Shelcia is joyful and intelligent, with dreams of becoming a doctor one day.
Born with a disability that prevents her from walking on her own, Shelcia, 8, uses a wheelchair to move around. She lives with her parents and cousin in Matola, a suburb of Maputo, Mozambique.
Shelcia loves going to school and playing with her friends. She’s currently in Year 3 at the Patrice Lumumba primary school, an inclusive school with teaches trained in providing specific support to students with disabilities.
“My teacher is great," she says. "My classmates are also very nice. They help me during class and at playtime; we all have fun together. During playtime, I like to stay in the classroom and make my friends laugh. I have thousands of friends at school!”
Going to school has completely changed Shelcia’s life. She has discovered a real appetite for learning.
“I love going to school," Shelcia explains. "I love to learn. I already know how to count, and now I'm learning to write vowels."
Shelcia is full of ambition and there is no stopping her. She wants to become a doctor with the clear goal of helping other children. Her father, Ananias, shares her ambition.
"My daughter is very intelligent,” he says. “I know she’ll continue her studies and go to university.”
Special support for learning
Shelcia used to have trouble writing because her wheelchair prevented her from sitting at a desk. Through its inclusive education project, Humanity & Inclusion met with her family members who were determined to find a solution. Her father made her a personalized desk by fitting a wooden board to her wheelchair. Now, her notebook and textbooks are at the right height and her hands are free to write.
Ananias also requested extra assistance for Shelcia to help her develop her abilities and continue her schooling. Cristina and Gláucia, members of the Humanity & Inclusion’s team in Mozambique, provide her with specific support and organize regular coaching and information sessions, in person or by telephone.
“They often come to the house, and are a great help to me,” Ananias says. “They are my pillars.”
Students help each other
Shelcia's school is a bit far from her home, so her father and cousin help her get there on time.
"My daughter can get around at home or at school, no problem,” Ananias explains. “But it’s more difficult for her to use public transport because people ignore her disability. They don’t help her to get on the bus, for example.”
At school, though, Shelcia’s teachers and classmates are accepting and helpful.
“The fact that the school is inclusive is very important because it’s a step towards the inclusion of children with disabilities,” Ananias continues. “In an inclusive school, children are taught to help and support each other. In this way, other children learn that disability does not make you different.”
Nisha Rai and Reshma Shrestha agree that love and patience are essential in understanding and supporting the learning needs of children with disabilities. The two women work as learning facilitators for the USAID-funded Reading for All program in Nepal.
Rai, who has a master's degree in social science, learned about the vacancy of a learning facilitator in Dhankuta from her brother when she was looking to start her career. So, she applied and began working in April 2021 to support children with intellectual disabilities in the resource classroom.
Rai, pictured above, completed a brief orientation provided by Reading For All staff on the types of disabilities and children she would support. Rai explains that she never had any friends, neighbors or family members living with a disability, so the training she received about disability, functional limitations, learning materials, and behavioral skills have made it easier for her to support the students.
"Initially, I was not sure if I would be able to continue to support the children with intellectual disability, but eventually I have learned to engage with them and love my work," Rai says.
Rai works regularly at the Shree Aadharbhut School's Intellectual Resource Class, where she engages with children using functional toys like balls and sponge letters, as well as electronic tablets. She is proud to see the children welcoming her with smiling faces and gestures every day.
Similar to Rai, Shrestha is a learning facilitator in the Bhaktapur district. She supports children who are blind or have low vision in their studies and beams when describing the value she has found in working with children. Shrestha’s desire to better assist students with low vision motivated her to learn basic braille.
Before becoming a learning facilitator, Shrestha’s experience working with people with disabilities was limited to an internship at a community-based rehabilitation organization. In April 2021, she joined the Reading For All program with the goal of bringing positive change to the lives of children with disabilities.
Shrestha’s loving and caring nature has helped her quickly bond with children and build trust with students’ family members.
