Cambodia | Sreyka recovers from car accident that took her leg
Sreyka was walking home from school in May 2019 when she was hit by a speeding driver and had to have her left leg amputated. She's returned to school after Humanity & Inclusion fitted her with a prosthesis.
Sreyka, 8, was skipping along the road after school when she was knocked down by a large speeding vehicle just 55 yards from her home. Seriously injured, she was rushed to a nearby health center and then to the nearest hospital, which lacked the equipment needed to treat her. Sreyka was taken to a pediatric hospital in Cambodia's capital city, where her left leg was amputated to save her life.
Sreyka's family lives with her maternal grandparents in a village in the Tbong Khmum province. The family lives on a limited income, made by her father who works in construction. Sreyka’s mother takes care her, her 14-year-old sister and their home.
Putting her prosthesis to the test
Seven months after the accident, Sreyka visited Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation center in Kampong Cham, an hour from her village. The team of physical therapists and prosthetic technicians immediately took good care of her, providing her a custom-fit artificial leg and teaching her how to walk with it.
"I'm so happy that my daughter can walk to school again with her prosthesis and do so many things on her own," says Sreyka's mother. "She was really unhappy. And it was difficult for me too, because I had to carry her a lot and help her with everyday chores, lift her from room to room, and take her outside or to the toilet or bathroom. I am grateful to Humanity & Inclusion for their work because it means my daughter can be fitted with prostheses!"
Sreyka and her mother visit the center regularly for adjustments and replacements of her artificial limb - she's already on her second prosthesis and will only need more as she grows! They also learn tips to care for Sreyka's stump. For instance, it's really important to change the girl's socks (on her stump) as often as possible. Her stump could become infected if they don't tend to it.
"In addition to regularly providing her with prostheses and teaching her to walk with her prostheses, the team at the rehabilitation center also does physical therapy exercises with Sreyka and gives her counseling,” explains Mr. Doung Chetha, the coordinator of Humanity & Inclusion’s Kampong Cham Rehabilitation Center.
A bit of a daredevil, Sreyka is putting her new leg to the test.
"I like to play with my friends at school, I pretend to be a ghost,” Sreyka says. “I always enjoyed running around the house with my cousins and friends. And now I can do what I love again! Sometimes I try to ride my bike and even skid in front of my grandparents' house.”
Back to school
Sreyka is gradually overcoming the trauma of her accident. Her confidence is growing and she is engaging more with her family and friends.
When she first returned to school, the second grader felt shy at first and wore long skirts to hide her legs, but now she wears the same uniform as her classmates. Sreyka has definitely taken to her new leg.
"My school is quite far away, a half-mile from home, but I often walk there. I really like school,” Sreyka says with a beautiful smile, adding that her favorite subject is Khmer, Cambodia’s primary language.
When she grows up, Sreyka hopes to train to make orthotics and prosthetics.
The Humanity & Inclusion team in Kampong Cham is right to be proud of her!
Header image: A young girl named Sreyka shades her eyes while sitting on a bicycle in Cambodia. She is wearing a prosthetic leg. Copyright: Stephen Rae/HI, 2020
Inline image: Sreyka sits at her school desk, smiling as she raises her hand during class in Cambodia. Copyright: Stephen Rae/HI, 2020
Afghanistan | Air strike changes Juma's life forever
An air strike struck the Afghan home of Juma, 14, leaving him with quadriplegia. Regaining his independence is his top goal, and Humanity & Inclusion is right by his side to reach it.
One night in October 2019, the lives of Juma and his family were rocked by a terrible explosion. His family’s home was targeted in an air strike that killed his 3-year-old sister and injured his father. A severe injury to his brain and spinal cord left Juma with quadriplegia, and difficulty speaking.
Displaced, mourning and permanently injured, Juma and his family are paying a heavy toll for an air strike in a conflict they know nothing about. Following the tragedy, Juma’s family fled their village in central Afghanistan's Ghor Province, and took refuge in a camp for displaced people near the city of Herat, where they live in a small mud house in extreme poverty.
Juma's father was left disabled by a shoulder injury, and can no longer work. Isolated and without income, the family’s main concern is how to meet their basic needs.
Before Humanity & Inclusion arrived at the camp, Juma hadn’t received any help. Unable to move, the teenage boy spent most of his time in bed. Sometimes his mother would take him outside to enjoy the sun and fresh air.
Everything changed when Humanity & Inclusion's mobile emergency team first traveled to meet Juma in September 2020. The team visited his home and provided him with rehabilitation care and taught his parents exercises to do with their son. The team also gave the family advice about coping with everyday problems. Juma continues to receive regular follow-up care.
"When Humanity & Inclusion came to our home, hope returned,” explains Juma's mother. “It was really hard for me to carry my son all day. He couldn't move at all and he was depressed.”
Juma’s mother says she is already seeing her son make progress.
“The team started his treatment right away and gave him a wheelchair and equipment. I also learned how to do his rehabilitation exercises with him,” she says. “He can move his hands again, he is feeling better, and he can do certain things by himself. I am really grateful to Humanity & inclusion for their help."
