Lebanon: Bringing Relief to Older Refugees


Eighty-year-old Razala has not stood up for eight months—not since she and 19 members of her family fled the suburbs of Damascus to escape the fighting around the Syrian capital. They first traveled to another town in Syria but, afraid of being caught up in fresh fighting, they fled to Lebanon.

In Lebanon, Razala and her family initially lived in a single cramped tent, but they recently moved in to an apartment in a building that's still under construction in the Beqaa Valley. They sleep on the floor and eat mainly through the generosity of their neighbors. Razala has not eaten fruit or meat for months. The family now lives in darkness—utilities were cut off when they could not pay their bills.

“At 80, my life has totally changed,” says Razala, who spends her days lying flat on the ground. “I don’t have a home, food, gas, electricity, or even clothes, and my son doesn’t have any work. I never thought I’d be living like this.”

Handicap International has been working with Syrian refugees in the Beqaa Valley since the summer of 2012. When staff met Razala, they recognized, as they have in other refugees, that regaining physical autonomy will be essential to Razala’s mental well-being. The team put her on a physical therapy regime to help her regain some strength and mobility. After not moving for so long, she had developed a sore on her back and extreme stiffness in her legs. After just three therapy sessions, she can now feel her legs again. Once she is stronger she will be fit for a wheelchair, allowing her to move around by herself.