Sanju Adhikari, a Reading For All learning facilitator, supports a student who has a disability at a school in Dhankuta.
Barriers to inclusive education
Children with disabilities face challenging barriers to education. Nearly 50% of children with disabilities do not attend school. For every child to learn and develop the skills they need to succeed, they need an inclusive education. According to a study by Humanity & Inclusion, 83% of parents and caregivers of children with disabilities worried that their children would fall further behind in school because of Covid-19.
During the pandemic, the Reading For All program supported 35 resource classrooms with 62 learning facilitators, like Rai and Shrestha, to bridge the learning. Most of the learning facilitators were newly introduced to disability-inclusive education and are continuing careers in the field. These learning facilitators supported children by developing individualized education plans.
“In order to ensure we Leave No One Behind and to meet SDG4, inclusive education goes beyond enrollment in the classroom and requires trained teachers, adequate learning resources, adapted school infrastructure, and engaged parents,” adds Sanju Nepali, Inclusive Education Specialist for Humanity & Inclusion in Nepal.
To mark World Cerebral Palsy Day on October 6, Humanity & Inclusion highlights the importance of providing care and treatment to children born with this life-long condition.
Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disorder encountered by rehabilitation teams in the countries where Humanity & Inclusion works. Assisting children with cerebral palsy is therefore a major priority for the organization.
Seventeen million people worldwide live with cerebral palsy. It is the most common cause of motor disorder in children. Globally, people with cerebral palsy are still subject to discrimination.
Cerebral palsy is a group of lifelong conditions that affect movement and coordination. It's caused by a problem with the brain that develops before, during or soon after birth. It is sometimes associated with severe cognitive and sensory difficulties. It can also make it challenging to communicate with a child, to calm them and take care of them, which sometimes leads to rejection.
However, depending on the severity, if cerebral palsy is detected early, the parents are provided with information and the child receives immediate rehabilitation care, the likelihood of further complications can be reduced. The correct treatment can quickly transform the life of both the child and their family, and increase their chances of being able to walk, go to school, work and live a fulfilling life.
Humanity & Inclusion takes an intersectional approach to healthcare and physical and functional rehabilitation, while working as closely as possible with the family in order to provide them with the best possible care and treatment.
First step: early detection
Children born with cerebral palsy in the low- and middle-income countries where Humanity & inclusion works are often at-risk of discrimination and exclusion.
“Cerebral palsy is caused by an accident during pregnancy or during or just after birth. Symptoms depend on which part of the brain is affected, and they change over time. If a baby does not receive treatment, they will develop problems with muscle tone and will not be able to coordinate their movements. The faster it is correctly treated, the less brain damage the child will experience,” explains Uta Prehl, Humanity & Inclusion’s West Africa rehabilitation specialist.
“Unfortunately, in the countries where we work, care staff are often not trained to detect this condition early on,” Prehl continues. “Midwives need to know how to test the reflexes of newborns, for example. These tests need to be done every three months to check if the child is affected. This is why Humanity & Inclusion trains medical staff in the early detection of the cerebral palsy whenever possible. Care staff need to make a diagnosis and parents should be provided with information and guidance on visiting a health center with their baby without delay.”
Raising awareness of parents
Many families never visit a health or rehabilitation center or go when it’s too late. Sometimes parents are unable to take leave from work or to pay for transportation to health centers. Others feel ashamed and frightened their children will be seen as different. In some countries, children with cerebral palsy are hidden away or ostracized.
Humanity & Inclusion runs family education activities to raise the awareness of parents and their communities to help people learn more about cerebral palsy and the possibilities that treatment can open up for a young child. Parents also learn about the significant role they play in helping their child at health centers and in their future care.
Rehabilitation is essential
Most of a child’s early learning and brain development happens before the age of 5. Early detection of cerebral palsy is essential to providing an immediate rehabilitation response, in addition to mobility aids and other supports. These are included in the services provided to children with cerebral palsy by Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation teams or its partners. Mobility aids and other supports must be personalized, and children need to learn how to use them with help from their parents.