Support for the whole family
In addition to providing physical rehabilitation to Juma, Humanity & Inclusion is also providing psychosocial support for his entire family. The family talks with the mobile team’s counselor, sharing their feelings, discussing their problems, and brainstorming solutions together. This psychosocial support makes it easier for the family to cope with the trauma they’ve endured and the challenges they face. They are not alone.
As for Juma, he has regained some of his mobility and his morale is improving.
“I would like to walk again and go to school, just like the other children,” he says.
Juma is a brave boy and continues to do his rehabilitation exercises with his mother. His beautiful smile has returned, giving hope to the whole family.
Header image: A teenage boy named Juma sits in a wheelchair surrounded by other children in Afghanistan. Copyright: O. Zerah/HI
Inline image: Juma laughs during a rehabilitation session with a member of Humanity & Inclusion’s team in front of his family’s mud home in Afghanistan. Copyright: O. Zerah/HI
Bangladesh | Fire robs refugee child of his wheelchair
Shohelur was speechless when he saw his charred wheelchair among the ashes.
The wheelchair that gave Shohelur independence, the standing frame used for his physical therapy exercises, and his inclusive learning materials were all destroyed as a fire spread through a refugee camp for Rohingya families in southern Bangladesh on the night of January 14. Shohelur and his family managed to escape the flames, but they returned home the next morning to find all of their possessions destroyed.
“Everything has ended for my family and every dream has ended in our life, we need support to return to our normal life,” Shohelur’s mother said to a member of Humanity & Inclusion’s team providing support in the camp. With nowhere else to go, Shohelur and his family are temporarily living with relatives in another shelter at the refugee camp.
Shohelur, who has Cerebral Palsy, loved that his wheelchair made it possible for him to play outside with his friends. Humanity & Inclusion had provided the young boy the wheelchair, toys that support his development, and physical therapy sessions.
In the aftermath of the fire, which destroyed hundreds of shelters, Humanity & Inclusion is assisting thousands of refugees who find themselves displaced again.
So far, Humanity & Inclusion has distributed supply kits – which include non-food items like clothes and sleeping mats – to more than 500 households. The organization’s local team of psychosocial workers is providing psychological aid after the traumatic events.
Humanity & Inclusion is also working with its long-standing beneficiaries at the camp to assess the fire’s damage and identify what belongings – like Shohelur’s wheelchair – need to be replaced. Shohelur has already received a new toilet chair, mattress and standing frame, and the Humanity & Inclusion team has taken his measurements to make sure his new custom wheelchair fits just right.
Shohelur says he loved his chair. It helped his balanced and allowed him to sit independently. Before the fire, he always enjoyed his physical therapist’s company. He was always smiling through his sessions!
Header image: A charred wheelchair lays amid ruins after a fire at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Copyright: HI
Inline image: A young boy named Shohelur sits in a chair while Humanity & Inclusion staff take his measurements for a custom wheelchair. They are at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Copyright: HI
Democratic Republic of the Congo | After overcoming polio, Trésor aspires to be a doctor
Trésor calls his brace “libende,” which means “piece of iron” in the Lingala language. Trésor is fond of the brace, which has helped him live a normal life after he contracted polio when he was 3. He’s 12 now.
One of nine children, Trésor and his family live among the sprawling suburbs of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where Trésor’s mother sells biscuits on the side of the road.
When Trésor was 3, he came down with a bad fever and his parents rushed him to the hospital.
“I remember when my little brother got polio like it was yesterday,” said Nsumbu-Mateka, Trésor’s older brother. “It wasn’t long before we realized Trésor would never regain the use of his left leg. We were so shocked. He couldn't play or run around like before. Our parents were really unhappy about it but there was nothing they could do.”
After Trésor lost use of his leg and his ability to walk, Nsumbu-Mateka saw that he wasn’t able to participate in every day activities.
"There are a lot of people like my brother around here, but unfortunately most never leave home,” Nsumbu-Mateka explained. “The children don’t go to school. They can’t move around, and in some ways, they’re excluded from the community."
Wanting better for his younger brother, Nsumbu-Mateka began looking into educational opportunities for Trésor. He learned of a school in their neighborhood that accepts children with disabilities. Thanks to his brother’s advocacy, Trésor attended his first day of school when he was 9. That’s where Trésor met Humanity & Inclusion’s team, which works to promote school enrollment for children with disabilities.
Through its inclusive education project, Humanity & Inclusion ensures that schools are accessible for children with reduced mobility, trains teachers to adapt their lessons for students with disabilities, and works to provide individual support to children with disabilities.
Trésor was one of those children. Humanity & Inclusion arranged for Trésor to visit a local orthopedic center, where he received a pair of crutches, a brace, and a custom-made orthopedic shoe. Through donor support, Humanity & Inclusion continues to work with Trésor, providing the growing boy on average two new braces each year.
Now, with his “libende” and crutches, Trésor walks 45 minutes to school each day. He particularly loves calculus and French, and dreams of becoming a doctor one day so he can care for others. His classmates are amazed by his willpower and happy to call him their friend.
Trésor loves spending time with his family, especially his brother, Nsumbu-Mateka. He plays games and draws cartoons. But most of all, Trésor enjoys paying a few cents to rent a bike and showing the other children that he can ride a bike, just like them.
