The current economic crisis in Lebanon, which was aggravated by the deadly explosions in Beirut on August 4, 2020, is having a serious impact on communities living in vulnerable circumstances, including Syrian refugees and people with disabilities.
A young man and a teenager who receive care from the Mousawat Center, supported by Humanity & Inclusion, share their stories.
Mohammed Ali Raja, 26
Mohammed Ali Raja fled Syria to Lebanon in 2017 after a rocket attack left him with a spinal cord injury, causing him to experience paralysis from the waist down. His left leg had to be amputated. Humanity & Inclusion’s partner in Lebanon, the Mousawat Center, provided Mohammed with crutches and psychological support. They also referred Mohammed to the World Rehabilitation Fund (WRF), where he received a prosthetic leg and medical boots. Mohammad continues to receive for other health issues caused by his spinal injury.
On August 4, 2020, the Beirut blast killed more than 200 people and injured 7,500. For Mohammed, it triggered psychological trauma from his memories of the conflict in Syria.
“I was afraid to go to the bathroom after the blast because I was scared,” he says. “The feeling of fear got worse because I can’t escape if there is a problem.”
Due to the current economic collapse in Lebanon, Mohammed is in need of financial support. For example, the incontinence pads that he has to wear cost 100,000 pounds—more than $66—for a pack of 24. That is unaffordable at local salary rates, especially when Mohammed’s brother is the sole income provider for his family.
Mohammed’s hope for the future is to pursue education outside Lebanon, in a place where he can “work and be productive enough to cover my needs.” He would like to use his interest in biology to become a doctor or school teacher.
Mohammed Abboud al-Saleh, 14
Mohammed Abboud al-Saleh and his family fled from Syria to Lebanon several years ago. Unfortunately, he was struck by a car while crossing the street in Beirut. He suffered a spinal cord injury causing his legs to be paralyzed.
After 15 sessions at the Mousawat Center, Mohammed has made great progress. He can now stand with assistance and transfer himself from his wheelchair to a bed.
“There were movements I couldn’t do before, but now I can,” he says. “I am so happy.”
Being a wheelchair user is a day-to-day challenge for Mohammed. One time, his father was late to pick up him from school, so he was stuck on the third floor. His teacher was unable to move Mohammed by herself, so they had to wait for his dad to arrive and to call people from the street to help get Mohammed back down. It made Mohammed very upset and he said that he “felt lonely.” Like many places, schools often don’t have elevators or facilities for persons with disabilities. Even if they did, the current frequent electricity blackouts in Lebanon would likely cause a major issue.
Mohammed has big plans for the future. He would like to continue his studies and become a doctor or pharmacist. But his real passion is in acting! He posts challenges, pranks and sight-seeing videos to his thousands of subscribers on Youtube and TikTok.
When asked if he could go anywhere, Mohammed suggests a few places, all within miles of his home.
“I’d like to play with my friends and go for walks around the building and around these areas,” he says. “My biggest dream is to walk again.”