“With our partners, we work in direct and close contact with families, often the mothers, to ensure rehabilitation care produces the right results,” Prehl explains. “We need to provide equipment or devices adapted to the child, like mobility aids, and adapted chairs and tables, which are made to measure to give the child proper posture support.
“We make the diagnosis and decide on treatment and orthopedic fitting using the international Global Motor Function Classification Scale, which means we can work in a way adapted to each child, based on a precise evaluation. The next step—exercises to learn how to use posture and mobility aids—depends a lot on the relationship between the mother and child, and how motivated they are.”
Many people with cerebral palsy live long and fulfilling lives with support from Humanity & Inclusion and other organizations around the world. But too many people are still left behind. Humanity & Inclusion will continue its efforts to ensure young children with cerebral palsy are able to access the immediate care they need and to increase their chances of enjoying the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.
Thanks to an innovative 3D-printing project, 5-year-old Kennedy can walk on his own and play with other children for the first time.
Displaced by fighting in South Sudan, Kennedy’s family arrived in Uganda in December 2016, when he was just 9 months old. Now, he lives with his mother and two siblings in the Arua district.
Kennedy has Cerebral Palsy. And though he can eat, drink and hear easily, he is unable to speak. He also has limited dexterity and finds it difficult to hold objects.
“My wonderful, brilliant, cheerful little boy has had from Cerebral Palsy since birth,” says his mother. “Two days after he was born, he had a high fever; I took him to hospital in South Sudan where they diagnosed him with severe malaria. The doctors treated him straightaway, but it left him with consequences that have affected his mobility and communication skills: he can’t switch sides when he is lying down and he can’t sit, kneel or stand. He couldn’t walk without a walking frame. He depends on adults to do almost everything other children take for granted, including dressing himself or going to the bathroom.”
Kennedy began physical therapy with Humanity & Inclusion’s specialists in February 2020, after meeting with community volunteers. Despite challenges, Kennedy is growing stronger with each rehabilitation session. He’s already learned to stand and move around with the support of a walker.
In November 2020, Kennedy was enrolled in Humanity & Inclusion’s 3D PETRA project—an initiative that equips people with custom, 3D-printed braces and artificial limbs. After a consultation with a technician, Kennedy was prescribed braces for his feet. The team scanned his lower limbs, then printed braces to fit him perfectly.
As Kennedy continues his physical therapy exercises, he’ll soon be able to walk on his own with his braces. His mother is extremely grateful and delighted her son can finally play with other children in their neighborhood. Next, he’ll conquer school for the first time!
Through an inclusive education project in Nepal, Rabina finally has the chance to learn alongside other students.
Rabina, 19, was born with cerebral palsy. As a girl with disabilities from a low-income family, she was unable to go to school. Her parents were unaware children with disabilities could access education. Disability is stigmatized in communities like hers, where there are no inclusive schools. As a result, Rabina lacked both mobility and education for years.
That’s changing since she met a community officer working with the Empowering a New Generation of Adolescent Girls with Education (ENGAGE) project, managed by Humanity & Inclusion and Voluntary Service Overseas along with local partners in Nepal. The project seeks to empower more than 2,000 girls who are not enrolled in school—including those with disabilities—through education across three districts in Nepal’s Terai region. It is supported by UK Aid’s Girls Education Challenge Fund.
“I think that many people with disabilities in our community are still deprived of their rights and the support they need to gain their independence,” Rabina explains. “They need to be involved in projects like ENGAGE, which can be life-changing for them.”
Rabina’s opportunity to learn
In a medical camp organized by the ENGAGE, teams assessed Rabina’s needs and provided her with a wheelchair and toilet chair along with training in how to use them correctly. Soon, she will receive another, custom-made wheelchair that will help her move around even more easily.
