Iraq: Aiding People with Disabilities Displaced by Violence


One month ago, Alimah, 33, moved her family, including her children and grandchildren, to the Tazade camp for displaced people in Kurdistan, Iraq. “One day my husband disappeared,” says Alimah. “He was kidnapped. We haven’t heard from him since. So I have to take care of our children and grandchildren myself.” Life in the camp is far from ideal: “Nine of us live here,” Alimah says of the small prefab shelter where the family lives.However, we’re safe here and we don’t have any choice other than to adapt to the situation.”

One Alimah greatest concerns is the well being of her six-year-old son Sofian. He was born with cerebral palsy, which affects his movements, speech, and his ability to do everyday things. With help from Handicap International, which works in the camp, Sofian is gradually learning how to become more mobile.

Alimah uses a wheelchair to take Sofian with her around the camp. The rest of the time, her daughter takes care of him. To improve Sofian’s mobility, Handicap International’s staff give him physical therapy sessions and are teaching him to do basic tasks, such as eating. “Today we’ve brought an adaptive support chair and a blender for Sofian,” says Pers Bakr, one of Handicap International’s physical therapists.The support chair will help him develop a better posture, regain his balance, and adopt a position that’s better for eating. He has problems swallowing his food, so the blender will help the family to prepare food that’s easier for Sofian to eat.”

“I’m really happy to see my son sitting up in a chair instead of laying on the floor,” says Alimah. I’m relieved to know that he’ll find it easier to eat. Until now, we struggled at meal times.”

The family finds it hard to cover its daily expenses. “My son travels to Kalar every day to work in a sports center,” says Alimah.He earns a little money, which helps us buy food.” Before, when Alimah’s husband was around and working as a carpenter, the family lived comfortably.

“It’s hard to see families who are short of everything, especially when most of them lived in good or even excellence conditions before,” says explains Arian Jamal, a Handicap International social workers. “Now, they’ve lost everything.”

Although life is hard, Sofian is steadily learning to become more self-reliant: “I’m impressed by the progress Sofian has made since our first session,” says Pers Bakr.My aim is to help him move around independently and I hope that, together, we’ll manage it.”

From their office in Kalar, Handicap International’s teams have already helped more than 1,400 displaced people by giving them physical and functional rehabilitation sessions. The organization’s teams also visit camps and communities to distribute mobility aids, provide psychological support, and run risk education sessions on how to spot, avoid, and report IEDs and other dangerous weapons they may encounter.