tried to flee Mosul by car but a rocket fell on us. My brother died instantly and my son, Harith, was seriously injured. Our neighbors rushed us to hospital.”
Harith’s accident marked the beginning of challenging months for the family. “When we left the hospital, we returned to an area not far from home. But the following month, there were more bombings, so we had to flee again.” After moving from place to place to avoid the conflict, Harith and his family made their way to Hasansham camp, where they met Handicap International.
“Harith was injured several months ago, but he’s still in a lot of pain and finds it difficult to walk,” explains Mohammad, a physical therapist with Handicap International. “My job is get him back on his feet.” The teams will help Harith gain strength in his body and mind.
It’s obvious that’s Harith is in pain by watching the strain on his face during physical therapy exercises. To help distract his mind, Handicap International psychologist Diana encourages him to do a drawing. The young boy sketches a house on a sheet of paper while Mohammad stimulates his leg muscles. It’s really a team effort.
“We draw at the camp school, too,” Harith says with a smile. Harith had never been to school before he arrived to Hasansham. “My favorite subject is science. I want to study really hard and be a nurse when I’m older.”
“I think he should be able to walk properly again in a few months,” Mohammad adds while winking at Harith. “Soon, his parent won’t need to carry him to school and he’ll be able to walk by himself, like his friends.”
The boy’s mother, Nada, is having a difficult time accepting her new life. “Things were really good before,” she says. “It feels like the bridge between our past and present lives was bombed, too.”
“Life is tough here,” adds Younes, “but we’re safe and that’s the most important thing.”
Fighting between armed groups and government forces in Iraq in recent years has displaced more than three million people. An estimated 11 million civilians need humanitarian assistance in the country. The Mosul offensive has presented international organizations with an unprecedented challenge. More than 500,000 people have fled the fighting since October and the number of civilian casualties remain high.
Handicap International and the Iraqi crisis
Handicap International has helped more than 125,000 people since launching its emergency response in 2014. (Handicap International has run other projects in Iraq since 1991.) The organization regularly reviews its actions to account for a highly volatile situation across the entire country. Current activities protect people by raising awareness of the risk from mines and conventional weapons. Demining teams conduct non-technical studies and clear potentially dangerous areas. Other staff provide physical and functional rehabilitation and psychosocial support, support to health centers, training and advocacy on the inclusion of people with disabilities, and technical support to partners to enhance the inclusion of vulnerable people in their services.