A community officer also paid regular visits to her home to meet with her family. After a series of discussions and counseling, Rabina’s parents agreed to let Rabina join an intermediate class to prepare her to attend school. ENGAGE supplied her with the necessary learning materials.
“Thanks for supporting me with a wheelchair and a toilet chair; they really made a difference to my life,” Rabina says. “Thank you for providing counseling to my parents. They started to see me as their daughter with a future and have helped me learn.”
Rabina has completed her intermediate class, learning basic literacy skills and developing a strong interest in drawing and art. She is gaining self-confidence and wants to go to school to take her learning a step further. She will soon join a classroom where children with and without disabilities learn and play together.
“Rabina’s life has changed a lot since she joined the ENGAGE project,” explains Suman Buda, a community officer who works with Rabina. “She had never been to school and was totally illiterate. Now I feel very happy for her because she can read her lessons and write.”
Rabina’s parents are pleased with the progress she has made in her studies, and they are participating in a training program to learn how to better support their daughter. Now, they see her as a woman with ambitious plans for the future. Rabina’s neighbors are more welcoming, too, inviting her to social activities and rituals. This means Rabina is more involved in her local community, and she feels more confident than ever.
A new Nepali sign language learning app will support Deaf children develop pre-literacy, reading and basic sign language skills. The free app launched on Sept. 23, in recognition of International Day of Sign Languages.
Called Mero Sanket, the app is the first of its kind for Nepal, can also help teachers, parents, and caregivers to learn basic Nepali sign language, and will be available as an offline platform.
The app was developed as part of the USAID-supported Reading for All program, which is implemented by Humanity & Inclusion in partnership with World Education, the National Federation of the Deaf Nepal (NDFN), the Center for Education and Human Resource Development (CEHRD) and other local partners. In Nepal, children with disabilities face unique challenges in accessing meaningful and inclusive education. They experience a lack of proper learning infrastructure and accessible instruction materials adapted to their needs. In Nepal, 15,000 Deaf students attend 24 specialized schools with 174 resource classrooms. Nepali sign language was developed in 1998 and has rapidly progressed, helping students who are deaf excel in their education and communication. However, Nepali sign language is not accessible in all parts of the country, which has resulted in disproportionate high school dropout rates for Deaf students.
“Inclusion is at the heart of Humanity & Inclusion’s core values and accessibility in communication is our mandate," explains Reiza Dejito, director of Humanity & Inclusion's activities in Nepal, India and Sri Lanka. "When children’s access to education is curtailed due to Covid-19 containment measures, and when children are confined to their homes, this ingenious app helps Deaf children to continue learning. The starting point was creating a tailor-made mobile app for learning Nepali sign language, and making it fun and on demand to anyone, anytime, anywhere."
In a statement, the National Federation of the Deaf Nepal wrote, “This app puts Nepali Sign Language into the hands of anyone with an interest in learning it. In creating this mobile app, we appreciate the support provided by the Government of Nepal, USAID, Humanity & Inclusion, World Education, and all technical teams involved. In the days to come, we wish to take more initiatives to promote inclusive education by developing an additional learning material together with everyone involved in such activities and to lay the groundwork for the education of Deaf children.”
The free app is already available for download on Android devices in the Google Play Store. It includes six lessons on vowels, consonants, words, punctuation marks and other exercises in Nepali sign language. The app can be accessed offline once it is installed on a device.
“It has been a pleasure sharing that the Mero Sanket application has been developed, targeting students who are deaf or hard of hearing from grades one to three," says Dr. Divya Dawadi, Director of Inclusive Education at CEHRD. "The mobile application does not only support pre-literacy, reading and basic sign language skills, but this also helps teachers, parents, caregivers and other stakeholders learn basic sign language. The government of Nepal is committed to providing access to education for children, including those with disabilities. Together with the partners, we have developed lessons in sign language to catch up from the learning loss resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic."