First photo: A young boy named Trésor crouches down while playing a game with bottle caps outside his home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has a big smile. He is wearing a bright blue plaid shirt, jeans, blue and black tennis shoes, and a brace on his left leg.
Second photo: Trésor sits on a table and has his foot measured during a consultation with Humanity & Inclusion staff. His is wearing a white shirt and shorts. He is barefoot.
Third photo: Trésor sits in a chair, holding a yellow soccer ball. He has a big smile. He is wearing a bright blue plaid shirt, jeans, blue and black tennis shoes, and a brace on his left leg. His crutches are leaning on the wall beside him.
Vietnam | Symbols-based app opens paths to communication
Imagine being hungry or needing to use the restroom, but having no way to communicate those needs. When a person has trouble speaking – often because of a physical disability or other health issue – participating in conversations with family members, friends, teachers, medical staff or neighbors can be difficult.
That’s why Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation project in Vietnam helped to translate and adapt Talk Tablet Pro, a symbols-based Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) app, for Vietnamese people with disabilities to use. Talk Tablet VN, which launched in November, helps break down barriers for people with speech difficulties.
Talk Tablet VN displays a grid of boxes containing pictures and symbols that represent different words and phrases. The user can choose what to say – such as, “let’s go to eat” or “I would like to go to the park” – by tapping the corresponding symbols. Then the tablet speaks the word or phrase.
After the app launched in November, therapists and special educators completed a two-day training. The app – which can be downloaded from the Google’s Vietnam store – will be used across the country to help children with Cerebral Palsy or autism and adults with stroke or traumatic brain injury to communicate.
“We know that some of the people who need the most help simply don’t have the money for such devices,” explains Didier Demey, HI’s country manager for Vietnam operations. “Money should never be a barrier, so our donors have made the app and related tablets available for free to those who will benefit the most from it.”
HI is distributing 100 tablets and 500 promotional codes for people with disabilities – mostly children – to download the app. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 children in Vietnam could benefit from the app over time.
The idea for Talk Tablet VN was born from a project, funded in part by USAID, which is focused on enhancing and developing digital rehabilitation tools for people in Vietnam. Talk Tablet VN is the first of three AAC apps the team is working on to help Vietnamese people with complex communication needs. The two additional apps are in development and expected to launch early next year.
Judith: Transformation Through Education
UNICEF Report: Children with Disabilities Left Behind
Takoma Park, Maryland — Handicap International welcomes the publication today of UNICEF’s The State of the World’s Children report, which highlights children with disabilities and the extreme difficulties they face. Handicap International witnesses the exclusion of children with disabilities every day in the 61 countries in which it operates. The organization supports UNICEF’s recommendations.
Nearly half of Handicap International’s direct beneficiaries are under the age of 18. The organization supports children with disabilities by providing rehabilitation care, promoting inclusive education and psychological assistance, and preventing the many causes of disability, including those caused by explosive remnants of war.
According to UNICEF, 93 million children under the age of 14 have a disability. Due to gaps in the data, this estimate is likely to be lower than the actual number. The reports describes many of the injustices suffered by children with disabilities: In addition to being stigmatized and excluded from health and education services, children with disabilities are three to four times more likely to be victims of violence and are also often neglected or abandoned by their families.
“Out of all the vulnerable people we encounter, they are often the most fragile,” says Ludovic Bourbé, Handicap International’s director of technical services. “In Afghanistan, for example, 68% of victims of mines and explosive remnants of war are children. One quarter of injured people case-managed by Handicap International in northern Syria are under the age of 12.”
The UNICEF report offers a number of recommendations for improving conditions for children with disabilities, starting with the ratification and implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). One hundred and fifty-five countries—not including the U.S.— have signed the CRPD but the full implementation of its protocol requires rigorous enforcement and monitoring. Other key recommendations include adding accessibility features to public facilities like schools and hospitals, and providing support services to families with children with disabilities.
Yet, the current funding allocated to support the recommendations listed in the report is insufficient. According to a February 2012 study conducted by Handicap International and HelpAge, less than 0.5% of international humanitarian aid is allocated to people with disabilities.
“This report clearly lays out the precarious situation of children with disabilities in the developing world,” says Elizabeth MacNairn, executive director of Handicap International U.S. “However, only 10% of the children with disabilities living in the countries where we work are getting the support they need. This cannot stand. Humanitarian operators and funders must do more to improve the situation of these children, who are the most vulnerable members of society.”
About Handicap International
Co-winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, Handicap International is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 30 years. Working alongside persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our actions and testimony focus on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since 1982, Handicap International has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. The network of eight national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States) works constantly to mobilize resources, jointly manage projects and to increase the impact of the organization's principles and actions. Handicap International is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and winner of the 2011 Hilton Humanitarian Prize. Handicap International takes action and campaigns in places where “standing tall” is no easy task.
Mica Bevington, Director of Communications and Marketing
Handicap International US
+1 (240) 450-3531
Molly Feltner, Communications and Marketing Officer
Handicap International US
+1 (240) 450-3528