"Working with children is my passion,” says Sina, an occupational therapist at the Basma Hospital Rehabilitation Center in Irbid, Jordan. Since Humanity & Inclusion opened a pediatric unit at the center, Sina has been dedicated to working with children with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects movement and coordination and impacts as many as four out of every 1,000 children worldwide.
“My role is to help the children gain upper body strength and fine motor skills so they can perform tasks like feeding themselves,” says Sina. “The goal is for the child to develop a level of autonomy.”
In the last two years, numerous changes have been made at the center to improve patient care. "HI has encouraged occupational and physical therapists to work as a team,” says Sina. “For example, the physical therapists teach the children to walk, while occupational therapists like me help them to use their hands to play. The child has fun and the benefits are multiplied. It's good for us and for them.”
HI also provides the staff with onsite training. In the past, they had to travel to Jordan’s capital, Amman, in order to learn new skills. "We already had one training session about rehabilitation techniques for children with cerebral palsy and the next one will focus on the use of splints,” says Sina. “HI has provided us with all the materials and equipment required. The equipment is very expensive, but is a crucial part of our work and previously we had nothing like it. As we learn new techniques and master the equipment, we can offer our services to a broader group of patients. Being able to help people we couldn’t support before is additional source of motivation and makes me feel more confident.”
Humanity & Inclusion recently helped open a new pediatric unit at the Basma Hospital Rehabilitation Center in Irbid, Jordan. The unit was created to offer specialized treatment to children living with neurological conditions, such as cerebral palsy.
"Before, we worked with children and adults in the same area and it was difficult for the children to focus on their exercises,” says HI-trained Physical Therapist Esra. “Here in this new child-friendly space, we can play with them. They do their exercises while playing and don't even realize that it's part of their treatment.”
The number of patients has been increasing steadily since the space was set up. The unit is currently supporting more than 80 children with neurological disorders, with about five or six children attending rehabilitation sessions every day.
The teams involve family members in their child's treatment. Parents learn how to perform rehabilitation exercises with their children at home so they can make improvements between sessions. Most of the children are growing stronger, and some have even learned to walk since beginning rehabilitation.
HI is also providing continuing education to the hospital’s occupational and physical therapists to further improve the quality of their care. "I recently took an HI course focusing on special methods for treating children with cerebral palsy, and I now use those methods every day,” says Esra. In addition, HI set up a small medical library with computers, so staff can perform research related to their patients’ cases.
More than 60% of Syrian refugee households include a person with disability, and 1/5 of refugees in Lebanon and Jordan have a disability, according to a new study by HI and iMMAP. The survey ran from 2017-2018, and so far has resulted in two reports, four fact sheets and a Data Dashboard that provide statistical figures on people with disabilities among Syrian refugees and their access to humanitarian aid.
“The day he was born, the doctors told us he’d been starved of oxygen during birth and some of his motor functions had been affected,” Ali’s older sister, Reham explains of her four-year-old brother who has cerebral palsy. “Then and there I decided I would do everything I could to help him. I’m usually the one who comes with him to his rehabilitation sessions.”
Since this summer, Ali has been attending physical therapy sessions at one of our partner’s rehabilitation centers in Zarqa, Jordan with the support of HI’s team. Manal, a physical therapist with HI starts a new session with Ali in the rehabilitation center where Ali seems to feel at home. “He has made a lot of progress since we first met him,” Manal says. “He initially found it really hard to control his movements. He couldn’t hold his head straight, keep his balance, or grip things without difficulty. And he was really frightened. He cried a lot and it took a while for him to get used to our team and the rehabilitation exercises. But we’ve managed to win his trust over time.”
Through a combination of physical and occupational therapy, Ali’s day-to-day life has become much easier. As Manal continues the exercises with Ali, she explains: “After just a few sessions, we’ve helped him stand up straight and hold a pencil in his hand. And he can sit up for longer periods now. When we saw how well he was doing, we talked to our colleague, an inclusion specialist, who confirmed that Ali was perfectly able to go to school like any other child.” This victory exceeded the expectations of both the physical therapist and Ali’s family, and Ali will start preschool next term. “When we first came here, all I wanted was for my brother to stand up by himself. But it never crossed my mind that the sessions would make it possible for him to go to school one day,” Reham adds.
Reham is proud of the progress Ali has made and is hopeful about his future. “As he grows up, I think the hardest thing for my brother will be realizing he can’t necessarily do everything the other children do, or not as easily. When we talk about what he can do rather than what he can’t, and when he sees that he’s not so different after all, it makes him happy. Ali’s really intelligent and even though he finds it hard to move around, he understands everything we say to him. I know he’s going to be one of the top students in his class.
”When the session comes to an end, Ali’s big sister adds: “I just really hope that he’ll go on improving. I want him to be as independent as possible in his everyday life. Ali deserves to grow up and thrive like any other child his age. What coming here has taught me is that we shouldn’t see his condition as a brake but more as an obstacle, which my brother has every chance of overcoming. And the more time goes by, the more he seems to realize that. That’s what is really important.”
This project is co-financed by DFID & BPRM.
“Firial’s story is very inspiring,” Hamzeh, an HI staff member says of a three-year-old little girl in Jordan. “I’ve rarely seen a girl who loves doing her physical therapy exercises so much and who has progressed this fast. It really encourages us to continue doing what we’re doing.”Read more
Three-year-old Hamad is from Syria. After fighting broke out in his country, his family took refuge in Jordan. Last year, Hamad was injured at home, leaving him with severe burns and unable to move his fingers. Since then, our teams have been providing him with rehabilitation care.Read more
“I’m 32 and every way seems to be a dead end,” Omar explains to Abdelillah, a physical therapist with Handicap International. With shadows under his eyes, Omar looks exhausted as he sits in a small rehabilitation room at Azraq refugee camp. Omar sobs as he tells Abdelillah how he’s feeling. “Sometimes I feel like there’s no future... When will it end? When will it end?”Read more
Ahmed’s big sister Jamila pushes his wheelchair toward the rehabilitation center in Jordan's Azraq camp for a physical therapy session. Last year, eight-year-old Ahmed, who has cerebral palsy, along with his five siblings and parents, fled Syria. “We had to leave Ahmed’s wheelchair, and carry him all the way,” Jamila says.
Handicap International reached out to Ahmed’s family soon after they arrived, promising a new wheelchair and rehabilitation. This was the first time Ahmed has ever had physical therapy. “Before meeting Handicap International, my brother could not walk or stand," Jamila says. "Now, he’s able to do such things with the help of a walker.”
“He has made huge progress,” Ansam, a Handicap International physical therapist explains. “Maybe one day, Ahmed will be able to stand without a mobility device. He just needs progressive physical therapy.” In addition to physical therapy, our rehabilitation team also provides Ahmed with psychosocial support. One way our team does this is through group activities which help increase social interactions.
“Some of the children do not attend school, so it’s essential that they interact with other children of the same age... especially for children like Ahmed," Ansam adds. "Every game we play has a meaning. Some activities are meant to work as rehabilitation exercises, while others are created to increase their sensation of belonging and their social skills." goal is to help every child feel included.
“I laughed a lot, we should do it more often,” Jamila says of her brother who smiled throughout the group session. “He has never been to school because of his condition. Ahmed takes every chance he gets to spend time with other children.
“He’s a great boy and I want to do everything I can to help him. Whether or not we end up going back to Syria one day, I just wish he could live a good life. Find a job, get married, have children…because he deserves all the happiness in the world.”