Studies on educational outcomes in Nepal point to high drop-out rates and comparatively low achievement rates for children with disabilities, particularly in rural areas. USAID’s Reading for All program aims to improve reading outcomes for students with disabilities, through improving data quality on students with disabilities, early screening, building technical capacity, and testing disability inclusive education instructional models. The project will screen an estimated 277,418 children from grades 1-3 for any disabilities. Early screening helps teachers and schools to adapt students’ individualized education plans and the learning environment. Likewise, Reading for All will train more than 9,400 primary school teachers and 46 educators in resource classrooms to use inclusive teaching instruction to adapt to different needs of students.
"USAID is committed to ensuring all children have access to learning, especially children who are most marginalized," says Shannon Taylor, USAID/Nepal’s Education Office Director. "This is even more pressing during the Covid-19 pandemic where so many children are out of school and children with disabilities are disproportionately affected. We hope that this will be one more tool parents and teachers can use to support children who are deaf or hard of hearing in learning to read."
Kimhouy, 8, was born with limb differences. For the past two years, she has received care from Humanity & Inclusion and has learned to walk with artificial legs.
Kimhouy was born with dysmelia, a congenital abnormality that causes missing, shortened or other limb differences. As an infant, doctors amputated both of her legs, her left arm and some of her fingers.
Until the age of 6, unless someone carried her, Kimhouy would just sit on the floor. She didn’t know what it was like to walk. And it was almost impossible for her to take part in family activities. Born with a serious disability and into an extremely poor family, Kimhouy has experienced a lot of hardship, but she maintains a positive outlook on life.
Barriers to routine care
Kimhouy's parents are both day laborers in Cambodia. Her mother works on farms and her father on construction sites. They hire out their labor when they can and barely earn enough to support Kimhouy and her three siblings. The family experiences regular spells of unemployment. Because of their irregular income, Kimhouy does not get continuous care. Even though the family lives only an hour from Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation center in Kampong Cham, where she receives follow-up care, her parents struggle to arrange for her to get routine treatment. Humanity & Inclusion’s team has visited her at home to provide follow-up care, but encourages regularly visits to the rehabilitation center because it is vital for Kimhouy to have her prosthetics repaired or be fitted for new ones as she outgrows them.
“We’ve been providing Kimhouy with follow-up care since September 2019,” says Vimean Srun, head of the physical therapy unit at the Kampong Cham center managed by Humanity & Inclusion. “Unfortunately, she is not always able to come to her appointments because of her family’s situation. Last November, the last time she visited the rehabilitation center, her prostheses were too small because she’d grown so much. At that age, you need to change them regularly."
Still, Kimhouy’s mother tries her best to ensure her daughter keeps making progress.
“I would like to thank Humanity & Inclusion for covering the cost of our accommodation, transport and food when Kimhouy needs to visit the center for rehabilitation or new prostheses,” her mother says. “We couldn’t afford to help our daughter otherwise. I hope Humanity & Inclusion will continue to support people with disabilities for a long time to come.”
Determined to stand tall
Kimhouy loves visiting the rehabilitation center, which her mother heard about from a friend who lives with a disability. The first day she met Humanity & Inclusion physical therapists and orthopedic technicians, her life changed. She wants to keep improving and become more self-reliant.
"My daughter has been so happy since she was fitted with her prostheses,” her mother adds. “She can walk, get out of the house, ride her bike and play with friends. She stays clean because she can stand instead of always having to sit on the floor. I’m extremely grateful to Humanity & Inclusion and the donors who have made this possible.”
At the rehabilitation center in Kampong Cham, Kimhouy channels her enthusiasm into her goal of walking better.
“Kimhouy is a bright girl and extremely determined,” explains Srun, the physical therapist. “She’s always in a good mood and willing to do the exercises we suggest. She really enjoys her physical therapy sessions and knows the whole team. She has a smile for everyone. We also give her advice on her day-to-day life. We are proud of her and glad her prostheses mean she can go to school now.”
After she was fitted with her artificial limbs in 2019, Kimhouy started school, but getting there sometimes proves challenging. Her school is one-and-a-half miles away from her home, and it’s hard for her to travel alone. Her older brother or friends usually go with here, but–too often for her liking–she misses class when no one can help.
"I like going to school,” Kimhouy says. “Sometimes it's hard for me to stand up. Sometimes I fall down when I'm too tired. Some of my classmates make fun of me because of my disability, but I try not to take it seriously. I like to play in the playground with my friends and I want to be a teacher when I grow up.”
Header image: A young girl named Kimhouy sits on a bench while a physical therapist fits her for artificial legs at a rehabilitation center in Cambodia. Her mother sits nearby. Copyright: Stephen Rae/HI
Inline image: Kimhouy smiles from inside a toy car at a rehabilitation center in Cambodia. Her left arm, which is amputated, rests on the toy car's door. Copyright: Stephen Rae/HI
Salam was injured by a cluster munition in Syria in 2015. Booby traps, improvised landmines and explosive remnants heavily contaminate Syria. Children are particularly exposed.
One day in October 2015, 5-year-old Salam was in the field with her family picking ripe olives when she noticed a strange piece of metal on the ground. She thought she might be able to use it to carve pictures on rocks. It was a bomb.
The cluster munition had been thrown from an aircraft during the Syria conflict and, by design, had not exploded on impact but would when touched. It was the kind of bomblet that tends to explode diagonally.
The explosion killed Salam’s little brother, who was carrying water back from the well, instantly. Salam, her parent, and four other siblings were also injured.
The Red Cross rushed Salam to a medical facility in Jordan for emergency surgery. Her left leg and a toe on her right foot were amputated.
A long path to recovery
Salam was first assessed by Humanity & Inclusion in 2015 in the Za’atri refugee camp in Jordan, near the Syrian border. Separated from her parents in Syria, the young girl spent months alone until relatives living in Jordan were found.
After surgery, Salam worked closely with a Humanity & Inclusion physical therapist and a psychosocial support worker. To strengthen her injured right leg, Salam began to walk with the help of a frame. Then, she learned to walk with an artificial limb. Five years later, Salam’s prosthetic leg is routinely replaced as she continues to grow.
Salam experienced significant psychological trauma, becoming extremely timid and self-conscious after the blast. She refused to play with other children. Through occupational therapy and psychosocial support, Humanity & Inclusion helped Salam rebuild her confidence and encouraged her to interact with others.
Her new life in Jordan
Salam’s Jordanian relatives welcomed her and continue to take care of her. She now lives in Irbid with an extended family of 10 adopted brothers and sisters. She attends school, where she works hard and is frequently top of her class. She loves drawing princesses. Her adoptive father is grateful for Humanity & Inclusion’s support.
“We used to carry her to school before receiving the prosthetic leg and now she can easily walk to go to school,” he says. He has also seen a big difference in Salam’s confidence and happiness when playing with friends.
Salam dreams of becoming a doctor when she grows up and says she would love to make artificial limbs for other children.
Back in Syria
Too traumatized by what happened, Salam does not want to return to Syria, even to reunite with her parents and siblings. Her birth family believes she has better access to treatment and education in Jordan.
March 15 marks 10 years in conflict in Syria. Over the last decade, explosive weapons have been massively used in populated areas contaminating land across the country. Major cities like Raqqa, Aleppo and Homs have been destroyed by large-scale and intense bombing. Many of these weapons leave dangerous remnants or fail to explode on impact, remaining dangerous years after combat.
Today, 11.5 million people in Syria live in areas contaminated by explosive hazards.
Between 2011 and 2018 there were 79,206 recorded casualties from explosive weapons, 87% of which were civilians. While all population groups are at risk, children - especially boys, agricultural workers and people on the move are particularly vulnerable to being injured or killed by an anti-personnel landmine or explosive remnant of war.
Humanity & Inclusion and the Syria crisis
Since the organization began its response to the Syria crisis in 2012, Humanity & Inclusion has helped 1.8 million Syrians in six countries through emergency rehabilitation, psychological support, and supplying prosthetics and other assistive devices. As of December 2020, Humanity & Inclusion provided 14,000 prosthetics or orthotics to Syrians and conducted rehabilitation sessions with 180,000 people. Learn more about our work and the Syria crisis.
Header image: A young girl named Salam smiles at her home in Jordan. Her leg is amputated. She is a Syrian refugee.
Inline image: Salam sits on a table while a physical therapist fits her with a new prosthetic leg at a rehabilitation center in Jordan.
Since meeting Humanity & Inclusion’s mobile team in Afghanistan’s Herat region, 14-year-old Safa has covered a lot of ground.
When Safa was a young girl, she fell sick with a high fever. Her muscles got weak and, over time, she began living with paraplegia as her legs were paralyzed and deformed. Safa would spend hours sitting or lying down, which only worsened her situation.
Since Safa began working with Humanity & Inclusion’s mobile team, the teenager can finally stand, take a few steps, draw and dream of a new life. Safa is one of more than 4,000 people in Herat to whom Humanity & Inclusion’s emergency mobile teams provided care in 2020.
These teams provide rehabilitation and psychosocial support to people living in areas affected by decades of conflict, working specifically to provide physical therapy and assistive devices to people with disabilities.
Humanity & Inclusion provided Safa with at-home rehabilitation care, a wheelchair, and equipment adapted to her everyday life, and also referred her to partner organization to be fitted with orthotics to help her walk.
"I met Safa during one of our disability awareness sessions," explains one of Humanity & Inclusion’s physical therapists working in Herat. "This girl with paraplegia received no support unfortunately and she was almost completely reliant on others. Now, I visit her regularly to do rehabilitation exercises. She can stand upright and her deformities are less severe. Once she had regained some strength in her muscles, we gave her a walking frame. Safa is happy and proud of the progress she has made in just a few months.”
Sitting and standing again have changed Safa’s life. She can draw and take part in everyday activities. She wants a normal life and would like to go to school. One thing's for sure: Safa is working hard to become more self-reliant and she is filled with hope for the future.
Image: A teenage girl named Safa stands with the support of a standing frame in Afghanistan. She is coloring. Copyright: O. Zerah/HI
When she was 4, Mahnaz lost the use of her legs. Since meeting the Humanity & Inclusion team, this determined little girl is getting back on her feet again.
As a toddler, Mahnaz loved playing games with her friends, but that changed when her health quickly deteriorated. Soon, she couldn’t stand or use her arms. At an age when most children are exploring the world around them, Mahnaz found herself unable to walk.
Mahnaz, her parents, and her six siblings have always lived in extreme poverty. Her father is a laborer, who is away most of the time, working in Afghanistan’s Ghur province to provide for his family. Despite their difficult situation, Mahnaz's parents tried to help their daughter using traditional treatments, but nothing worked. They lost hope in ever finding a solution.
Nine months ago, when Humanity & Inclusion’s mobile team in the Herat region offered to treat 9-year-old Mahnaz, they accepted with low expectations.
"When Humanity & Inclusion started her treatment, we didn't think she would get any better because all the traditional treatments had failed,” Mahnaz’s mother explains. “We didn't believe in it anymore.”
Mahnaz's life has changed immensely. Mahnaz does regular rehabilitation exercises to strengthen her muscles and improve her balance. Humanity & Inclusion has given her leg braces and a walking frame. Equipped and determined, Mahnaz is learning to walk again.
The girl's mother can’t believe the progress Mahnaz has made. “Mahnaz has started to improve,” she says. “She can stand up and do a few steps with her braces. She is walking better, and we think it’s going to work! We're so happy!”
Mahnaz dreams of running and even playing soccer. Once she is self-reliant, her family wants to enroll her in school.